Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tip 9 l "Fair" Well at Craft Shows

by guest blogger, Shirley of ::Wild Blueberry Ink::

A great option for any arts and crafts business owner is the craft show. This is a great opportunity to introduce your product to hundreds of people for a fairly low fee. There are no commissions to pay nor are there any commitments. However there are a few things to consider before you take the plunge into the craft show world.


I personally suggest starting off small. Maybe a church fair, a local school market or try shows that are for one day only. If you work your way up to the big shows you will be much more prepared for them. Small shows give you the opportunity to try out displays, test your prices, even see the competition. The larger shows also cost a bit more money to enter. You certainly do not want to spend that money until you are 100% positive about your product, prices, and displays.

Below you will find some links that may help you locate a fair or festival near you.


Once you have your application approved it’s time to start thinking about how you will showcase your products and what you will need to bring. Your booth is the customers first impression of your work and when it comes to displays my suggestion is to always think outside the box. Every craft fair has its own rules and regulations about your area. Read up on them beforehand and plan ahead. Give your customers a shopping experience. By that I mean when they walk into your booth you want them to think they are in an upscale boutique and not the local school gymnasium. Your display should reflect your artistic sensibilities and provide an appealing backdrop for your work. Choose fabrics in colors and patterns that compliment your jewelry. You can engage customers by creating a booth that invites touch. Texture can be played up by using wood, glass, metal, fabrics, natural stone, and in surprising elements, like fresh cut flowers, rice, and coffee beans.

This past weekend I visited a local craft market and absolutely fell in love with one booth. She had purchased faux wood vinyl sheets from a hardware store and laid it out on the floor. She draped this beautiful fabric over her tables and used old windows with screen to hang her jewelry. While I was shopping with her I seriously forgot where I was. I wanted to spend money with her because she thought enough of her pieces to put that work into showcasing them and as a result I valued her items a little more than I did some of the others I saw that day.

Wear or use your product if possible. If you have helpers, have them do the same. A living, breathing display is the best way to showcase your work and if you leave the booth, you take it with you allowing other fair goers to catch a glimpse.

If your product can benefit from a demonstration, do so. This grabs the attention of those walking by who may have otherwise not noticed you at all.

An inexpensive yet appreciated marketing tool… a bowl of candy! This gives potential customers a positive impression of your approach to doing business. I’d go with something wrapped, for obvious reasons, like Hershey’s Kisses, miniature candy bars or peppermint. Beside the candy, put out a book for contact info such as email addresses to add to your mailing list.

If you have a show stopper piece, put it on dramatic display. This will be your attention getting piece that stops traffic. Even if they don’t buy it, it will have them at your booth looking at the other items you have to offer.

Last but not least is traffic flow. If a customer feels crowded and can’t move easily through your display, they will move on to the next booth. ”L” and “U” shapes encourage natural flow. If you can create an “entrance” and “exit” point that will work best. Of course, it will depend on the amount of space you have to work with so do your best with what you are given.

Do a few mock set ups of your booth and displays before the actual fair. This way, you will be sure to have everything you need. You don’t want to be 50 miles away and realize you forgot your tent!


Signs give your customers price and product information and may help get the attention of shoppers as they pass by. Signs should answer questions such as “how much is that”, “what does that do”, “what might I use that for”. Keep them short and to the point. Signs that are too wordy will loose the attention of shoppers. And no sloppy handwriting. If you can’t make a neat sign, use a printer or find someone on Etsy to make them for you!


Fair goers often feel pressured at craft shows which just makes them want to get away from your booth as quickly as possible. Greet customers warmly and with a kind “hello”, but don’t over sell it. Engage them in conversation without being pushy. Customers like to feel that their opinion matters. Ask them what their favorite stone is, for example. This allows you to steer them in the right direction while also learning what your customers are looking for for future reference.

Always smile and stay positive, even when they seem completely unimpressed. An upbeat attitude inspires confidence in your designs.


As mentioned before… the easier the purchase, the more purchases you will have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a craft fair, purchased and amazing piece of art from a talented vendor and then the checkout was a nightmare. I’ve seen vendors with no change. I’ve seen booths left unattended. I’ve seen other vendors keeping an eye on booths that didn’t belong to them.

If at all possible, have someone help you out. Recruit a family member, a spouse, a friend… anyone who can successfully stand guard while you go to the little girls room. Someone who can run and get that much needed cup of joe or veggie wrap. You’re gonna need help. This other person should always know the prices and special deals going on. More times than I can count I’ve managed to ask a vendor “How much is this” and the response was “Oh, this isn’t my booth”. Okay, well… on to the next booth. Sale lost.

Always put the check out area at the “exit” or in a designated spot. This makes checkout so much easier. You know where to pay and who to pay. No reaching over other customers, no money flying all over the place (you may think I’m exaggerating… I’m not).

Have change! It’s a craft fair. People are coming with money to spend and odds are, they are coming with big bills. If you don’t have change, you can lose the sale.

Lots of shoppers go to these events with a certain amount of cash to spend. Almost always, once the cash runs out they find one or two or three more things they absolutely “must have”. What if they find those last items at your booth but they are all out of cash? It wouldn’t matter if you accept credit cards. Accepting credit cards has been known to increase sales by up to 30%.

| Extra Tips |

You can easily meet your best customer at a craft fair so it is important to make a great impression. There could always be a shop owner in the crowd, so be sure to have business cards displayed and keep lots and lots of extras. When I owned a brick and mortar store, my sister and I would go to craft fairs looking for suppliers. We would leave with stacks of business cards. Even if we didn’t buy from them that day, we were in contact just a few days later. Pass your business cards out to everyone, if they do not use it they probably know someone who will.

Everyone loves freebies! Mini soaps or candles, buttons or magnets anything you can send home with a shopper will help them remember you in the future. Be sure to include your shop name and contact info.

Be prepared, get lots of rest the night before, be you and do what you love.

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

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