Craft show tips & hints

I will apologize first for this being a long list - I've tried to be as thorough and as detailed without losing the point - so if this looks long-winded I apologize. These are mostly things I have learned - and in some cases apply specifically to jewelry displays - but most can be universally applied. Some are tips from others I've heard from or seen online. I hope this helps someone get involved in their first show(s).

If you are outdoors, be prepared for all weather and have multiple display plans in case it gets windy!Tape is your best friend in these cases!

Bring a variety of items. All the items I've sold at shows were not summer themed items!

Be prepared - this includes having plenty of change - bring more than you think you'll need (be able to break large bills - or have access to a bank or other way to get change if needed).
Keep your cash in a lockable cash box - that you have the keys to or in another type of box you can always have access to - a vendor apron with a coupon sorter is a good way to keep bills contained and organized - so you don't spend a lot of time sorting through looking for the right change. If tax is added - know your items price + tax (or put the price + tax on the tags so you can add accurately).

Use strongly contrasting table cloths for your table(s).
Take comfy chair(s) - you'll quickly get uncomfortable if you're sitting on a metal folding chair all day and that makes for a grumpy sales person (you).

Use innovative displays - need ideas - ask:)
If you have lightweight displays - bring heavy weighted objects to hold down your displays if you're outside in the wind.

If its an outdoor show or market and you're going to do a few of these invest in a 10x10 tent canopy - and get one with sides if possible - you can button up your back & sides and give yourself shade, rain prevention, and in cases of windy days it helps hold your tent in place. If its outside - and wind is forecast - use your stakes.

Accept checks with ID & phone # - you'd be surprised how many more sales you'll get if you can take other payments than just cash. (I've done this for years and have yet to have a returned check EVER*knock on wood*)

Ask when you register if everything being sold at the show/market is required to be handmade. Many local craft shows are quickly going away from local, handmade items and just letting any old flea-market vendor in. Great if you've got similar items. Not so great if you make higher end handmade jewelry. I got burned big time on a local show $50 for the week - 8-10hr days. the Contract said no flea-market type stuff - yet I was the ONLY vendor there that did handmade stuff - everything else was resale or very low quality items. I sold $5 that week. LOSS $45 + gas to get there every day. The fair-going type customers wanted to spend $20 and get 10 pre-made oriental trading company type bracelets instead of spending $30 on one bracelet from me.

If you're paying for space - make sure you know what type of space you're getting, size, time you need to set up by, is lunch included (some places do this, most don't), ask what lunch might be if it is included - in case you have allergies.

All that being said - I know hour our farmer's market does things - and they're more than willing to share their contract booklet with folks - you can see their requirements here:
Orange County Homegrown Farmer's Market Rules

They look like a lot of info to agree to - but it works. Everything that's sold at this market is 100% local grown, home baked, or handmade by local gardeners, farmers, bakers, cooks, and artisans. And it works. Its been one of the top 10 markets in the ENTIRE US for the last few years - and prelim voting this year has us as the #1 in Indiana.

Have fun, get plenty of rest the night before, if you're not near a grocery store or other type of place to get drinks - take a small cooler with food & drinks to help you keep up your energy.

Take someone with you - whose company you enjoy, who knows your products & can answer questions if you're busy dealing with another customer, in the bathroom, or having a smoke break (if you do), and having someone with you can help you enjoy the day and make the time pass faster.

If you're able to - take something to work on - show your customers while they shop that you do in fact-handmake everything. I've had a few folks say "oh that's just overpriced storebought stuff" - but they can't dispute it when I sit there working on pieces for the table, custom orders for online or other sales locations - etc -  if they see you making it they're more likely to buy - doesn't matter what it is. - yes food & soap type things generally you can't do that. But soap is unique seller to seller, and food people can tell if its handmade vs store bought. State regs vary about whether you can sell food at craft shows or just at farmer's markets...check your local regulations.

Have variety - cover all price ranges - from $2-3 inexpensive impulse buys to more expensive items to extremely high end for your product (1-2 expensive items) and keep those at the back of the table but easily visible - if someone wants to see it on their person etc - YOU control who gets to put it on (and you can keep a better eye on the expensive pieces).

