Merchant FAQ

Specific to Merchants

General Questions

  • What is the date of the event?

The event will be held on Friday and Saturday, January 23 - 24, 2014.

  • What hours is the event open to the public?

The Event is open from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm on Friday, January 24, and then again from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm on Saturday, January 25. Merchants can be open from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Friday, and then again from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm on Saturday.

  • Where is the event being held?

The event will be held at the Center of New Hampshire Radisson Hotel and Expo Center in Manchester, NH.

  • Do I have to be a paid member of the SCA, Inc. to merchant?

No, neither the Primary Merchant nor anyone on the Merchant's staff needs to be a paid member to be accepted as a Merchant, and this is not a factor in our decisions as to whether or not a Merchant's application is accepted.

  • I want to be a Merchant. Do I have to wear a costume?

Yes. The SCA is a participatory organization and all attendees are required to wear an attempt at pre-seventeenth century costume. We won't throw anyone out if their attempt is less than 100% accurate, but we do insist that everyone make an attempt. The only people at the event not wearing appropriate garb will be employees of the site and local police and/or fire officials. Merchants often don't wear costumes while they are setting up, but we do expect everyone to be in costume when the doors open to the general populace.

  • Do I need to collect sales tax?

New Hampshire has no sales tax. If a Merchant's home state requires them to collect on out-of-state sales, they're in a better position to know that than we are.

  • Do I need a business license?

No.

Questions and Communications

  • Who do I contact for questions and who will be contacting me?

ALL questions regarding Merchants or merchanting should be sent to the Merchant Coordinator at merchants@birka.org. Additionally, all communications each Merchant receives will be directly from the Merchant Coordinator. Please do not e-mail the Autocrat, since she will then have to just send it along to the proper person.

  • What happens if I need to cancel?

Please contact the Merchant Coordinator as soon as possible. If it is more than 7 days before the event, you will receive a full refund of all fees paid to date. If a Merchant cancels less than 7 days before the event, we will give them a full refund if we can fill their space with someone from the Waiting List. While we can't guarantee this, based on past experience it's very likely that we will be able to fill spaces until 24 hours before the event.

If it's the morning of the Event, please still try and let the Merchant Coordinator know if something has come up. We have had small merchants attend the event with their wares on hand, in hopes of a last minute cancellation, and if we know you aren't coming we may be able to fill the space(s). Each Merchant's Confirmation E-Mail will include the cell phone number of the Merchant Coordinator for last minute emergencies. We may, at the Autocrat's discretion, issue refunds for last minute cancellations due to emergencies. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Spaces

  • What is a space? And how big is it?

A space is the unit of measurement we use for Merchants at Birka. A single space is approximately eight feet by six feet, which will accommodate a single 8' table with at least 3' of space behind it for the Merchant to sit. If your tables are arranged in other than a straight line, those 3' spaces behind the table may overlap each other.

  • How many spaces can I rent?

Each Merchant may request a maximum of five (5) spaces. There will be NO exceptions to this rule -  and no amount of cajoling, whining or going to "Higher Powers" will change this.

  • What comes with a space?

A space includes a standard banquet table that is approximately 8' x 3', and 2 chairs at no extra charge. Please be aware that for each space you can request to have no tables or chairs at all, or a smaller table (approximately 6' x 3') or less chairs. If a Merchant does not specify what they want, they will receive the 8' table and 2 chairs for each space.

  • How are spaces laid out?

Spaces are laid out either in islands or straight lines. A Merchant may request the type of layout they would prefer as part of the registration process.

  • Can I get electricity in my space?

Yes, although there is an additional fee for this service (~$75), and it must be set up in advance with payment due with the Merchant fees. There will be a question on the application regarding electricity, and the Merchant Coordinator will coordinate with the hotel and all interested Merchants to set this up. Merchants are not permitted to use any outlets that may be present.

  • Can I sleep in my space?

No. If a Merchant chooses to set up on Friday night, they will have access to the space until 11:00 pm, and will then be allowed to re-enter the Expo Center at 7:00 am on Saturday.

  • What are my responsibilities?

