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Many craft business make most of their money from craft markets and fairs but an increasingly fickle public and the wider availability of craft goods in mainline retailers means that crafters need to work harder and stand out from the crowd to be successful. Here are some top tips for having a profitable craft fair.
Pick a local one
For your first fair, you should go local. This is partly so that you can visit it before you book a table but also because you don’t want to have to travel too far for your first fair.
Display like a pro
Create a colourful display that shows off your products to their best. Cover the table with a colourful cloth and slide box files underneath to create height at the back – this looks much, much better than a flat display. Now, fill up the space so that it’s brimming with product. For your first few craft fairs, it’s worth practising this at home.
Turn up early!
Do not be in a rush, especially the first time. Whenever you do anything unfamiliar, it takes extra time and you want your display to be as attractive as those of the old hands either side of you.
Take a partner
Don’t do this alone! If you do, you’ll end up tied to the table for the whole day. Also bear in mind that you can only serve one customer at a time, so when it gets busy you might be losing business. Your partner in crime needn’t be a crafter themselves, they just need to be someone who can count out change and who you can trust to look after the stall while you run off to the loo.
Have plenty of change!
You don’t want to have to turn buyers away because you can’t change their money! In a perfect world, you’d have a portable card reader so you could take plastic or Paypal’s Virtual Terminal but that’s not realistic for your first craft fair. So, take plenty of change – you can always pay it back into the bank after the fair’s over.
Think about your table layout
If you only have one table, or they’re laid out for you by the organisers then ignore this. If you’re using multiple tables, however, you will need to think about how you organise them.
Generally speaking an “n” shape is ideal. In other words, the customers walk “into” an area bounded by three sides. You sit or stand behind the one at the top of the “n”. This way, customers can look at all your products without feeling they’re too close to you (people don’t like to feel they’re being watched!) and they follow a natural flow around each of the three sides.
You could also try a “u” shape with one or more tables along the walkway. This way, customers walk around the outside and you stand inside the u. The advantage of this shape is that there’s more room for customers to move, and you’re easily able to serve anyone. Bear in mind, however, that if you’re outside under a gazebo, your customers might get wet if it rains – if the weather looks at all iffy, you should use the n shape.
A few other things you mustn’t forget (in addition to your stock, table cloth and box files for height)
- Something to sit on
- Something to pack purchases in
- Something to record purchases on as they’re made (a clipboard with a hand drawn table on lined paper would do)
- A receipt book – some customers will want one
- Bum bag for your cash
- A stack of business cards or leaflets advertising where people can buy more of your stuff – this is especially important as Christmas approaches
- If you’re outside, tarpaulins to cover everything in case of rain
- Food – especially chocolate!!
- A flask of tea or coffee
- A smile.
You don’t need any! Contrary to popular belief (and the belief of retailers and car dealers everywhere) selling is about making a human connection and listening.
If you are friendly and prepared to chat with people, then the worst that can happen is you’ll have an enjoyable day being sociable (and that, in itself, can make a nice change!). What you’ll find, however, is that by not trying to sell, you will actually sell.
What if someone tries to haggle? Well, this is where the fact that you have a very good grasp on your true product cost and the margin comes in. If you follow the Total Product Cost +75% approach, you know that if you give the customer, say, a 10% discount you’re actually reducing your profit by more than 20%. So, just bear that in mind when you’re negotiating and remember to have confidence in your product. If you’ve spent £10 making an item that’s on sale for £17.50 and your customer wants a discount that reduces your £7.50 profit down to £5 does that feel fair or not? You may decide it does but, personally, I wouldn’t have it. If the customer wants your item, they should pay the ticket price unless there’s a very good reason otherwise. Your products are worth it!!!
More top tips for craft-fairs
Elaine Stavert from Littlecote Soap Co, has a lot of experience at craft-fairs – here are her top tips
Get a sign!
At a craft show, one of the biggest mistake that people make is not having a sign to say what they are selling. It might be abundantly clear to you that your candles made in tea cups are indeed candles, but make sure that people can instantly identify what you sell. People have just a few seconds to view your stall and make up their mind whether to approach you or not. Let people know what your USP is (unique selling point – the thing that makes you different from all the rest). Tell the customer clearly exactly what you do and why you are great at it. Have a picture of yourself at the potting wheel, or making your jewellery, as pictures speak louder than words.
Presentation is vital
Cover your table with appropriate fabric for your product, make sure that it is not too patterned, let the product stand out. DZD sells grocery grass by the meter, it also sells wonderful fabric that looks like Scandinavian wood – I made our ““wood” fabric to fit our craft table and many people actually think it is real wood. Alternatively use hessian which is cheap and rustic looking. Use old crates, leather suitcases, old hatboxes etc. to display your products.
Height is important. Make sure that your products are eye level, the less the customer has to work to view your products, the easier it will sell.
Clearly display the prices. People will rarely ask how much a product is if it doesn’t have a price and will walk on by, so make sure that every single item is clearly marked.
Do a show offer. People love a bargain and you want them to buy your product NOW at the show before they go home and forget about you. Tell people that the offer is only available today. People will often part with £5 or £10 quite easily at a show.
You’re not selling cars
“Sell” your products, but don’t be too pushy. A hard sell will often put off a customer, some don’t even like being talked to at all as they think you are going to give them a hard sell. Smile at each customer and say “hello” or “good morning”. If their feet turn inwards towards your stand this means that they are interested, so you can then say to them “have you seen us before” or “did you know that our products are local” etc.
If you are having a bad or slow sale and people are not purchasing, refrain from sitting on your chair looking glum as it is very unlikely that you will sell anything. It might alert customers to the fact that you are having a bad show and they may wonder why your product is not selling. Try and remain cheerful and remember that it is not just what you sell at a show, use it as an advertising opportunity to direct more people to your website or blog. Use the opportunity to give away as many leaflets or business cards as you can.
Leaflets are cheap to produce with Vistaprint or other online printing companies. This can make a nice addition to the sale of your product if there are details and pictures of how and where your product is made. Make sure that your contact details or website are on all literature, business cards, and on your product so that people can easily re-purchase.
Be nice to the other stall holders and the organisers. Try not to get too uptight about people invading your space or getting in your way. If you are easy to work with, other crafters, and the organisers, will recommend your products to others, and you are more than likely to be asked back again next time to the show and to other shows.