Just because something didn't sell last time you did show x - doesn't mean it won't sell this time. (Having a spare person at your booth helps you if you're able to customize pieces while the customer shops - for earrings, beaded stuff etc)

Be willing to take custom orders - how you do this varies - some require full payment up front - some require 50% non-refundable deposit - then when you complete the order they send you the remainder of payment and you ship their item or deliver it if they live within reason.

Be willing to ship custom orders to people visiting the area - know common weights for some of your pieces, and give them a shipping quote or offer free shipping for items bought at events. Keep an order book and make sure you get ALL the info for a customer for custom orders; FULL NAME, full address, phone number, email address - make sure you write it all down very clearly. Duplicate copy books of receipts/invoices are $1-3 at Walmart or Target in the stationary section keep one for your records, one for your customer at time of order and one when you ship the item out.

Don't agree to do more shows than you know you can keep up with demand should you have one of those wonderful days where everyone MUST BUY everything you sell. Don't set yourself up to not be able to fulfill other orders, or complete later shows without major loss of sleep/sanity.

Try to remain sane - know local regulations - if you have questions ask someone else in your area. A good show that is well advertised will be able to answer almost ANY question you have. If they don't know or simply refuse to answer a question you have - think twice about doing that show. If they advertise desperately in the paper a week before the show for more vendors - know there's something wrong. Good shows will fill up fast with good, reputable vendors.

When you scout and talk to vendors, recognize when someone says a good show, it might mean one thing to them and another to you. Talk facts not feelings. A good show might mean $100, $1000 or $10000. Also if you want to make $1000 you have to bring much more than $1000 worth of inventory. (At least in my experience .... ) As mentioned above even if you bring your inventory and want to reach a goal, it may not happen because of marketing. Scouting is very important! Have fun too

Ask the promoter what the attendance was the year before. Generally you get sales from 1% of whatever the attendance is.

Try to stand out from other vendors to catch people's eye, whether it be catchy colours, a make and take table, a freebie such as balloon setc.

Keep it simple and easy to see as well as attractive.

Try to be vertical as well as horizontal for visual interest in your display.

Have prices on each item - many clients are discouraged if they have to ask for a price. Do a practice run of a setup in your living room or wherever.

Make a checklist and add to it with each market. (it is better to take too much than to be stuck at the market with out that certain item, whether is be sticky tape or surplus stock.

Make sure to have business cards etc ready for ready reference for people esp with your online shop address(es) on it as many might recall an item you have, yet not purchase it on the day because they didn't think of a need until later. Make sure you have PLENTY of cards - give one out with each purchase - and if someone buys like 3 of something - ask if they're for gifts and if they'd like a card for each gift. (This little tip has led to a  LOT of later sales for me)

Dress cleanly & nicely yourself and most of all be comfortable -  you most likely wont be able to change your clothes and you'll likely be on your feet all day long.  (I still remember not buying some lovely baby quilts and little items because the seller was wearing stained clothing and an unkempt aura.) *NOT MY SUGGESTION* - note people have lives, kids, pets etc things happen they may have spilled their coffee on the way to the venue because someone cut them off - things happen. Take a look at the entire display not just the person's clothes - this means you're judging someone based on their cover and not their qualities.

Another suggestion is continuity. Assuming it is a regular market, whether it be weekly, monthly or yearly, turn up regularly will help establish a client base, they might not want your necklace for Aunty Bess this month, but one day they'll recall that you have the perfect necklace for her and know that you will be there at the next show. And might even think of others, esp if Aunt Bess loves it and she see other relatives' reaction to the gift.

The last suggestion I offer is to talk to your clients. Try to say hello to everyone who wanders by - it doesn't always happen - some people will flat out ignore you - its not you its them. But a warm hello can draw people to your table. (Don't badger them but at least smile and introduce yourself). Don't sit down the back and wait for them to come to you. At the same time be sensitive to the fact that some shoppers like to be left alone.

If your items aren't breakable or easily dirtied - encourage customers to pick things up and touch the merchandise. *With my jewelry part of the sell is the tactile aspect of chainmaille - people who have never seen it won't know that some weaves can feel like ribbon on the skin - encouraging them to pick up the merchandise is a great way to get people to really see your work up close instead of just flat on a table.*

If you are worried about germs- a simple bottle of hand sanitizer on your table - don't require its use but let customers know its there (one with a pump works best). Many people will take you up on the offer instead of having to wait in line for the restroom or because they don't want to walk 'all the way over there' just to wash their hands - especially at larger venues or those with only one bathroom (like most small churches & fire departments).
$3-5 for a good sized pump bottle that can be closed at the end - and stored in your glove box - goes a LONG way toward making customers feel alright about touching the merchandise.