Each Merchant must leave their space(s) in the same condition as they found them. Any trash they generate should be deposited in an appropriate receptacle; large items such as boxes and displays must be removed; and Merchants may not tape or otherwise attach signs to the walls or support columns.

  • What restrictions are there on displays?

Each Merchant's display may not extend outside their space(s) in such a way that either intrudes upon their neighbor's space(s), or into the walkways between islands. The walkways are laid out to be the minimum required by the Fire Marshall for safety.

Fire regulations also prohibit any kind of roof on displays, as that might impede the effectiveness of the sprinkler system in the event of a fire under it.

There are no formal restrictions on height, as long as the display is stable and does not appear to present a danger of falling over on a Merchant's neighbors or customers.

As always, courtesy is the best guideline. If your display may inconvenience others, it's probably best not to use it.

  • Why are you no longer using the Armory for Merchants?
    With a few exceptions, we felt that most of the Merchants who were in the Armory in the past felt ill-used by being there. We decided that we would prefer to use that space for other things, rather than force Merchants to be there who weren't happy. If you are one of those who absolutely loved being there, we can still accommodate you. Just let us know in the Special Requests section of the on-line application that you'd still like to be there. We may not have access to the Armory to set up on Friday night, and it will definitely not be open to the public on Friday.

The Merchant Application Process

  • How do I apply?
    We only accept on-line applications from potential Merchants. The application will be located on the Merchant page of www.birka.org once we begin accepting application.
  • When can I apply?
    We will open the on-line system and begin accepting applications on October 1, 2013. All applications will receive a computer generated “E-mail Confirmation” stating that their Application has been received. Please keep this e-mail as it will have a specific confirmation number, which we will need if there is a problem with your application. The on-line system will be closed to applications as of November 15, 2013. After that date, please contact the Merchant Coordinator to submit your application.
  • What is a Primary Merchant?
    Each Merchant will have a Primary Merchant who is the legal representative for the Merchant. They will need to sign the Merchant Agreement, take responsibility for all staff, and assume any responsibility and liability for all items sold by the Merchant. This person will also be the primary point of Contact for the Merchant.
  • What if I have a "special request"?

On the application form, there will be a section for "Special Requests." If a Merchant wants ANYTHING, write it down. For instance, if you want the same space as last year, put that down; or if you want to be up against a wall, put that down. Anything you would like us to know or consider in placing your spaces should be noted in the application and in emails.

We will be heavily weighing these Special Requests, and the earlier a Merchant requests something or tells us something, the more likely we will be able to accommodate the request.

  • When will I know if I have space?

Beginning on or about November 20, 2013, the Merchant Coordinator will send a "Notification E-Mail" to every Merchant who has submitted an application. This e-mail will state whether or not they have received the space(s) they requested on their application - but it will not tell them exactly where they are located, since we will not have a map of the Merchant Area until much closer to the event. This e-mail will also tell each Merchant their total amount due, where to send payment, and will enclose an electronic copy of a Merchant Agreement.

  • When will I know what specific spaces I have been given?

The holidays make everything difficult, but we are hopeful that by early January we will have a tentative map of the Merchant Area. At that time we will send an additional "Confirmation E-mail" to each Merchant letting them know their specific location and enclosing a copy of the map of the Merchant area.

  • What if I don't receive the spaces I requested?

There are three answers to this:

    • If a Merchant requests more than 5 spaces, they will not receive more than 5. No amount of cajoling, whining or going to Higher Powers will change this rule.
    • If we have a question that needs to be answered prior to accepting an application, the Merchant will receive an e-mail asking the question. When we receive the answer, we'll put that application back in the pile.
    • If we run out of space which we did in 2013 we will be setting up a Waiting List. We will keep all Merchants posted on what's happening, and it is our goal to get everyone off the Waiting List and into the Center, if at all possible.
  • How are decisions made about who will be given space?

