Craft Shows – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Contributor post by Alicia of AliciasFindings

I recently asked a few members of Team Christmas in July about their experiences with craft shows. They had a lot of tips and tricks, as well as advice.

The Good:

Amy Spock of BeadsandThreadsbyAmy says:

1) My husband (reluctantly) agreed to help me. Crowds are not really his thing as he’d rather be on his boat, but I was really glad he was there. His muscle and his ability to cram every inch of the back of an empty truck with tables, display items, and product were invaluable! He was also able to run to a nearby store to grab what we forgot at home.

2) I met some wonderful people who have since hired me for custom work. I even embroidered the sails of a boat!

3) Starting out small was a great idea! I made a list of do’s and dont’s, and will refer to it for my next show.

4) I landed next to a lady that had been doing craft fairs for 30 years. I listened up to her advice!

 

Marjorie Scenna of MissScena says:

I did a few craft shows last year and then did 4 this past fall, right before the holidays. I really enjoy the interactions and conversations with the customers as well as fellow crafters. I took a peek at some great ideas for the future as well.

What I brought that was helpful:

-A small box of tools that I could use to make repairs/adjustments to my jewelry
-Some beads, wire and supplies to make something – people like to see what you are doing
-I used plastic storage containers for my supplies that stacked and were able to load them into large shopping/tote bags – made carrying easier
-Printed a bunch of labels/signs with prices and descriptions to attach to my displays, some I also put in small frames on the tables
-I invested in a banner from Vistaprint – it was eye catching
– I practiced my set up and displays at home first, took pictures at each show
– I had friends and co-workers stop by, made it fun but also caused others to stop by as the table was “busy”

While I didn’t make much money, mostly only broke even, I gave out a lot of cards and got great feedback from the people who did purchase. I also took note of what I sold the most of and what prices those items were. I do plan to do some more this spring to see what happens. Being in the Boston area, the weather definitely has an impact on turnout!

 

Rebecca Jimenez of SouthernTrend says:

I have only done one craft fair for a couple of years and a nightclub a few times when I sponsored an event they were having. I have done really well at both considering at the craft fair I only had a 6 foot table and an even smaller table at the nightclub.

Because the “booths” were small set up and tear down was very easy and interacting with people at both types of events was great!!!

Since I had done so well there I thought this year I would up my game!! A friend of mine suggested I try selling at a bike rally (motorcycles….bikers). I looked it up and signed up for an 8×10 booth. I knew I didn’t have enough inventory to fill it up by myself so I incorporated some other things people I know make and (sigh) bought some “filler” items.

I was pretty disappointed but I learned a lot. I did make my booth money back plus some extra and got some great feed back from people as to what they were looking for in handmade items as well as items to purchase to re-sell.

Set up and tear down was AWEFUL!! I got there and had three hrs to set up!! I barely made it. I have to figure out a faster way to set my jewelry out!! That’s what got me. I’m gonna be investing in some stackable trays!!
Biker rally’s are WAAAAAY different from a craft fair!! LOL!!
For now I did have to buy some biker related merchandise because I foolishly signed up for 4 more through out the year!! LOL!! I have already started planning on what I can make that is geared to this particular fun bunch of folks!!
Things in black or made out of leather are on the list FOR SURE!!
I think also that at any event you go to people want to get to know you. The second time I go back to every event I do better than before.
Give an event a second chance….change your inventory or at least add something new and try to be different from the other vendors!!
I can sleep and craft better now that I have purchased the biker inventory I know will sell till I replace it with hand made items.
Still ….learning….I’ll let ya know how it goes at the next one I go to!! LOL!!

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The Bad:

Jennifer Loftfield of CaffeinatedPapercuts says:

Oh boy, get comfortable; I’ve been doing craft shows for 3 years now and grew up a ‘craft show brat’ as my mother did them with her fabric goods. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the offensive when it comes to table setups, buyers, and sellers though mostly it’s good.

The worst was a first-time show that had a bad location, poor planning, and evidently all the wrong kinds of advertising. We had maybe 12 people come through all day and half the vendors packed up and left! I barely made my table fee back, but it did help reintroduce me to the world of shows and teach me to be a good sport. Was the show horrible? Sure, but the coordinator appreciated the fact that I actually stayed to the end. I may never attend one of her shows again, but we parted on good terms.

