Craft Fairs- A Guest Article!!

In today’s post, I am extremely honored to bring you an article by an awesome lady named Marsha Kopan. She is the owner and operator of Kopan’s Krochet, and can be found on Etsy and Facebook. In this article, she breaks it all the way down for those who are interested in running a handmade hustle through crafting and vending at shows.

CRAFT FAIR NOTES – By Marsha Kopan – Kopan’s Krochet

Copyright 2017. Revised 1/2/19; 4/14/19; 9/29/19, 2/8/20 (Copyright 2021-intellectual property rights belong to Marsha Kopan © Used with permission of the author) If you would like a copy of the original piece it is available for download here

Marsha had been doing craft fairs for 5 years with items that she would crochet before she started her Etsy Shop. She also has over 20 years of experience in doing and producing trade shows. She is definitely a hustler in her own right, so grab your favorite cup of brew and get cozy, because she has a lot of amazing information to share with us!

Getting it all together

First, you’ll need to know the audience of the shows that you do and the interest in your product in the time frame of the show. Particularly, what kind of items and the price point of your items relate to the audience. I do not do outdoor shows because most are related to another event and attendees may not spend their money on crafts. I also stopped doing spring shows as my items are more winter/gift orientated, I spend the rest of the year doing commissioned items and building inventory.

  • Have plenty on hand.
  • Make sure to have multiples of your popular items. You shouldn’t have to have all of them out at once, remember people like to think that what they purchase from a crafter is unique.
  • Schedule your crafting time accordingly.
  • Plan your space. Most shows have 8-10’ wide spaces and offer 1 8’ table and one chair.
  • Will you use flyers or brochures? (allow these to go out sparingly) Printed flyers cost $$
  •  If you are privy to the floor plan that shows the exhibit spaces you may be able to make a choice. You want to first look at the entrance to the show. Most people start walking to their right and will look to their right while going through the show. Pick your space accordingly.
  •  It is a very bad idea to bring your children to the show! They get bored and can distract you from making sales or they could become a nuisance to other exhibitors. It is a huge distraction if exhibitors bring their children who are not there to help. It is also dangerous for them because we are concentrating on set up/tear down and we can’t mind them too. Some events that I do strictly forbid exhibitor’s children during set up/tear down or in the booth during the show.
  • It is difficult to get an exhibit just right. Try to avoid distractions. I will only visit with other vendors before the show opens if I am set up.
  • Keep your items out of the aisle as much as possible as other vendors need the walkway.
  •  Have your table at the back of your space so that visitors walk in and are out of the aisle. You might even be able to have another table so that your booth space shows items in a U shape. Be aware of how bordering booths set up. You want to look independent of them and you don’t want people standing in your space while looking at your neighbors.

 

Business cards

I don’t have mine out on the table for just anyone to grab, kids like to collect and these usually go into the trash. Include your card with purchases. Write the item, amount, date, and show name on the back. If you give a card to someone that has shown interest in something but has not purchased make a similar notation on the back. Let the visitor know what other shows you are doing in the future. You will develop a following and may sell commissioned items as well.

If you have time, take your card to other exhibitors. Write the date of the show and your booth space number on the back. You will be amazed at how many sales you can make to other exhibitors. You might even offer a discount if they buy from you at this show. Write the discount amount and “at this show” on the card.


How to choose a craft show

Craft shows can be one day or several. Craft and vendor shows can be problematic, be sure to know the mix and find out how many others will have the same or similar product. If you are a crafter you may want the mix to be mostly crafters. If you’re a vendor or a direct salesperson it shouldn’t matter.

  • Holiday Craft Shows are ok for crafters
  • Holiday craft and vendor shows are iffy
  • Vendor shows are not ok for crafters

*Mandie’s note: There is a lot of chatter in craft show groups about keeping the MLM crowd out of shows because they drive attendees away, so make sure to get a feel of the other exhibitors before committing to an event if this is something that concerns you*

Questions to Ask

  1. Will there be others there with the same kind of product whether handcrafted or pre-made. How many of each type?
  2. Ask how many exhibitors will be selling the same thing you are, either in total or partial.
  3. Ask to be placed away from other exhibitors with the same product.
  4. Make sure you ask for any special placement requests, for instance, I need to stay away from booths that feature fragrances (candles, soaps) or I will be sneezing during the entire show.
  5. Ask how many crafters/vendors have returned from the previous year. If less than 75% that may send up a red flag that the show isn’t producing sales.
  6. You may want to ask for an exhibitor reference and then call them. Ask about the show. How long have they been doing the show? Are they making sales? What is their product?
  7. Ask if the show is juried. You will need to submit pictures of your booth or product. This may be the sign of a quality show but beware, some people send in good pics but then arrive at the show with a different product or junk.
  8. What other events are on the same day? Here in Wisconsin, we are huge football fans so doing a show on a Badger Saturday or a Packer Sunday may limit attendance.