Several factors will be weighed in deciding who gets space:

  1. We will weigh heavily whether or not the majority of a Merchant's merchandise contributes to the overall historical accuracy of our recreation, either by being accurate itself in the case of finished goods, or by being appropriate to assist our members in being historically accurate in the case of raw materials and tools.
  1. We will consider a Merchant's activity level in the SCA. While we welcome non-participants who want to offer their wares, we do exist primarily for our members, and therefore being an active participant will give a Merchant some priority over a Merchant with similar merchandise who mostly operates at Renaissance Fairs and only comes to an occasional SCA event.
  1. We will also consider each Merchant's history with us. While having been a Merchant in past years does not guarantee anything, we will take it into consideration.
  • Who decides if I get my space?

All decisions will be made by a committee consisting of the Merchant Coordinator, the Autocrat, the local Seneschal, and the local Baron and Baronessa. This should insure that there will be no concerns about decisions being affected by the personal biases of a single individual.

  • When is the deadline for payments?

ALL merchant payments for their space(s) and pre-registrations must be postmarked by December 31, 2013. If a merchant does not make this deadline, their space(s) will be forfeited, and offered to someone on the waiting list. We regret having to be inflexible about this, but too many people have abused our flexibility in recent years.

  • Do I need to return anything with my payment?

No.

Fees, Costs and Payments

  • What does a space cost?

The fee for each space is $20.00. There is no discount if you get more or less spaces.

  • Do I have to pre-register? Can I pay at the door?

All merchant space applications must be accompanied by a pre-registration for the Primary Merchant. Additionally, we urge each Merchant to pre-register their entire staff, as this saves both money and time at check-in. We hope to be able to accept same day registrations for Merchant staff at the Merchant Check-In, but non-pre-registered people may have to go through the regular check-in line (not open until 6:00 pm on Friday).

  • Do I have to pay the site admission fee for myself and my workers if they're not going to do anything at the event but be behind my table?

Yes. Everyone attending the event must pay a site fee, including all Merchants and their staff.

  • I've submitted my on-line application. When and where should I send money?

Merchants should not send money until they receive a "Notification E-mail" from the Merchant Coordinator stating that their application has been accepted. When they receive that e-mail, they should print out the email and follow the instructions it contains regarding sending payment.

  • I'm from Canada. Do I need to get a money order in US funds?

Due to the work and high bank fees involved in handling payments in foreign currencies, we frequently make exceptions to our policy of requiring advance payment in the case of our Canadian neighbors. If making payments in US funds is difficult for you, please contact the Merchant Coordinator to request an exception. Please be aware that under no circumstances will we be accepting Canadian currency.

  • What should I expect at check-in?

Every member of a Merchant's staff will need to visit either the Merchant Check-In or Gate and either show a BLUE SCA membership card, which indicates that you already have a signed waiver on file, or sign the standard SCA site waiver which is required of everyone on site. If you cannot produce a membership card, or only have a white card, you will be required to sign a waiver or you will not be admitted to the event.

Merchandise

  • What kind of merchandise is appropriate at the event?

This is an extremely important question, which we ask each Merchant to consider carefully. The SCA is an organization dedicated to the recreation of pre-16th century Europe and its neighbors. Therefore we ask that you consider honestly whether your merchandise is either a reasonably accurate representation of items used in this time period, in the case of finished goods, or useful in helping our members create such items in the case of raw materials, tools, and research materials.

We have received inquiries from an increasingly large number of vendors who are coming from the pagan, new age, and fantasy role playing communities. While many of our participants are also avid participants in one or more of these other communities, merchandise aimed at them does not enhance our efforts to be more historically accurate. We don't wish to give offense to any of these other groups, but if your merchandise in general is better suited to one of these other venues, please either be prepared to select your wares carefully so that a majority of them will be historically appropriate, or reconsider applying for space.

  • Can I share my space with another merchant?

If you wish to share your space, you may do so. However, you must provide a description of all the merchandise involved on your application. You may not just describe your own merchandise, then bring along a second merchant with entirely different goods.

  • My merchandise doesn't fit any of your categories. Or it fits in more than three. What do I do?

If after careful consideration you don't think any of our categories fit you, that is what we put the "Other" category in for. Please also send the Merchant Coordinator a message describing your merchandise and why it doesn't seem to fit.

