20 tips for craft shows

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With seven years and almost 100 craft shows behind me, I want to share my top twenty tips for a successful show with others who may just be starting out or are looking for ways to improve their experience as vendors at events.

  1. Before you can be successful at any event, make sure the event is worth your time. Ask yourself (and the person hosting this event!) Is it the right venue for you? For instance, will you be the only hand-crafter among commercial vendors? Will there be multiple vendors selling the same or similar items as yours? Does their advertising bring in the clientele that would purchase your products? For that matter, how well is the show being advertised? Establishing if this event is worth your time and effort the first and MOST IMPORTANT step to having a successful show.
  1. Don’t make a huge investment on your first show. It’s tempting to go out, buy a fancy canopy, new folding tables, have signs printed – just slow your roll. If you don’t already have what you need, consider borrowing it from someone that does first so you can make an informed decision when purchasing supplies for your display after you figure out what works for you.
  1. It may be tempting to line up craft shows left and right (they are pretty addictive!) but while you have plenty of time to build a large supply of inventory before your first show, you need allow time between shows to replenish what you may sell to avoid the stress of working frantically before your next show to restock.
  1. Broaden your horizons – make various items in various color combos, in various sizes if applicable. You want to be able to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible by offering lots of ready to purchase color combos and a variety products. Also be sure to bring order forms, if you accept custom orders, and a book with pictures of other products you make if you don’t have an example available in the booth with you. Another really neat thing to have available is a book of fan photos and testimonials showcasing your products in action!
  1. Display, display, display. Now that you have selected a good venue and built up a sizable inventory that can appeal to the masses – practice setting up your display. It is very important to do this at least the night before the show so you can get an idea of how you want your items displayed. It saves a headache when setting up your booth the next day. Do a few mock ups of your booth arranged different ways, with different elements, and draw up a diagram to assist you in set up the the day of the show.
  1. A solid color table cloth is always a good choice (black or white is good, or chose a color you use in other areas of your branding. You want everything to remain cohesive to your brand and easy on the eyes) and when laid at an angle over a vibrant printed cloth makes a big impact and draw people in. Make sure your table cloth is long enough to hide any unsightly totes or supplies you have stored under the table, but not so long that people will trip over it.
  1. Get creative with you display! Consider placing books or turned-over pots on your table to display your products at varying heights to add visual interest. You can also achieve this look with hat boxes, milk crates, or vases with a platter secured on top.
  1. Think up. Don’t just limit your display to a table top. Shelving racks are affordable and give a booth a nice store-front feel. Check thrift stores, and give your booth a fun twist by painting several and lining them up to create walls around your booth.
  1. Signage. It helps your business stand out. You don’t need to go all out with a costly printed sign – some low cost DIY ideas: grab a cork board, wooden letters, paint, and some thumbtacks. Everything you need to make portable, affordable signage for your display, and it’s 100% unique; Or paint each letter of your business name on canvases and put them on mini easels. You can also paint or sew your logo on a fabric banner and pin it to the top of your canopy.
  1. It is very important to price and label your items clearly, but in a pretty manner – consider hand making tags using cardstock, colorful markers, ribbon and a hole puncher. You can also tag products with your business card. If you have several smaller items all the same price, you can group them in a basket with a cute framed piece guide leaning against the basket.
  1. If your event is outside, a canopy is pretty much a must, as well as folding chairs, a cooler full of water in the hot weather, hand fans, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Basically, plan like you’re spending the day at the beach. Canopies can be pricey, so ask around and see if your friends have one you can borrow for your events.
  1. Another VERY important tip for outdoor craft shows – It’s pretty embarrassing when your canopy or products flies across the venue (yes, this happened to me!). Make sure to tether and weigh down  your canopy, tables and products thoroughly. Some double sided sticky tape won’t damage most products and will prevent them from blowing away. For your canopy, sand bags, or pretty buckets filled with sand or small stones with bouquets of fake flowers in them to make them more pretty.
  1. Have business cards – lots of them! – at the ready to pass out (keep them in your apron or jacket pocket so you can whip them out casually instead of having to reach for them), and in several locations in your booth! Another great way to get your name out there is pens or magnets with your business name and web address on them to pass out to shoppers walking by or to put in with each purchase from your booth.
  1. Bring a friend along for the craft show, or at least, work it out for someone to stop by to bring you lunch or for a bathroom break! Make sure to use this time to walk around and visit your fellow vendors at the event, and pass out your cards to them. 🙂 Having a friend at your booth can be a lifesaver if multiple people are browsing at the same time. You won’t have to worry about missing a sale because you were busy talking to someone else.
  1. Don’t forget to bring a sales book (with carbon receipts, or a separate receipt book to write up receipts for customers), extra price tags, several pens, super glue, scissors, a calculator, a change of clothes (after getting soaked and muddy in a rain storm and once having my son spill a red slush on my jeans during a fair, I learned to always keep a change of clothes in the car at craft shows!) and Tylenol for the possibility of a headache. Plan like a boy scout for every possible scenario!
  1. Decide before your craft show if you will accept checks or cash only, and bring an ample supply of change (ones and fives, possibly some tens), as well as extra cash for YOU to shop or buy snacks with, and also decide if you are going to figure in tax on each transaction, or if you will just deduct it from your profits (much easier I think). Also, if you have a smart phone, definitely get Square so that you can process credit card payments on the spot!
  1. Consider rounding your prices to the nearest dollars instead of having products priced at, say, $9.95 or $4.50. Who really brings spare change to a craft show? And do you really want to carry all those coins around?
  1. Build your booth to draw people in, not keep them out – put the table at the back, with displays on each side to funnel buyers into your booth. Don’t sit behind the table in the back, but beside a display where you can easily stand up and greet consumers face to face rather than forcing a divide between you and them with a table. How would you feel if every time you had a questions for a worker at a grocery store they stood behind a table full of products and looked at you, rather than standing by you and listening attentively?
  1. Don’t just sit there in your booth waiting for customers – get up and interact with people as they walk by your booth. Say hi. Ask them how their doing. Make conversation – “Hey, I have a purse that matches that outfit over here!”. Don’t be shy, draw the crowd in! You don’t have to be a pushy sales person. I stand at the front of my booth, and smile and greet every single person that walks by, ask them how they’re doing – and this simple task alone gives them a reason to pause at my booth, and almost every person will at least take a peek before walking on to the next booth.
  1. Bring the bargains. Consider having a deal like: $7 each or two for $12. Or buy two get one free. Buyers love deals – but they don’t bring hundreds of dollars to craft shows! Price it right, and offer deals. If someone looks interest but shies away from the price tag, offer a discount. Craft shows are a good place to play with your prices and see what prices draw people in the most – you may find out lowering your price by $2-$3 draws in more buyers than your current prices!

Bonus tip!

This last tip is a fun one, and my favorite. Free candy. It draws the crowds in. See a person walk by with a kid? Offer the kid some candy. It may seem sneaky… but it works! Even adults have a hard time turning down free candy! You can even attach a business card to each piece. Make sure to get peanut free candy that is not produced in a factory with peanuts – stick with suckers or gummy candies because aren’t as messy as chocolates. You could also have stickers, coloring sheets, or balloons to pass out to children instead of candy.

Have any other great advice for newbs to the craft show circuit? Leave your tips in the comment section!

2 thoughts on “20 tips for craft shows”

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