Tag Archives: preparation

To Market, to Market. Part 3 – 10 things to remember to take with you

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, when I was preparing to attend my first market (after a long break) but decided to wait until the market was over before completing it, so that I could share my experiences along with a check list.  What I have put together is a general list of things to take with you,  that you can use as a guide for your own market preparation.   And hopefully you will learn from my mistakes!

I can report that I really enjoyed the market.  I sold enough to make it financially worthwhile, got to test out my displays, my packing and my products, and I was able to talk to customers.  I even sold one of the tea cosies that my mum knitted (as well as a few of my own!)  Overall it was a great start on my journey back to markets.   I made a few mistakes but recovered from them, and learnt a lot at the same time.

  1. Shelter

Is your market indoors or outdoors?    If it is outdoors are you going to have shelter provided or will you need your own.  In my case I have a 3m x 3m portable gazebo that I can erect for outside markets, so that is on my checklist.   If you are attending an indoor market it pays to check whether you are allowed to set up gazebos inside as many markets will not allow it.

If you are outside remember to have something to secure your gazebo or marquee in case of strong winds.  (Yes – something I forgot to take with me).   You can buy weights for the legs or make them yourself – just remember them and remember to put them in place because it would be quite disastrous to have your shelter fly across the market ground if the wind picks up!

It also pays to think about whether you need walls for your structure.   I had two walls with me, but as I ended up on a corner site I only used one, as a backdrop.

My set up at an outdoor market with the back wall up.

2. Display furniture

How are you displaying your products? I will be taking a table, some shelves, a screen and some boxes that provide different heights for displays.   Doing a run through at home is always good so that you know how things will look on the day.  Make a list of all your props so that you can check them off in your packing.   Then be prepared for changes.   My stall was moved to a corner position on the night, so it would have been useful to have a second table – something I will definitely be taking next time.    I am also thinking about floor covering – it makes a difference!

The shelves worked well to display the tea cosies but I wasn’t happy with the rest of my display – tweaking is required!

3.  Cloths and props

A table cloth that reaches the ground is an important part of a good market set up. Apart from making your table look good it also gives you an excellent storage spot that is out of sight. I find it handy for hiding the storage boxes that my products are carried in so they are at hand for packing up at the end of the market.

If you are using props for your display these need to be on your list. Most of my props are teapots for displaying my tea cosies so I need to remember these otherwise there will be some floppy crocheted piles on my shelves!

It is a bonus when your props double as storage

4. Lighting

Lighting is important whether you are at an indoor or outdoor event.  Events indoors can sometimes be gloomy so having some lighting to brighten your display is a great way of attracting customers.   Outdoor events that go into the evening will definitely benefit from lighting, and even daytime outdoor events can be gloomy so some lighting to brighten your space will help.

The range of possibilities for lighting is wide.  If you don’t have access to power during your market then the range of solar lighting is large and affordable these days.  I have some rice-paper-style globes from Ikea that are solar powered that cost about $15 and add light in a nice way.  Another option is battery powered lights – rechargable or not.   I have a rechargable flourescent light that gives great lighting (from the auto section at a hardware shop) and fairy lights from Big W that run on two AA batteries.  All of these provide flexible lighting solutions……if you remember to pack them.  Ahem.   If the bright light is still plugged into it’s charger on the bench at home it isn’t much use when night falls…..

If you do remember to take your lights, make sure you know how you are going to attach them to your display and pack cable ties, bluetack, hooks etc, depending on your needs.

5. Signage

I have a banner with a stand lets people know who I am and what I am selling.  One of the best responses I had to my banner was from a man who said ‘I know that name, ‘a little bird made me’.   Let me think – your mother is Elizabeth, and you are Theresa and you live out in Bywong.’   It turns out he is the local courier who delivers my parcels – that my mother always signs for.

6. Bags and packaging

When people buy your products it pays to be able to package them so that they will travel home from the market safely.   Paper bags with handles suit most items, but have a think about the size of your products and make sure you have bags that suit those items best.  I have carry bags that will accommodate cups and saucers, and tea cosies but a pair of earring would be lost in them, so I will have smaller bags for those small items.    If you have a fragile product it is good to be able to wrap it in tissue paper or bubble wrap to cushion it on it’s trip home.   Having your packaging branded is good to do before hand too – in my case I use a stamp with my logo to mark the bags as being from my business.