The best was my second big holiday show; I was on the wait-list and got the call 6pm the night before, as I was leaving my first big show, that I was in! I left the car packed, refilled what I could, and set out the next morning. The best all day was when I woman noticed I took Visa and proceeded to hand me nearly $100 worth of cards and stocking stuffers because of it! I still do those two shows, back-to-back, every year and they’re still the best.

I have found, for my products, that the best time of year for me to do shows is the holiday season; I start in November and end the second week of December. That said, the year I tried a spring show is when I realized I needed to diversify my stock; removing all of the holiday cards left my table nearly empty!

Amy Spock of BeadsandThreadsbyAmy says:

1) The weather was TERRIBLE. We almost wrecked three times getting there, and, in retrospect, should have turned around and gone home.

2) Due to the weather, set up and tear down was difficult. Also, turnout wasn’t great.

What I learned:
1) To set up and tear down at home first. I mean EVERYTHING. Tables, table cloths, merchandise on displays, everything. I will play with it at home and find the perfect arrangement, take pictures, then setup in the display area using the pictures as a guide.

2) Take plenty of merchandise and create a custom order form for people to use and pay a deposit there.

3) Remember a phone charger to use Square or other credit card on my phone, and have a charged phone at all times.

4) Take a long extension cord. I paid for electricity that I couldn’t use because the outlet was too far away.

5) Have a variety of merchandise with a full booth. Take cards and give them out. Some of them find their way into the circular file cabinet, but some will lead to sales. You can offer a discount code for future orders, if you’d like to track your on-line sales after the show.

6) We sat in front of the table, then moved behind the table. We had a lot more traffic (and sales) behind the table.

7) HAVE FUN! Talk with the other vendors during slow times, mingle, talk with the coordinators, and smile the whole time. Be sure you pay attention to other vendor’s booths to get ideas for setup and marketing (NOT PRODUCTS).

8) Be selective. If you sell handmade, I would recommend a juried show that you apply to be a part of. Being next to an Avon booth was very smelly all day! Visit the fair first, if possible, to get a sense of customer base and what they are buying.

9) Did I mention have fun? That’s really important!

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The Ugly:

RosesWorkshop says:

Today I was a visitor at what seemed to be the worst show I have ever seen, and I’m very glad I didn’t have a table there. Most of the problems seemed to be related to the venue – it was in a casino!

Apparently there are restrictions on advertising a casino; that meant no posters or signs outside. I only knew the fair was on because one of the sellers told me last week.

Then of course anyone who wanted to attend had to prove they were over 18, so no families could come in even if they found it. Anyone who got past security then had to get past the slot machines and the bar to find the area allocated to the “craft fair”.

The sellers had tables provided – they were those bean shaped card tables with raised edges. Can you imagine the fun laying out your stock on that? And they were still in two lines down the room, so each seller was looking at the back of the head of the next seller; pretty hard to chat to your neighbour while waiting for a customer.

How many people do you think go out on a wet Sunday lunchtime to the casino and actually have the intention and money to buy handmade cards or baby cardigans?

My commiserations to all those stallholders on their wasted day.

 

What it all boils down to:

Jennifer of CaffeinatedPapercuts says:

-what sells best online may not be what sells best in person. My cards are barely touched on Etsy to where I don’t even list them all anymore, but fly off the rack at shows. Conversely, my chevron tags aren’t touched at shows and are my best seller online. Listen to the crowd and see where you can grow your product line.
-accept credit cards. Both PayPal and Square have inexpensive fees and encourages people to buy the bigger items they don’t have the cash for.
-when possible, attend a craft show before you vend at it to get a feel for the crowd, the atmosphere, and to see if they’re truly handmade only or if they’re overrun by Avon and Shush shoes.
-don’t buy one of those craft show site subscriptions, just get on Google and go. Does your church/community center/school do a show every year? Start emailing them for applications!
-make your table inviting, not too cluttered, and reflect your business image. Pinterest is full of boards that involve beautiful and thrifty booth setups, and be sure to do some mock setups at home first.
-Etsy has a wonderful Craft Fair team that everyone is welcome to come read for tips, tricks, and comical vents.
-do bring a buddy when possible, or at least have one stop by around lunch. After all, we all need potty breaks!

I greatly enjoy doing craft shows, being able to interact with my customers, and bringing in some extra sales offline. And hey, they’re great exercise! LOL

 

It is a lot of fun to be a vendor in a craft show,but it also takes dedication and hard work. Have a good time and a great show!

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