Craft fairs and markets are great for generating extra income, testing new products and introducing your creative flair to the world. Before you put your name down and hand over your hard-earned money to secure your spot, read this article on how to succeed at craft fairs and markets. Some simple tips and preparation will ensure you get the most out of your day and maximize your profits.
I have done it all – craft fairs, local markets, large fairs and even fashion week. No matter how big or small the venue, I think the route to success is the same. It all boils down to being prepared, having a great product, being your best self on the day and a bit of luck.
How to Succeed at Craft Fairs
1. Position Position Position
Did I say the word position enough times? When doing craft fairs and markets your position counts. Often organizers will tell you that all spots are the same but they are not (sorry organizers but it is true!) If possible, check out the venue ahead of time and notice where the traffic naturally flows.
Often spots at an intersection will have 2 directions of traffic and can increase your chance of success dramatically. Craft fair success, among many other things, is a numbers game.
More traffic = more chances to sell your product.
On the other end of the scale, avoid bottlenecks and really crowded sections as people are often pushing to get past and your customers can’t relax.
My most hated spot was always right at the entrance. No matter how great your product is, customers who have just arrived and literally walked in the door, are generally not yet ready to buy. They need warming up first! They will often look at your product and even if they love it, they will wonder what else is in the fair. Sometimes they will make their way back to you later, but often they will get distracted by another stall and spend their money elsewhere.
Somewhere in the middle with good traffic flow is ideal.
2. Be organized
Here is a basic list of things you will need to bring to craft fairs and markets.
- Your product – well of course!
- Display items – I shall go into more detail about this in the section below.
- Your money processing system – Shopify and Paypal now offer mobile processing systems. You could also contact your local bank to see what processing facilities they offer. Many new systems can be processed right on your smartphone. Gone are the days of lugging around those bulky click-clack machines where you had to phone the bank for approval for every transaction.
- Stationery – pens, paper, scissors, sticky tape.
- Float if you are accepting cash.
- Calculator – most phones have an app for this if you forget.
- Signage – It is important your stall looks professional and inviting. A sign is often the first thing people see when approaching from a distance. If these see their favorite product advertised they will be sprinting over to check you out.
- Business cards – plan ahead of time and get them cheaply online. If you are not great with graphics, try Zazzle for lots of pre-designed options. If you are on a limited budget, then think creatively.I needed a few cards recently for an event I was going to so printed my details on some cardboard on my home printer, cut them up and stuck cute fabrics to the back. They looked handmade and suited my business. I got lots of positive comments on them and they didn’t cost me anything as I used my scrap fabrics. Years ago I used to stick pressed flowers to cardboard and laminate them to use as cards. You are a creative person and your cards should express who you are.
3. Displaying your Goods
This is more important than you think. Your product should be shown looking its best and be easy for people to touch. Just as an aside – you can’t be too precious about people touching your items. People need to touch and feel to buy. If you have expensive or breakable items, let customers touch but try to have an assistant or two helping for the day to keep an eye on things.
Tables and Tablecloths
If you have tables then make sure you have tablecloths to cover them. And not just any old tablecloth either! Your tablecloth should match your style and brand.
Is your style
- Minimalist? Go for clean crisp white.
- Feminine? Try florals or pink fabric.
- Masculine? Black or bold geometrics.
- Funky? What about some retro fabric?
If you are selling bags, clothing or jewelry, then make sure you have a mirror.
I always bought mirrors from IKEA as they have ones with a safety film. This just means that they have a film of plastic on top of the mirror to stop it breaking or to hold the glass if it does break. If you are going a one-off show then it might be worth risking a regular mirror but if you are going to be showing regularly then stick to safety film mirrors. I think I have broken enough mirrors doing fairs and markets to have around 10 lots of 7 years of bad luck. Luckily I’m not too superstitious.
If you are selling clothing at a craft fair or market, you might be tossing up whether you need a mannequin.
Fiberglass ones are much too bulky and heavy to lug around. You can get lighter plastic ones but why not consider taking some nice photographs of your clothes on real people and hang them around your store. Or perhaps put them in some nice frames.
A bad mannequin can often cheapen your product.
Fabric dress forms can look classy and are much cheaper. Patterned fabric dress forms look great if you are selling bags.