7.  Admin Box.

This is the box that holds all the things that you will need for each market, so that you don’t have to find and pack them everytime.  The admin box is where you put:

     (a)  Business cards or fliers

People like to take a card so that they can look you up when they next want a product like yours, so having a pile of cards or fliers is an easy way to ensure return custom.   They also provide a great discussion point with customers who are asking whether you sell on line etc.

     (b) Float

You need to be ready to give change to the first customer who comes along!   And it helps if you remember the KEY to your cash box and don’t leave it sitting on the bench at home, 20 kms away.   Ahem.   Luckily my parents willingly drove home, found the key and returned it to me.  After all of that I didn’t have to make change for any customer – they all had the right money or used my card facilities!

    (c) Credit card facility

Again – if you have the facility for people to pay by card they are more likely to purchase from you.  Make sure you have any connecting hardware, that you have tested it and that you know how to operate it.   If your eftpos facility gives paper receipts carry a spare roll.

   (d) Notebook and pen

For taking orders, fo writing reminders to yourself about what has worked and what hasn’t, for writing out notes for customers, or taking down phone numbers, this is important to have.

    (e) Repair kit

Accidents happen, both to your products and to your display.   Having a small kit with sticky tape and duct tape, a screwdriver, scissors, pins, and whatever else you might need for your set up is sensible.

    (f) Chargers

Because there is nothing worse than running out of battery on your phone, your eftpos facility, your lights etc.   Having the right charger cords and plugs, plus a power bank if there is no power provided, takes a lot of stress out of managing your stall.

8. Price tags

The best way to ensure sales is to have the prices for your products clearly marked.  If people have to interrupt you serving another customer to ask how much something is they will often walk away instead of asking. If you can’t put a price on each item, make sure that you have clear and easily visible signs that announce the prices.   Ikea picture frames are handy for making your signs look professional without breaking the bank.

9. Drink bottle and a snack

Keeping hydrated helps you to maintain your energy levels while you serve customers. A low mess snack to help keep your energy levels up is important. High protein snacks like nuts are a good option here.

10. Product!

No point going to a market if you have nothing to sell!    Make a list of your products and then tick them off as you pack them, so that nothing is missed out and left behind,   Then check that you have packed all your boxes in the car so that you haven’t left one behind either (not my mistake but a very common one for other people I know!)

Having a box for each product category helps keep track of what you are packing

 

If you have other ideas that you think should be added to the list do let me know!

To market, to market. Part two – 7 things to do in preparation for a market.

Thanks for all the lovely feedback on my earlier post about things to think about before attending a market.   I have had some great conversations with people as a result of this!  Today I am going to focus on the things that you should be doing in preparation for attending a market.   These are all things that take a bit of time and organisation and need to be done in the weeks leading up to the market – not the day before. The stuff you are doing the day before is a whole other list!!

  1. Organise some great product shots.

What?   Why do I need good photos of my products for a market – the customers at the market will be able to see them in the flesh (so to speak!).   Hypothetical narrators questions aside, the answer is that having great product shots means that the promoters of the market are going to be able to share your images on social media, and on their advertisements, so that people are enticed to attend the market. If you have some dodgy shots taken on your old iPhone3 in dim lighting and with a cluttered background the organisers are not going to want to use your images, so you miss out on attracting a whole bunch of potential customers.   I have seen some shocking product photos provided by designers – one set was of some beautiful handmade knitwear displayed on a glass topped table that was covered in greasy hand prints and dust – which definitely did not induce me to look further at the products.

Tips for good product shots include natural lighting ( I personally love taking photos outside in spring in the middle of the day but that is not always possible or convenient!), a flattering background that doesn’t overpower the product, and if the product is an unusual one, having it presented so that it’s purpose is obvious.   For example a scarf will have more impact draped over a form than folded flat on a table.  Backgrounds don’t have to be elaborate – I have friends who have had great success with some patterned wallpaper that gave the look of wooden boards or bricks.    Once again, making sure that your photos reflect your brand is important.  You don’t have to have a professional photographer take shots for you (especially if all of your products are one of a kind) but it can be a good idea so that you have a nice set of professional images to use in your marketing.