*Mandie’s note: Cleveland is Browns Town, forget any traffic during a Football, Basketball, or Baseball game unless you’re at a bar at half-time and buying everyone a round who buys from you. This is not a sound financial decision!*

A show may not be repeated if it doesn’t go well!

Find out how many times this show has been done. I do not do first-time shows. The promotion of it is mostly getting their feet wet and you may not do well. First-time shows are especially problematic if done by a promoter rather than a church or school that is being done by volunteers as a fundraiser.  I have found that when I return to a show that my sales get better, especially if I keep the same booth space. Someone might not buy from you this year but come back the next year looking for you.

Watch for shows that tout huge attendance

A one-day show that says they have several thousand attendees means that it may be a part of another event. Attendees may not be there for the craft/vendor show.

Ask if there are other events scheduled in conjunction with the craft fair. For example, are they planning a Christmas sing or breakfast with Santa on the same day, same time, same location? If so, this may drive up their attendance numbers but not for the craft show and you may be wasting your time after the family events have ended. I recently did a show that the craft fair was from 8-2. The family events were from 8 – 11. Attendance dropped to almost none after 11. It was not a worthwhile show.


ROI (Return on Investment)

Now let’s talk about the show cost and the potential for ROI. There is the cost of the space, electricity (if needed) and a raffle prize (if required) Here are a couple of scenarios to think about:

• In the first event you need a 10×20′ space. The show is from 9 am until 3 pm. You do not need electricity but it may cost $5 extra. There is no discount for the double space so your booth cost is $150. The show organizer has said that at their last 2 shows it has drawn 500 visitors. Logically, not every visitor will stop to see you. Assume that 10-20% stop to look but only 1-3% buy. At best that
would be 100 lookers and 15 actual buyers. For discussion purposes, each of those 15 buyers spends $30, which would be $450. Would you do this show again?

• Let’s look at the same space and booth cost but they have 1000 visitors. Using the same percentage assumptions that would be 200 lookers and 30 buyers spending $30. This converts to $900. Would you do this show?

*Your total sales, of course, is dependent on your product and the audience, these are merely examples.*

Some other things to consider

The number of exhibitors to the overall space available. 150 exhibitors crammed into a school gym and the cafeteria isn’t a good idea for exhibitors. You need to know the number of exhibitors and the floor plan.

Show promoters make their money from selling booth spaces so it has been my experience that they tend to crowd as many in a room as possible. They may not do enough promotion so attendance may be off. Look at how many shows a promoter does either in your immediate area or close together in dates. They may have bitten off more than they can chew and not have time to give quality attention to all of them.

What is the cost, do you need to donate a door prize?
Are there stairs to maneuver? (I did a show once that was in the basement of a restaurant. There were 20 very steep stairs.)

Do you have to walk a long distance to get to your booth?
How much time are you allowed for set-up/tear down? Some shows have students that will help bring things into the building and at the end out to your car. A very nice feature!
Is there a refund policy if you need to cancel?
What if the weather or ??? causes the show to be canceled?

Shows to avoid

I have not done well with my product at the spring/summer shows so I no longer do them. I typically do shows that are fundraisers rather than those hosted by a show promoter. It has been my experience that shows that are fundraisers are much better organized and bring in more traffic but it may turn out to be buyer types that will bring sales up or down.

For example, if it is a church fundraiser, are the attendee’s regulars because they are church members? I have one show that has this scenario, I have repeat buyers. There are also quite a few people that attend for their super yummy bake sale and very nice raffle.

In 2019 I noticed an increase of what I call the DIY idea of the month crafters that brought the quality of the merchandise down to almost flea market level, I will do the show in 2020 but with a cautious eye.  (They have a fantastic lunch. The turkey sandwich is very reasonably priced and is VERY good)

One particular kind of show to avoid is one that is a part of a fashion show. Your exhibit time is very limited.

