Monday, September 7, 2009

Tips for Participating in Craft Fairs

Those of us who are crafters generally consider selling our creations at local craft fairs or holiday bazaars a great way to introduce our work to the public. These can be lots of fun, generate income, and help create visibility for the home crafter, not to mention they offer plenty of networking and inspiration.
These types of events not only happen at Christmas time anymore. There are spring fairs, farmers markets, fall festivals, and holiday bazaars - just to name a few. They are often held in schools, churches, homes, outside, and even specialty retailers are now opting to showcase the hidden talents of their customers. But before you venture into the world of craft fairs, there are a few things to keep in mind.The first ting to consider is the cost of setting up at the event. You will most likely be charged with a flat table fee. This will be a charge for the actual space you want to reserve. Usually spaces are a predetermined dimension and there will be a flat fee for the basic setup. If you require additional tables and other extras like electricity, window lighting, or rack display space, you may be charged extra. Keep in mind, space is often limited, so be prepared to respond quickly to the opportunity as many arrangements are made on a "first come, first served" basis.

Very established art fairs often require you to submit a written application and pay an application fee. Along with this you may be asked to submit pictures of your work and your plan for setting up. Organizers will "jury" your line and decide if it fits with their vision and compliments other items that will be for sale. They will also want to insure that your set up is professional looking and suitable. This does not mean that it has to be fancy, just well designed. Simple and uncomplicated is totally acceptable. Usually the application fee is refundable if you are nor accepted into the sale, but may not be - be sure to ask. As for not being accepted - don't be discouraged. It could take a few tries to get into a really established and large sale. If your work is good and you're persistent, your day will come.

If you feel the cash outlay justifies your participation, be sure to consider a few more things before you sign the contract. When is the event? Does it fall at a time that conflict with other community events that might spread your customer base out too thinly? For example, is the Christmas Bazaar you want to participate in too close to Thanksgiving, or even Christmas? Are there other bazaars happening at the same time? Location, location, location - is the location easy for people to get to? Is in attractive? Will the organizers be decorating the venue? Do you need to bring your own table and chair? What about advertising? Will the organizers be advertising enough to entice people to attend? These are all questions that can affect the success of the bazaar. Other things you might ask about are how many years the event has been held and what kinds of things will be sold. Many artists assume that a craft fair will showcase only hand crafted items and arrive to find it jammed with manufactured items of all sorts. You may feel this compromises the integrity of your product. It can also affect sales as many manufactured items will be sold for much less that custom designed work and will attract a different clientele.

A final, question might be relative to the hours. You will want to make sure vendors will be required to be set up and be present for the duration of the event. Often vendors who feel they are not selling enough will pack up early. Empty tables peppered among full ones not only look bad, but spoil the experience for other vendors and customers. On that note, remember that you may not sell anything. Stranger things have happened. Many an artist with a beautiful, reasonably priced line will not sell what they had hoped. If this happens to you, chalk the experience up to exposure, networking, and a chance to relax. Always hand out business cards or other contact information. It costs almost nothing for you, nothing at all for the customer, and may bring someone back at another time.Now that you've done your homework and feel you are ready to make the commitment, the rest is easy.

A few days before the event, be sure to confirm your requirements/requests with the event organizers - number of tables, electricity, or wall request for example. Once your product is ready and you have enough inventory, make sure everything is priced before you head for the craft fair. You may think you will have time to do this once you're set up, but this will not be the case. Even the most experienced vendor will feel rushed and somewhat overwhelmed at first. Organize your merchandise in such a way that it will be easy to set up. You'll have several categories of "stuff" so it is easiest to use clear bins or well marked boxes for transport and avoid mixing these categories if at all possible. Remember you will have product inventory, display items (tables, signs, extension cords, racks, trays, tablecloths, shelving, lighting), sales items (money, cash box, sales receipts, business cards, bags), personal items (chair, lunch, purse, keys, things to keep you busy is traffic is slow like magazines, books, knitting). You will be unloading in a hierarchy (table, displays, inventory, and personal), so make things easier by keeping things organized from the beginning!

Now you're just about there, but there are a few more things to remember before you start to greet customers. There are definitely items of necessity that you cannot assume will be at your disposal. Always bring an extension cord or two. If you have requested electricity, the outlet could be many feet away. Be sure to bring wide masking, duct, or other strong tape to tape down your cords. Choose a tape that will not be too unsightly and consider your location.

Other things you think you won't need, but likely will - scissors, pens, markers, extra paper for last minute signs, extra tags, scotch tape, and a mirror if your product is clothing or jewelry. Also keep in mind that your bins, coats and extra inventory most likely will have to stay with you. That means you need to plan on storing these things either in your car, or more often than not, under your table. Because these items can look sloppy under a beautifully displayed table, bring a table cloth large enough to drape over the front of your display. If you are sitting near a wall customers will not be able to see behind the scenes, but if you are in the middle of a floor, you will want to be sure to drape the back side as well. Large color coordinated sheets work well for this. You can drape the over the table, overlap if necessary, and then cover those with your preferred display table cloth. Keep in mind that floor length coverings can create a tripping hazard so be sure to tuck the corners in or even tape down from the inside so the tape is not visible.

When displaying merchandise, keep the customer in mind. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to check out your work. You want your display to be inviting and interesting, but not too cluttered. You may find your original display ideas need to be modified once you see the actual footprint of the location. Be open and ready to adapt!

As for making actual sales, most people expect to pay in cash or with a check, so don't feel you must offer credit card options. A large, established craft sale may offer credit card checkout as an option, but smaller ones often do not. Be sure to have enough small change to make your sales. Whether or not you take checks is up to you. Most people are very honest and will be writing a legitimate check. On the extremely rare occasion that you get stuck, you will have to determine how far you feel you need to go to recoup the funds. This will of course depend greatly on the amount of the sale.

Don't forget packaging. It is nice to offer a bag if nothing else. The sale will probably not be affected by how you bag the purchase, but it is nicer to have some consistency there. If you items are small enough, you can easily use clear small zip lock bags or organza bags found at your local craft supplier. Be sure to send your customers off with your business card as well. Remember, you have gone out of your way to create a great product and presence. Be sure to close the deal the same way.

Wow - it's as simple as that! At the end of the day if you have gained lots of compliments and recognition, made a few sales, didn't spend all your profits on food and other great craft items, you can consider the day a great success!


Liu said...

Welcome to my blog ( to see my new works of beads.
Liang-In Liu from Taiwan

Sprinces Dreamweaver Sculpts said...

Great tips!

Anonymous said...


Lori's Glassworks said...

Great advice and tips on craft fair readiness. I participated in my first fair this past winter. It was fun and I sold many of my more expensive items this way. I plan to do it again this fall and winter and will use some of your tips.

Shauna Roush said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I will be doing my first craft show on November 6th! I'm so excited and a little nerovous. Your tips are very wonderful!

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