A designer I know has a great eye for matching objects and creating stories.  She has helped out a few other designers I know by taking flat lay photos of their products paired with accessories that enhance them. Those photos really pop on social media!   (Hmmmm……maybe I need to give her a call myself!)  Remember – you don’t have to do everything yourself – you might know someone who is happy to help with making sure you have great photos.

2.  Make sure you have a way of letting people know who you are.

I get really frustrated when I attend a market and see a stall that I like, but I can’t see the name of the stall or business so I can’t make a note about ordering from them, etc.   Letting people know who you are is really important.   Getting a banner made up doesn’t cost a lot these days – a vinyl banner with your own design from Vistaprint starts at about $20.  If you want to do something different to match your brand there are lots of options for handmade signage, from painted fabric banners, to bunting, painted wooden signs, light boxes and more.   It just needs to be something that can be identified by someone who is a few metres away from your stall. Hanging it below your table may look cute but can’t be seen by someone the next row over. Hanging signage above your stall or on a stand that stretches above eye level is much more effective.

The second thing you need to have organised in this regard before you attend a market is business cards or flyers.  Customers will often take a card so that they can remember you for a custom order, or to come back to at the next market, or for them to follow you online and purchase from you in the future.   If you don’t have an easy piece of paper for them to pick up they aren’t going to remember you.   What should be on your business card or flyer?   Your business name, your tag line (you know – the bit that tells people what your business does), your email, social media addresses and website.   I used to keep mine really anonymous until a marketing expert told me that if she is given a business card that doesn’t have a name on it she throws them out.  As a result I now have my name and phone number on there too – in case someone wants to place an order that way.

3.  Be ready to take people’s money.

After all, that is the name of the game. You aren’t there to take names, you are there to take money in exchange for your wonderful products.  (Actually you might also want to take names but we will talk about that later. Right now we are focused on the moola, the cash, the big bucks. Alright – I will stop now.)    What does that mean for preparation?   You need to think about how to look after the cash that you receive in a safe manner, and you need to decide if you want to be able to offer credit card facilities.

Dealing with cash first, there are two main options that I think work for a market – a cash box or a cash apron.  A cash box is useful because you can separate the notes and coins out and therefore give change easily.   It can be locked and you can keep the key on yourself for added security during the market.    An apron has several advantages – you can have a zipped pocket to hold the money so it is on your person at all times and less easily stolen by dodgy thieves, and you can use the apron pockets to hold your phone and credit card reader.    I have previously used an apron that I made myself so it had pockets for everything, plus a copy of my old logo printed onto fabric so it marked me as the stall holder.   I am undecided about which option to go with this time, but will need to make the decision soon so that I can buy or make what I need.

With regard to taking payments from bank cards it is worth thinking about because many markets don’t have ATMs and once people run out of cash they stop buying if they can’t use their cards.  The options for taking money via card are broad these days.  Paypal offers a facility that connects to your Paypal business account, many banks offer a facility that connects to your bank accounts, and there are card readers such as Square which allow you to take payments without belonging to a certain bank.   Each of these methods will charge a fee for transactions, so you need to be aware of how this affects your prices, but with the ability to buy a unit like these starting at $60 it is a good investment to make if you are going to be attending a number of markets.

4.  Know how you are going to display your products

In Part One I talked about designing your display to enhance your product, etc.  In the lead up to a market you need to know what props, tables, screens, marquees, etc you are going to use so that you can buy parts you don’t have, repair any that have been damaged, or make what you need.  A few things to consider here are the size of your furniture and props, and how you are going to transport them to the venue of the market.   For example I have a great set of shelves that would be really attractive as part of my display in a stall, but they can only go in a trailer, not in my car.  Taking a trailer will work well for some venues but not for others, so making sure you know what you are taking and HOW you are taking it is good to work out well in advance so that changes can be made if necessary.

If you are going to use a table cloth (cannot recommend this enough) you need to make sure that you have one that fits your table/s, and check whether it needs cleaning, ironing, etc.  Again – not something you want to be doing the night before a market if you can help it.