If you have things that fit in too many categories, we suggest you start by considering what percent of your wares would belong in each. If the numbers on some categories are small (say less than 10%), ignore them. We don't expect the category you list in to describe 100% of your merchandise, just the majority of it. If you still have too many categories, pick the top three.

  • Are there things I may not sell?

We require that your merchandise be historically appropriate. Our agreement with the site forbids the presence of gasoline, kerosene, acetylene, propane, or other flammable or explosive substances. You may not bring these into the building, although they may remain in your vehicle in the parking garage.

The site also retains the right to "refuse entry and/or remove any objectionable exhibits, persons or advertisements, souvenirs or any other feature that will in the judgment of the Radisson impair the high standard of the Radisson." So far we are aware of no instances where this has been invoked, but you should be aware that it exists.

If you will be selling weapons, real or costume, you are responsible for compliance with all local, state and federal ordinances. In addition to those, we request that you not sell any weapon to a minor unless their parent or guardian authorizes the purchase.

  • Can I demonstrate incense, candles, or similar items?

Fire regulations do not permit the use or demonstration of any incense, candles, or other combustible products within the building. In addition, we request that you exercise courtesy in the demonstration of any product that may affect your neighbors. You may play music at a reasonable volume, unless your neighbors request that you not do so.

If you are selling scented products whose use does not involve fire, please keep them covered except for offering potential customers brief samples. There are many people who are extremely sensitive to scents, and we don't want to drive away any potential customers.

  • Can I sell food?

Per our agreement with the site, we are not able to allow any Merchants to sell food. However, if a Merchant wants to sell commercially wrapped candy, or similar items, it is possible for an exception to be made. Any Merchant wishing to be granted an exception, please contact the Merchant Coordinator and we MAY be able to work out something with the Hotel.

 Loading, Unloading, Parking, and Setup

  • When can I set up?

We will be opening Merchant Check-In at 3:00 on Friday afternoon. After each Merchant has checked in, they will be able to begin setting up their space(s).

  • I don't want to set up until Saturday morning. When can I start?

We will open for setup at 7:00 am on Saturday. Please don't try to arrive before that.

  • Is there a loading dock I can use?

The site has three loading docks; their use depends on where the Merchant is located and their vehicle. If a Merchant is in the Expo Center, and they do not have a trailer or oversized vehicle, they can use the loading dock which is located inside the parking garage. If the Merchant's vehicle is oversized, or they have a trailer, they will need to use the loading dock. This dock is designed for people making deliveries from large trucks, and has a height of 49". If you are located in the Armory, there is a separate loading dock on that side of the building.

  • Where can I park?

There is a parking garage attached to the Expo Center. We have negotiated a validated parking rate with Hotel; to take advantage of this rate you will need to bring your parking ticket to Gate to have it validated. Please note that this garage can't accommodate large trucks, or vehicles with trailers.

  • How can I tell if my vehicle fits in the parking garage?

The garage clearance is 7'. If your vehicle is taller than that, you must use the parking lot for oversize vehicles. Your vehicle must also be able to fit in a standard parking space, so vehicles with trailers or unusually long vehicles must also use the oversize parking area.

  • My vehicle won't fit in the parking garage. Where else can I park?

There is an outdoor lot which will be used to accommodate both unloading and parking of all Merchant vehicles which won't fit in the parking garage. This lot is restricted to vehicles which need to be there, as it is small and cannot accommodate everyone. We will have a list of vehicles parking there, so that if we run out of space due to vehicles which need not be there, we can request that the hotel have some of them removed.

  • When do I have to be packed up and out of the site?

If the Merchant is in the Expo Center, they need to be packed and out by Saturday at 11:00 pm. If the Merchant is in the Armory, they should be packed and out by Saturday at 8:00 pm.

  • Will there be equipment like hand trucks and dollies provided by the site to help with loading or unloading?

No. You must bring your own equipment since the site does not provide any.

  • Will there be anyone available to help me load or unload my merchandise?

No. It is up to each Merchant to arrange for sufficient people to handle their merchandise. Also, please note that we expect all loading docks to be busy, and will expect each Merchant to move their vehicle(s) as soon as possible.