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Monday, November 8, 2010

No Longer a Craft Show Newbie

Day 1's booth set up - it was later changed AGAIN!
My first craft show is in the books!  It was a mixed bag of excitement and a bit of disappointment, but I still consider it an overall success.  The most important take-away for me was knowledge; I learned a lot about what worked and what might not have worked well for me.  I also got to spend the weekend with my wonderful momma, who was instrumental in this show running as smoothly as it did. 

I read everything I could find about craft show tips before my first one, but I still learned a lot that doesn't get covered in the basic guides. Here are some important lessons to remember for next time (and that might help other craft show newbies!):

1.  It might take you longer to set up than you think.  I did a full mock-up of my display at home, which I would highly recommend.  I had a photo of my ideal booth set up, and I thought it would be easy as pie to set up the morning of the show.  Not so much!  While my initial set up looked good, it just looked different on the actual table, and ended up trying out several different layouts. Before I knew it, shoppers were starting to trickle in the doors, and I wasn't ready yet.  Next time, I will decide how long it will take me to set up, and then add about 45 minutes to that to allow for last-minute changes.  If nothing else, I can use the extra time to roam around the other booths and practice networking!

2. Carefully consider your booth set up BEFORE you go.  This goes along with #1.  It was a crucial factor that I didn't recognize until it was too late.   Most shoppers would approach my booth and say "Oh, scrapbooking", and walk away; they categorized my booth as being a scrapbook booth.  While I do sell scrapbooks and pages, they're definitely not my biggest seller - my party supplies are.  Shoppers could not look past the scrapbooks on my table to see the wine glass charms, cupcake toppers and coasters that were also on there.  I changed my set up on Day 2 and put my wine glass tag display right in the center of the booth, but it was still overshadowed by the large scrapbooks and basket of scrapbook pages.  Scrapbooks are so attention-getting just based on their size, so my biggest selling items were overlooked time and time again. Next time I do a show, I will make sure to highlight my party supplies - I'll put sparkly things and lights inside my wine glasses to catch attention, I'll add some height with large crates on both sides to display the wine glass tags to catch attention, I'll get electricity to put twinkle lights around the cupcakes and wine glasses.  It won't be easy to detract from the scrapbooks, but I need to figure out how to do it if I'm going to be successful.

3. Consider the show's location when deciding which show to go to.  While this may seem obvious, I now realize just how important this is, and this is something I probably could not have planned for.  This particular craft fair took place in a small town near where I grew up, but I knew it attracted lots of customers.  By the middle of Day 1, as I was evaluating why I wasn't feeling as successful as I had hoped, it became apparent to me that those vendors who were doing well were the vendors that knew half of the people who came.  It wasn't just that these vendors dragged their friends and family down as my mom and I did, it was that shoppers would see a vendor they knew from work or school (that they hadn't planned on seeing), and they'd go right over to the booth.  I watched carefully, and those buyers would usually purchase something from the booth of the vendor they knew - they wanted to support their friends.  Being that this was a small town, the local vendors appeared to do much better than I did. Nobody knew me - I wasn't from that town, and I wasn't a veteran vendor at that fair.  In time, anybody could definitely build a following at that show, but that was a factor outside of my control that definitely impacted my sales. If I had been selling in a large metro area (like maybe the one I live in!), this probably would not have been a factor.

4. Consider the specific audience members, and how they associate with your products. Remember how shoppers would say "Oh, scrapbooking" when they saw my booth?  The next sentence out of 99% of their mouths were "I have all the stuff to do this, I just need to get it out for once!", and then they'd walk away.  I received tons of compliments about my products, so I knew it wasn't a dislike of my work that was driving down sales, it was definitely something else.  I realized that those that go to craft shows are those that enjoy crafting, and since scrapbooking isn't a particularly skilled craft, most of the attendees were potential scrapbookers that didn't need to purchase scrapbooking.  Silly me - I thought those that went to shows were looking for gifts, but that didn't seem to be the case here!  I need to consider my audience next time.  Once I highlight my non-scrapbooking items, this will be less of a factor, but its still something to be aware of.

5. Consider the time of year and what function your product will serve when deciding which show to attend,  Buyers at craft shows aren't ready to commit to big gifts this early in the season.  I had intended my scrapbooks and framed pages to serve as holiday gifts for my buyers - yet very few people purchased them as gifts.  I have no doubt that I would have done better later in the gift-buying season, when folks were ready to commit to that specific gift for a special person.  If I had sold baby hair bows, cupcakes, or winter hats, this wouldn't have been as big of an issue - buyers have a need for those products right now for themselves. 

As I mentioned, I did receive a lot of very sweet compliments on my work, and I gave out tons of business cards.  Those folks might visit my shop when they are ready to do some serious holiday shopping.  I did make my booth fee back (and then some), which was really all I set out to do.  While I didn't rake in thousands of dollars this weekend, I did learn a lot that will help me in my future craft show endeavors.  Hopefully my experiences will also help a few other sellers too.

Do you go to craft shows? What have you learned as a craft show seller?  For craft show buyers, how do you approach shows?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below!
Happy Craft Show-ing!


  1. Your point about people buying from their friends is spot-on! Now that I think about it, that goes a long way in explaining why I've done so poorly at my last couple shows. Everyone who was shopping there, it seemed, knew a vendor or two and bought from them first, then had no money to buy from me! (I had a few people say, "wow, I love your stuff... but I already spent all my money over at so-and-so's booth.")

    I'm vending in the city where I live, but none of my friends are into crafty stuff so they generally don't come to my shows. Not sure what the solution is for that! (bribes? :) )

  2. I'm relieved that you noticed that too! The booth next to me was a high school girl selling jewelery, and it seemed like her mom knew a lot of the people in attendance; she told me that the craft fair was a big social event for the town, so I think it explained a lot for my experience.

    My mom and my aunt were successful in bringing a friend from work down, but most of the people I know didn't come down either - I think the only solution is to make it a point to start making crafty friends! "Are you interested in crafting? No? Ok, sorry, we can't be friends!". (kidding!)

  3. Pinky, congrats on your first show! I had my first one last year and made tons of notes so I'd remember things I learned.

    One lesson: having a candy dish will bring people to your table, but they are not the kind of people who want to buy your stuff! ;)

  4. Really super blog to readers,everyone can motivate from this blog. Good going, give some more pictures in future.

  5. Love your post! I think your notes about leaving extra time for setting up. And practicing your set up before had are great!! I did both of these at my last fair and it helped A LOT!! I was actually ready for the customers!! Im my case it didn't help me get any sales though:(

    I would add that unless you live in a perfect climate skip outdoor winter shows:( Weather was my biggest problem at my last show. It was the coldest day we had had this year and lots of people didnt come out. The ones that did werent spending much money on handmade items.

    Thats another thing. Be sure the show you are doing is handmade only. Its hard to sell at handmade prices when the person beside you is selling "made in china"!!

  6. Good points Megs! Let us not forget our friend Christy, who just had her first show (in a near perfect climate), and found herself gripping the sides of her tent and throwing herself over her displays when it got windy!