Having a trial run of your set up a few days prior to the market is a good plan as it allows you to check that you will fit into your allocated space, that you have all the pieces you need, and that nothing needs repair or replacing.  If you are relying on the venue to provide a table, display board, or chair, make sure that you know the dimensions so that you can measure and check your equipment at home and know that it will fit.

5. Know how much product you have and what you need to make before the market.

I know I sound like Captain Obvious but you might be surprised by the number of times designers ask a few days before a big market how much stock they should bring.   If you are going to have a successful market then you need to have this worked out a few weeks in advance.   It is a good idea to make a list of all the products that you already have, and how many of each item you have, then to make a list of what your target amount to take to market is.    This then allows you to map out how much you need to make before the market.   In determining how much product to take things to think about are what sort of traffic the market is expected to get, how long it goes for, what have been your best sellers previously, etc.   One designer I know who attends a quarterly market keeps records of each market so she can predict how much stock to bring for different times of the year.  When you are starting out it is definitely a bit of trial and error so it is important to have a plan and then you can assess after the market what worked and what didn’t.

I recently read a comment in a forum I belong to by a woman who explained that in deciding whether to attend a market she looks whether she can make 10 times the cost of the stall hire. If she can’t then she doesn’t apply.   This is useful to think about when determining your stock levels.    If you are paying $20 for a stall then on this formula you need to sell $200 worth.  If you have paid $50 you need to sell $500 worth. How much do your products cost – do you have enough to sell to make that sort of money?   Do you have a good level of stock at the price point that you think will sell best? For example a school fair will probably see a high turnover at the low price point with kids spending their pocket money and parents supporting the local school.  At a design market touting itself as high quality, exclusive, etc, customers are going to be willing to spend larger amounts of money on big purchases so you would be short changing yourself if you only take a small number of high price point pieces.

6.   Tell people that you are going to be at this market

Social media promotion of an event that you are attending is a free but effective way of drawing customers to your market.   Most markets will have some graphics that you can use, or you can use your own images and set out the location, date and time of the market.   Creating a Facebook event and inviting all your friends is another great way to make sure that people know that it is on.  And don’t just tell them once – remind people in the lead up to the market that you will be attending and share some images of what you are bringing with you to the market.  Build a campaign so that they can’t avoid knowing that there is a market on next Saturday and that you will be there, and that there are lots of other great things to do in the area.

7.  Read the stallholder information

When I was working on the administrative side of a market it was incredibly frustrating to have repeated frantic phone calls from stallholders asking questions that had already been answered multiple times.   It was equally frustrating to arrive at the market to hear stallholders say things like ‘If I had known there was this event on at the same time as the market I would have brought different products’ when the details had been provided and advice given on this very issue a number of times.   So many of the designers would then say ‘Oh I don’t have time to read that material’.    Really???  This is your business and you don’t have time to read the information that will help you to have a really successful market experience, not get fined for breaking local bylaws, be promoted as a designer to watch, etc?

If you are serious about getting the most out of your market experience, do yourself a favour and read the material provided.    Know what time you can bump in and what time you have to bump out by.   Know what the rules are about whether you can set up a marquee inside a building, whether you need to have your electrical cords tagged and tested, whether you will be allowed to drive into the venue or not.    Know whether you need to provide your own tables and chairs, what size your allocated space is, whether there is free wi-fi, and what will get you banned from the market!  Because when you don’t know these things and are confronted with them during your set up, or in the middle of selling your products it causes nothing but stress!!

 

If you are on top of these 7 things in the weeks leading up to the market you are attending then you are well on your way to a successful market experience!    My next post will be the list of things that you need to take with you to a market – the checklist of what to pack the day before.   If you have any suggestions to add to the list of pre-market preparation I would love to hear from you!

To market, to market. Part One – 5 things to think about before you hold a market stall

In preparation for my return to the world of being a market stall holder in a few weeks time, I am going to publish a series of posts on preparing for a market, and attending a market.      I have spent the last few years working on the other side of the fence, supporting designers to hold stalls themselves, and giving advice on how to maximize their sales, their business and their brand.    Now that I am back on the designer side of the fence it is time to remember all my good advice and apply it to myself.  By writing a series of posts I hope to help myself remember all that good advice, and share it with you at the same time!