A note on food & drinks at your table - if you're selling baked goods or food - check with your local regulatory agency on this - many states require that you put special labeling on your products if you're not state certified as a commercial kitchen something to the effect of "This product is produced & processed in a home based kitchen that has not been inspected by the state (health department, dept of agriculture etc - whatever agency your state has for this type of thing)." And they usually require you to list all ingredients of everything being sold that is edible - even if its from a mix you have to list every ingredient.*I know this to be the case in Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio & New York states - and probably most others now too.

If you're selling baked goods or food - you are also probably going to have to have more than one person with you so one of you can handle the food and the other can handle the money. (This is also an IN regulation). You cannot have pets at your booth, and you cannot give out samples unless they're individually bagged or otherwise individually portioned in containers - no just having bowls of dip mixed up with pretzels - that will get your booth shut down in this state (if the show is running within its regulations). Keep a small trash bucket at your table ($ stores sell sufficient ones for $1-3). keep a small grocery bag in it to catch refuse - that you can empty into the venue's trash bins - with ease and without touching garbage.

Lastly on the baked goods/food aspect - if you're selling food you CANNOT eat or drink in your booth. Its just not sanitary - having that extra person helps so you can go grab a snack yourself from the concession stand or from the picnic basket/lunch bag you brought from home.

Suggestions for food to take with you - shelf stable snacks - nuts, beef jerky, snickers or protein bars, granola bars, cheese & cracker packs, if you have room for a small cooler - then you can have sandwiches or lunchables & the like. If you're outdoors in hot weather - take 3 times more fluids than you SHOULD drink during the time you're going to be there - if you don't need it someone near you might and it might be an emergency - feel good by having had that extra bottle of water to help the elderly couple or mom with 4 kids - stay hydrated. Try to keep your drinks in spill-proof containers. You're less likely to end up in stained clothing if your coffee is in a travel mug with lid - than you are if you're holding a thin plastic cup of hot liquid and someone bumps the table its sitting on. Bottled water or juices are best.

If you have a large variety of sizes in your items for sale - such as small earrings and large baby quilts - make sure you have bags for both types of items. Almost all of my items fit into small 3x4" zipper bags - $2-3 for 100 of them lasts me for several shows/weeks at market. They're not expensive and they're secure. If I bought expensive gift bags to put all the items in I'd have to raise my prices - most customers would rather you have a lower price than have expensive packaging - not always but usually. Also if you want to buy some simple paper gift bags at the dollar store - do so but keep them solid colored and have an assortment of sizes/colors - if someone wants a gift wrapped/bagged item - put the info on a sign that it is available - for a small charge $.50-$2 is reasonable - some people will pay the extra so they don't have to gift wrap a gift. Most will opt for the regular plastic bags.

If you take other forms of payment than cash (if you have a card scanner - or have PayPal set up so you can request $ via mobile devices - put this info on a sign that sits on your table and make it legible from 10-15 feet away - people who see you take plastic or checks from across the aisle might drop what they're looking at at another vendor who only accepts cash - if they see you have other options. Plastic easel type frames from the dollar store are good for this - you can print up your signs - slide them into the frames and set them on your table(s).

Make sure your items are clearly priced - and if you have several things that are the same price - ie all earrings on one display are the same price - print up a small sign that says that "all earrings this display $5 per pair" or whatever your price is. Sadly yes you probably should put the PER PAIR - so you don't get someone who thinks they're being cute and asks 'so I can have all of those for $5' - it sounds like a no-brainer but I get that a lot if my signs don't read "per pair or 'each' ". Computer printed items can be printed at fast normal or fast draft and still be legible and will save you on ink supplies.

I will eventually be posting ways to save $ on labels, packaging and more - but that's another blog. Most of these ideas are things I've learned or things I've heard others suggest - if you have questions or want to add suggestions drop a comment or email me: - and put craft show tips in the subject (or questions if you have questions on something you'd like me to explain further).


Red Rose said...

Wow, I'm really glad that you posted this. I saw that you were putting it up on Facebook so I had to come and read it.

I'm a new follower of your blog and I would love a follow back.

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