What I’ve learned: Craft Fair Year in Review 2016

This year I had a goal of participating in at least 6 craft fairs.

Not only did I exceed this goal, I more than doubled it.  Fourteen events is a lot!!  Especially for basically a newbie!  In a year that has been so absolutely awful globally, it’s therapeutic to look back and remember the good times and learn from the bad.  So here’s a few things that I’ve learned about from all of my craft fairs this year.  This isn’t really a breakdown of what to bring to an event, more of a what to consider that you may not think about when applying to or when you’re participating in an event.  Hopefully, this can help you with planning future craft fairs you may want to participate in!

  • Applying

This could be a blog all on its own, but there are a lot of things to consider when you’re applying to an event.  Make note of dates, set up times, and locations before you even commit.  If you don’t have all of the information, generally you will have at least the date, a general time, and the location.  There are a lot of events that are scheduled for the same days, and you should consider that as well.  Keep in mind upcoming holidays and what people may be shopping for, and how well you would do there considering that.  Be sure to fill out the application completely and fully.  If they ask for a description of your items, SELL YOURSELF!  Don’t assume they’re not going to read the full thing; act as if you’re selling to someone who is looking to invest in your business.  Be sure to attach high-quality pictures of multiple items.  If you sell necklaces, earrings and bracelets don’t just send necklace pictures and don’t just send pictures of one item (i.e. 4 pictures of one necklace).  You can also do a collage of pictures; make a collage of 3-4 necklaces for one picture, 3-4 earrings for another, etc.  Typically they want 4 pictures, so take advantage of it and send them as much as you can.

  • Location, location, location!

I went to craft fairs in four different counties in Middle Tennessee this year.  In the more rural places, some people seem to be looking for something quick and cheap, familiar brands, and they don’t really care about handmade or understand how shopping locally helps a local economy.  It sounds mean, but they’d rather shop at Walmart for produce than the farmer’s market, is the best way I can describe it.  I also saw that in Nashville, handmade and artistic aren’t bad words.  I want to be able to expand outside of Nashville, but I’ll probably look for larger cities that are still convenient.  Another thing to consider is the venue.  Some venues attract the same crowds no matter what event is going on.  For example, in Nashville, if there is any event in Centennial Park, it’s going to be packed because it’s a big park that a lot of people go to all year.  Keep an eye out for events at big venues.

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Some places are just better markets than others!
  • Booth Appearance Matters

If you decorate your booth to reflect your brand, you will get more traffic even if you don’t get more sales.  Have a sign with all of your contact information available.  I’ve had people curiously wandered in after mouthing “cute fluffin stitch” to themselves.  I mean, what even does that mean? 😉  If your booth looks full, people are more interested.  Just creating the illusion of having a lot of inventory can help you tremendously.  Also, don’t just focus on one level of displaying.  If you can display high and low, do it!  You can do that with shelving, pegboards, or even hanging items from your tent!  Don’t forget about the floor!  You would be shocked at the difference a rug can make in your booth.  If you can put items in baskets on the ground, go for it!  Just don’t make your booth look overly cluttered or difficult to maneuver.  My booth has looked different every event I’ve done for a few reasons; something looks better at an inside venue vs an outside venue, I forgot something and had to improvise, different stock levels, etc.  Necessity is the mother of invention!  Just make it work!

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  • Make it Worth your While

Maybe your booth fees were $100, you’re going to want to at least make that much!  Seems obvious, right?  Well, there’s more to it than just that.  Some events are more advertised than others, some solely make an event on Facebook and ask people to share.  Others pay for ads in high circulation local magazines and newspapers and put lists of vendors out there.  A big part of doing craft fairs is letting people meet you face to face and putting a human interaction to your product, and making contacts and connections.  Getting your name out there is half of the fight.  Advertising to multiple outlets that you may not have access to is worth its weight in gold.  More advertising means more bodies at the event which mean more sales for everyone.  If someone comes to an event and they’re not ready to buy, but they take your card and follow through, then it’s not an immediate sale, but it’s a sale from being there and being seen.

  • Exclusivity makes a Difference

I have by far done better at craft fairs that are handmade vendors only.  I’ve done well at events that were a mixture of direct sales and handmade, but there is definitely a difference in the people who come to each type of event.  If you make handmade jewelry, and there is a vendor like Chloe and Isabell around the corner, someone isn’t going to understand why a larger necklace in your booth costs more than something in theirs.  Look at the details of events when you’re signing up for them, and decide if you’re going to be in a sea of direct sales and one of few hand-makers or an almost exclusive handmade market.

  • Make yourself Stand Out

This sort of goes hand in hand with booth appearance matters, but I want to explain this differently.  News Flash: A lot of people make soap.  A lot of people make jewelry.  A lot of people make a lot of the same things.  Your job is to make yourself stand out.  In a sea of similar vendors, you need to show that your stuff is so incredible and life changing and why they HAVE to buy from you and not from that other guy.  Don’t be nasty about it, but make yourself/ your brand/ your items look as best as possible.  You can do that with your displays, with packaging, customer service, or your personality.  Dress in coordination with your brand!  Look at your brand’s colors and themes and reflect that look in what you wear.  (i.e. sell dainty jewelry, wear dainty jewelry, dress calmly; sell rustic items, wear jeans and boots, etc)  Don’t be too good to talk to someone; say hi to everyone, even someone who isn’t in your typical customer base!  People outside of your customer base buy gifts for people in your customer base!  I’m sure that I sound like a parrot squawking (or squeaking, y’know…tiny voice and all) off random greetings to everyone who passes my booth.  It gets their attention, and sometimes they’re like oh hi, and they come in and look.

 

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Classic Alec, he knows what he’s talking about!!

 

I hope that you found this helpful!  I’ll get back on posts about what I’m sewing on next week.  I’m working on a lot of Christmas orders, and I’m hoping to have some previews before next week!  Until next time, happy sewing!

(side note: if you  haven’t seen Glengarry Glen Ross you should.  There’s a lot of cursing, but it’s a really good movie.  Dream team cast of Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Jack Lemon, Ed Harris!)

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3 thoughts on “What I’ve learned: Craft Fair Year in Review 2016

  1. I meant to comment when I first saw your post. You have really shared you experience with Craft Fairs in such a way it would help someone thinking about venturing into the arena. Lots to consider.

      1. I do think there was a lot of thought and information in your post. Hoping that someone venturing in will use that info and avoid costly mistakes. Times is money. In order to sell creative items you need to be in a place that is bringing YOUR type of buyer on. Again , great post.

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