  1. What is the purpose of you having a market stall? 

This might sound silly but actually there are lots of different reasons for taking your products to market.   These can include testing your products, marketing your products, taking orders for future delivery of custom products, attracting wholesaler buyers, and, of course, making money.  Your purpose might be a combination of all of these reasons, but it is good to be clear with yourself why you are doing this, as it will help guide your decisions about which markets to apply for, what products to take with you, how to display your products and how to design your stall presentation.

2. Who is your target customer?

While it is easy to say ‘anyone who wants to buy my stuff’, actually knowing who your target customer is can help you with everything from which stalls to apply for, to how to display your products and how to market them.    When I was holding market stalls selling my bags I had a description of my target customer that I wrote down – it included the sort of job my customer might have, the things she liked to do in her spare time, and where she lived.    While my target customer never actually presented herself to me and said ‘Hi, what you have is perfect for me, let me buy it all’, having a clear idea of who I was aiming my products at helped a lot.  It especially helped a lot when someone who didn’t fit my target market criticised my pricing, or when someone who didn’t fit my target market started a conversation with me that ended up with them learning more about my product and buying it after all!

My target customer is more than someone who likes tea.   My target customer also includes people who are buying gifts, who like quirky ideas, quality materials, and unique, one of a kind items.   This means that they probably aren’t going to be found in abundance at a garage sale set up in the carpark of a shopping centre, but will definitely be found at a market promoting handmade or local makers.

3. Do you know your brand and how you want to represent it?

Describing how you develop your brand is a whole separate post, but the question is, do you have a brand, and do you know how you want to use your brand to sell your products?   Knowing your brand can help with things like how you want to display your products, what you will wear while working on your stall, what colours and styles you will use in your signage, and how you will ‘dress’ your stall.   For example, if you are selling a product that is organic and earthy in nature, your brand is likely to be one based on nature, clean lines, and healthy.   Having a market stall dressed with flashing coloured lights and blaring 80’s rock is not representing your brand or telling your story.

My brand is more than just a logo (although my logo reflects my brand).   It is about handmade items made with care using quality materials to create unique, one of a kind, products, and products that are kind to the environment.  My stall set up needs to convey this, so there will be no flashing Christmas lights, or hawker style inducements as they don’t reflect my brand.    (There probably will be a few cups of tea happening though!)

4. Do you have a range of products that will appeal to different price points?

If your products are all handmade, unique or artisan items they are likely to have a higher price point.   Not all customers can afford large purchases, but many are attracted to your stall by the promise of beautiful things, so having a range of items with differing prices can allow them to buy something that gives them that sense of being part of your story, without breaking their bank.   At my first stall at the Handmade Markets, selling my bags, I also had a box of fat quarters for sale.   My bag prices started at $40, but the fat quarters were $5 and $6 each.  Part of my brand at that time was about sharing a love of beautiful fabrics in each piece that I made, so selling some of those fabrics stayed with the brand, but allowed for smaller purchases too.    I also had smaller pouches and pencil rolls priced between $10 and $25, again providing a range of prices for those attracted to my brand.

5.Is there a cohesion between your products and how you are displaying them?

The ways in which you can display your products at a market are many and varied and range from the simple to the elaborate with everything in between.  I will write a separate post about the options with displays but the question I am asking here is a little like the question about branding, but has a different emphasis.   A designer who I know and respect changes her display props regularly, always looking for a point of difference between her stalls and her neighbours.  However there is one key point that always remains, no matter what her props – they are always re-purposed objects that subtly highlight that her products are ethically made from recycled clothing.  The cohesion between her products and her display means that the display doesn’t overpower the products but enhances them.

Knowing your brand helps here, but also knowing how your products will stand out helps with this question.   Now that I am focused on quirky tea paraphernalia using large shelf displays where teacups will look lost in proportion to the shelves isn’t going to work. I need to have smaller displays that won’t dwarf the products, and will allow them to  be clearly seen.   A flat shelf full of teacups has much less impact than a tiered display where each cup and saucer can be seen fully.   Tea and all it’s paraphernalia lends itself to a cosy indoors feel, so having an industrial style display shelf would be incongruous.