4. Set your pricing correctly
If this is your first fair then you will be guessing a little at your best pricing structure. Try and find a middle ground between pricing too low and too high.
Make sure all items are priced or have signage as customers hate having to ask for prices. Generally, people assume things without tags are expensive. When you price your product, customers will gravitate to the products they can afford.
Have a good variety of pricing on your products to suit all budgets. Bundles of goods can also work well and are great for Christmas and gift-giving times.
Always take extra tags or stickers so if your pricing is not working, you can quickly write new tags with a more appropriate price. Don’t be afraid to make changes on the day.
If in the first hour or so everyone is saying you are too expensive, then lower the prices slightly. If you are selling out of one good quickly, then raise the prices a little on the remaining ones. It isn’t good if you do this too many times but once or twice can keep things moving. Eventually, if you do a few markets, you will work out the correct pricing for your product.
5. Be Social on the Day
Be the Best Version of Yourself
On the day, make sure you are feeling your sparkly and personable best. Customers like to purchase from people they like. Dress nicely to compliment your stall and make yourself feel like a million dollars. Ultimately, you are your product and brand and your image should reflect this.
Unless you are an absolute sucker for pain or have some miracle high heeled shoe that doesn’t hurt your feet, then stick to flats. Standing all day is exhausting and you need all your energy to be bright and energetic for your customers. If you think you can do heels then just stick some flats in your bag just in case. (You can thank me later!)
Don’t Get Distracted
Bring something to do for the quiet periods but make sure it is not something so engrossing that you don’t see opportunities standing in front of you. If you can make part of your product at the stall then that can be a fabulous talking point for customers going by. But this only works if you are not going to get so caught up in making your product that you forget to sell it.
If it is really quiet then have your assistant or a friend pretend to be a customer. Customers attract other customers and many people are intimidated by an empty stall or shop. Make a friend and take turns doing this with your stall neighbor.
Make sure every person you speak to gets a business card. While this can seem a little old-fashioned, it is important that people have all your contact details and social channels so they can find you again easily. A nice card can make a lasting impression.
If your market is huge, then handwrite your stall number or position so customers can find you again if they come back later.
Build your Brand
Build your brand not just in person, but make sure you are getting emails for mailing lists and encouraging people to follow you on social channels.
This way even if they don’t buy immediately, you will have a prospect for the future. If they do buy now, think about repeat business and building your brand through word of mouth.
Don’t be shy to ask for emails. They can always politely say no!
If you really want lots of emails from customers then offer a competition. You could give away a great prize (your product of course) for everyone that joins your newsletter. Watch how quickly your numbers start to climb.
6. The Sales Pitch
There are whole websites and books devoted to the art of selling so I’ll keep this relatively brief. These are my thoughts on selling at fairs and markets.
- Treat every customer equally whether they buy a $2 or $200 item or nothing at all. Play the long-term game and don’t just think short term.
- Keep your head up. It is easy to get discouraged if you have a few turn downs in a row but it is important to keep going and stay sparkly.
- Learn some simple closure techniques. You can have a great rapport with a customer who loves your product, but unless you can close the sale, they may still walk away empty handed. My favorites are:
- Would you like me to wrap that up for you?
- Shall I grab a (plastic) bag for you?
- How would you like to pay for it? I have credit facilities if that helps.
After the Event
How did you go? Great I hope! But if you didn’t then don’t despair. The first time I did a market I called my sister at lunchtime almost in tears as I hadn’t sold anything. Luckily she came to the rescue and saved the day with her super sales skills. But if you don’t have a superstar sister like me then keep these things in mind and don’t be too hard on yourself or your product.
Things to think about
It takes time to learn how to sell and to tweak your product to suit the market.
If you didn’t succeed don’t give up. The difference between people that succeed and those that don’t is simple – the winners don’t give up. They fail just as often but they pick themselves up and try again. Sometimes easier in theory than practice, but you can’t do badly at one fair and give up.
Here are a few things to think about for next time.
- Check your pricing suited the craft fair or market.
- Was this the right venue for you? Different markets and fairs attract different customers. Perhaps there simply wasn’t enough foot traffic on the day. Try a busier market or better time of the year.
- Does your product need changing or improving? Always listen to the feedback you get from customers.
- Could you improve your display to make your product more appealing and easier to handle?
So go out and give craft fairs and markets a try! Thanks for reading and GOOD LUCK!