CRAFT SHOWSAlankar of Spectracraft recently attended his first craft fair and has written this wonderful article about the experience. It contains many of the things he learned by trial and error.
I participated in my first craft show/ fair in November of last year. I owned my store, Spectrakraft for exactly a year and was solely dependent on online sales for survival. I figured it was time to establish a face-to-face and more personal rapport with my customers.
The fair organizers contacted me via Etsy, and encouraged me to apply. The fair was juried and I had to send in a completed application form, photographic samples of my work and a fee. I did my research on what to expect in terms of footfall levels, pre-fair advertising, publicity, facilities, and space. Once I was accepted, I paid the fee. The show was for 6 hours and my space was 10 by 10 feet. This show gave you the option of outdoor or indoor space. I preferred the latter simply because I didn’t want to invest in a canopy, and didn’t want to deal with inclement weather. I was really nervous going into this but, in hindsight, there was really no need to feel the jitters. I was anxious because, I’d never participated in a fair before. I went into Pinterest overload trying to figure what I needed to do to get ready for D-Day.
While ensuring I had the right amount of inventory was of paramount importance, I also had to determine the right types and amounts of props, displays and decoration, since the fair had a very strong Christmas theme. I won't go into much detail about the checklist because resources already exist online. My focus, in this blog, is really to highlight what I learned. And, since this was my first time, I’m sure for many of you these lessons are already commonsensical. But if there is a first timer like me, I hope this helps in their experience.
My final checklist looked like this:
- Print-out of my business license Signage saying credit card accepted (Etsy has its own credit card reader now and they send a free signage in the mail)
- Easel: To hold my poster
- Risers or steps to give different levels or gradations to your items
- Credit card reader
- Print of my resale license
- Busts for necklace display
- Foam boards, on which I had attached my earrings
- Bracelet rolls
- Tables and chairs
- Table Cloth
- Visiting Cards
- Push Pins
- Bags and jewelry boxes for sales
- Change or small bills
- Lamps since my stall was indoors and I wasn’t sure of the lighting
I am sure I brought some other supplies too, but the ones above struck me as the ones I absolutely had to carry. Again, the list would differ from person to person and type of business and is definitely not exhaustive.
So now, here’s what I learned:
- Ask for help: If you have friends or family who are willing to accompany you to the venue and spend the time setting up the table, wrapping sales, engaging with customers, and breaking down the display, then accept their help by all means. Lugging everything you need to set-up and then dismantling it is arduous, so one or two extra pair of hands is always a good idea. I was very lucky to have two of my very close friends volunteer to help me. I cannot reiterate enough how easy that made my job.
- Indoor versus outdoor display space: As I mentioned, I had opted for an indoor space because I thought setting up display outside would be twice as much work. In hindsight, I may not have made the right decision. The organizers had several outdoor activities planned such as performances, food trucks, jumpy houses for kids and etc. The outside was brimming with activity and quite naturally, the majority of the crowd concentrated there. In contrast, it was relatively quiet indoors and every time a performance was announced, the small crowd was asked to go outdoors to enjoy the fun. As a result, it never felt like there was the avalanche of buyers that I hoped I’d see. In my opinion now, if I had to do the same fair again and choose between outdoor and indoor space, I might decide to set up stall outside.
- I was fairly naïve to expect that I’d be able to sell at least 30% of the items I had brought along with me. To that end, my inventory was enormous. In all, I had 200 items of handcrafted jewelry, because more is always better than less, right? However, for six hours of show time, that is a massive inventory and quite frankly excessive. My guess and I could be wrong would be that 50 items would have sufficed.
- Rotate your inventory: I didn’t do this at the fair, but it seems like a good idea. At any point in time, one should rotate their inventory or move pieces around. This way, when the same customer comes into the booth twice, he/she notices some novelty. In future, I might display a limited number of items and keep changing them every couple of hours, as opposed to putting everything out there at the same time.
- Eye level display: I had read about this while preparing for the craft show and I think it really is sage advice. It is useful to have items at eye level. That way, when someone walks into your booth, they don’t need to bend or stoop to get a good look. Risers or steps are a tremendous help to achieve this eye level effect. Besides, by using them, you accord a certain sense of layers to your items, which really enhance the overall result you are trying to achieve.
- Scale your expectations: This was perhaps the hardest to do. Going in, I told myself to enjoy the experience and learn from it. But who was I kidding? I wanted it to be a sold-out affair! I wanted my first craft show to be a smashing hit! So here I am, secretly hoping my items will make an instant connection with buyers resulting in significant sales. In actuality, what happens is, people walk in, look around, and walk out. Naturally, buyers want to take mental notes, see all the stalls and then make informed decisions. If two people make a similar kind of jewelry, there is a chance the buyer will opt for a cheaper price, or a different iteration based on color, length, etc. What I am trying to say is, there are so many factors that go into making that sale and most often those factors are beyond your control. In addition, the demographics at a craft show are so diverse that your line of jewelry will not appeal to everyone. Of the 20 people who walk in, there is a very high likelihood that only one will stop to look around leisurely and buy something. However, no matter what the outcome, you cannot take the rejection (if I may sound so dramatic) too personally. Your creations may not have appealed to one buyer, but it might be a knockout to somebody else.
- Defining success: I still grapple with this. How does one define success at a craft show? Is it recovering your costs and making something extra? Is it forging a connection with someone who becomes a regular customer? Is it letting people know that your brand of jewelry exists? Success could mean different things to different people. I was looking at it from a solely monetary perspective. I wanted to recover my costs and make a profit. At the end of the day, I did achieve that but not to the extent that I’d hope. But thanks to the fair, I have repeat customers who have been very generous spreading the word about my store. From a personal experience, I learned about what works or doesn’t work at a craft show. So, all in all, I’d say my show was a success. The experience hasn’t curbed my enthusiasm to explore other fairs. It has only motivated me to try again.
- To the supply list should be added water, snacks, receipt book,
- Arrange for someone to give you relief every few hours
- Along with not displaying your full inventory, moving your inventory around you should add and subtract a few pieces so buyers are not overwhelmed when making a decision to buy
- Be sure to have your business card prominently displayed
Article by Alankar of Spectracraft
Edited by Gail Entwistle of; Digital Expressions and Artful Papers, Beaded Splendor & Entwistle Studio