 

My next post will be all about the list of things you need to do prior to attending a market, and then I will follow it up with a list of things you need to take to the market.    With all of this writing I am sure to be organised for my first stall!   I would love to hear any advice you have about things to think about before you attend a market!

The Market!

After months of wondering whether I was doing the right thing having a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I would have enough stock, whether my stock would sell, what to wear on my feet, what to wear on my body, how to carry money, and every other worry you can imagine, plus a few extras, I have successfully finished day 1 of the two day markets – and survived!

Having my super-assistant Mum in residence has been such a blessing. In the last week she has sanded, painted, hammered, sewn, and then still made cups of tea and sandwiches for me each day! With her help my shelves were finished, the screen that I bought from the recycling centre at the tip was completely renovated, a perfectly fitted tablecloth for the trestle table was made, labels were sewn onto my packaging calico bags, price and care instruction tags were attached to each item, necklaces were packaged, plastic crates were washed, bags were cut out for me to sew, and……lots of other things were achieved! (Oh my – as I write the list of things that she contributed to help me out I am overcome with emotion. I have a very, very, special mother.)

In the meantime I was sitting at the machine producing just a few more bags, a pile of zipped pouches and coin purse key rings, and sleeping a lot! (Gee – Mum did do a lot didn’t she!!) Wait – I also drilled holes, screwed hooks in, prepared inventory, priced the goods, made discount coupons and price signs and a few other things. (Phew – I feel a lot better now!) As my last bit of sewing preparation, last night I made us an apron each – mine with a zipped compartment for cash. I made mine first – and then worked out how to do it better and made my assistant’s apron with a lot less fuss and error!!

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The chicks have been spending time with their father and his fiancé this week, and settling into the new routine of having two houses. But they were still thinking about me and my stall. The eldest chick bought these shiny Christmas ornaments to add to my decoration (and sticking with the bird theme) and the middle chick presented me with this origami ornament that she had bought at a stall at school. The boy just gave me a hug. Pretty good all round really!

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The Christmas markets hold an interesting mix of goods, stall holders and customers. A few other Etsy sellers also have stalls, so it was lovely to meet people and put faces to the names and voices to our communication! Mum and I attended last night and set up our display furniture,

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then took the boxes of goodies this morning and set up the display.

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I decided yesterday to be sensible and purchase a trolley. I love it! I haven’t taken a photo of it yet but will be showing it off within a day or so! It converts from an upright, hand-cart style, to a flat platform style so it is very versatile. I discovered this morning that I can load all my stock onto it and move it in one trip (if there is someone to help me over the bumps…….).  And the icing on the cake?  It is bright orange!  Perfect for me!

The question of course is ‘How did you go?”. The answer? Quite well. I sold a number of bags, pencils rolls, pouches, a cushion cover, and pendants. (The pendants are made up with the fabrics that I use for the bags etc, mounted under glass in a silver tray, or under resin on a scrabble tile. The Dr Who ones and children’s fabrics were the most popular.)

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But more importantly I was able to talk to people and hear what they liked, what they were looking for, and to talk to them about the different possibilities with bags, art folders, etc. I took three custom orders – two for pencil rolls and one for a bag. (We had a great time designing it on the spot with fabric from three different bags to be used in the style of a fourth bag!). I handed out cards and postcards to people, and had some wonderful conversations with people who didn’t necessarily buy anything but were interested and had great ideas. And most important of all – I had fun!

I had two official assistants – Super-Mum was with me for set up and the morning and then my wonderful friend and supporter Ms C took the afternoon shift. Mrs J also arrived to deliver coffees, admire our work and do a little shopping, and other friends and colleagues dropped by – and some even bought things! I really am blessed! We will be back there again for the day tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what the day brings. One thing is for certain though – after dipping my toe in the water to test it out, I can confidently say that I will be applying to sell at other markets next year. (And that I will finish my business plan so that my path is clearly set out!!)

In the midst of all of this excitement I am also turning my mind to Christmas presents for my chicks and my family. Hmmm….could be time for just a little bit more sewing…….

I hope that the lead up to Christmas is treating you kindly and that you are finding joy in the simple things.