Because my product is high-end, I do not do any show that has the words “flea market” in it.

A show that has too many exhibitors can be a turn-off to sales. I have done 2 shows that had great attendance but because there were so many booths (150+ at each) visitors had information overload and purchases were sparse.

I do not do shows at malls. People do not go to the mall for a craft show and since these are promoter-oriented shows they might not be well advertised. In addition, visitors go to the mall to go to a specific store, not to a craft show. Attendance may be sparse.


Do’s & Dont’s

Visitors like to look without a vendor pouncing on them. When someone walks into your space be sure to say hello and get eye contact. Try to engage them in conversation but try to get a feel if they are “just-looking”. Then only talk to them if they ask a question or if you are concerned that they may shoplift. You may, however, want to explain the construction or content of an item if the visitor is engaged in looking at it or has picked it up.

Don’t ask loaded questions. “Can I help you?” may lead to “no, just looking”. A comment on the other hand for example “That would look great with jeans”, may open up a discussion.

If you sell garments be sure to have a mirror available.

Be sure to wear one of your items.

Keep an eye on children in your space. Parents get easily distracted and may not notice their child being disruptive in your space. You might give a child THE look but do not correct the child unless damage or injury can happen. Ask the parent to watch the child.

If you sell children’s items limit the time that a child can handle it. You may want to have samples for that purpose. Who knows where their hands have been.

Wear one of your items – accessories, garments, etc. Casual dress is appropriate. Make sure you have comfortable shoes as many shows are on hardwood floors or cement.

Dress in layers! Gyms or a space near a door can get cold.

Be aware of other crafters that visit your booth to get ideas. They are your competitor. If you suspect another crafter, engage in limited conversation and politely give them a hint to leave.

Make sure you bring starter cash with you. Singles, fives, and tens and note what you had to start so you can manage your money. I keep a notebook that shows each transaction (this helps with inventory and identifying product popularity).

I take personal checks or cash and started taking credit cards in 2019. Many sales were made for that reason and boosted my sales by 25 – 40%. However, due to the type of audience, I would not take a check at an open-air market.

Have an order book for commissioned items and take deposits. A simple carbon set receipt book from an office supply store is sufficient. I usually ask for a 50% non-refundable deposit. Be sure to give an estimated date for delivery.

As you start out, you may want to visit a show to get ideas. You may also want to only do 1 or 2 shows in your first season. Keep in mind that you will need time to replenish your inventory in between shows.

Bring food, water, coffee, and your medications. I always have a stash of breath mints in my purse.


Promote, Promote, Promote

Set up an event on Facebook. Tweet on Twitter or any other social media group. Also, post the same information on Craigslist. I have sent out a list of the craft fairs to my friends & followers so when I do the “formal” invite it will remind them. Ask your friends to Share.


Some Humor

People watching is fun but don’t stare.

You will have “tour guides” who are the people who go through the show pointing out items to the other person with them. They will look at the item as though in authority. Your scarf is done in Caron Simply Soft with shells. They call it mittens done in wool. I had one lady, who I’d seen several times during a show, ask me if she could show an item I had to someone. I knew that this lady was another exhibitor. She took my item to another booth and asked the other exhibitor if she could make the item for less money. Needless to say, I was furious but now looking back on it, I have to laugh at the audacity.

You will get “bee backs” in your booth. They will spend lots of time looking at things, asking you endless questions, and then say they’ll “be back”. Be sure to give them your business card with a note on the back about what they showed an interest in. Perhaps offer a discount if they return to buy at this show. Write the discount amount on the card and date it. But, don’t hold your breath that they will Bee Back.

You will also get whistling gophers. That is the person that asks what an item goes for and then whistles and rolls their eyes upward when you tell them the price.

REMEMBER TO SMILE


That’s All Folks! 

Once again, I would like to give a huge thank you to the lovely Marsha Kopan for allowing me to share this information with you, if you missed it the first time around she can be found on Etsy and Facebook. Drop over and give her some love and/or your money!

 

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Most products here are of my own creation and on sale at my Card Shop. However, in full disclosure as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site contains affiliate links for Amazon products as well as products and services outside of the Amazon network.

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