One of my favorite pastimes? Attending fairs. Whether they are women’s fairs, book fairs or a craft fair – I love them all. I love going to craft fairs for several reasons, namely to get out of the house without my husband and children. Bahaha! I also enjoy meandering and browsing, taking my time to both appreciate and purchase other crafters works and to get new ideas for my own home.
Vendor fairs and I go way back. As a child I attended and assisted my mother at her booth in countless fairs. I would help set up, I would man the booth while she had bathroom breaks and I learned how important it is to mingle with other vendors during slow times. If you are thinking of attending your first craft fair as a vendor, there are some definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to setting up your booth and how you engage with your customers – and other vendors too!
Tips for a Successful Craft Fair
The obvious goal, when paying the entry fee to a craft fair, is to sell your wares and recoup your cost (and then some). But, you also want people to remember you and your name so that they can find you later on your Facebook page, your website or find you on Etsy etc. Take the following tips and see if you can’t walk out of your next craft fair feeling like a boss.
Presentation is everything! Your buyer’s first impression will many times make or break a sale. When setting up, think of the ways your booth will appear to passersby. You want to offer a wide array of items, in a wide range of price points, without over crowding your table. This is not an episode of Hoarders, but you definitely want to utilize ALL space available to you – including vertical space.
Take table cloths (inexpensive flat sheets from Walmart work well also) to drape over the table, use wooden crates to add depth and “shelves”, use old opened suitcases for charm, invest in a mannequin, convert an old photo frame to have chicken wire stapled to the back for hanging items (with mini clothespins) etc… The more eye catching your booth (without being overcrowded) the better.
2. Mirror, mirror, on the wall
Provide a mirror! I can not tell you how many times I have left an item I might have purchased if I could have just seen it ON myself. Try to have a good sized mirror (full length if possible) with a frame instead of hand-held. Of course if a large mirror is not possible a hand-held mirror is better than nothing, but again – presentation is everything. If you don’t already have a cute, decorative mirror, watch for sales (or use your coupons!) at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s or Joann’s etc and pick one up!
3. Advertise your business
I can not stress enough how important it is to have business cards in multiple places. Have a stack at the front of the table and throw one in the bag when you package a purchased item. If they do not make a purchase, you can also give them a business card from your handy dandy stack.
There are numerous places to find inexpensive business cards online. Make sure you include where to find you online and how to contact you.
4. Price EVERYTHING
As a customer, I do not want to have to ask for a price. In fact most times I will not ask, instead I’ll just pass right on by. Don’t do that to your customers – or to yourself!
Want an even better way to price your items? Use your business cards AS your price tags (but also have some available in that stack). Create a small hole to string through and attach to your items. Think of it this way: if someone likes your work enough to pay you for it, they automatically get a business card that they will later have to remove (and hopefully stash in their purse, wallet etc). To me this is better than just throwing the card in the bag that will then get thrown away.
5. Don’t oversell yourself
Be available but not pushy. My main craft will always be crochet, so I am sure to bring my yarn and my hooks and I crochet as I stand at my booth. (I try not to sit as it may come off as me being bored) This allows me to be present and available for questions, but in a way that doesn’t feel overly in-your-face to the shopper. Plus, I’m creating more product!
Alternatively, engaging with your customers is key. When I shop I want to be left alone, but I also want to know that should I have any questions (can you make this in a different color? etc) that the vendor is accessible. When I am on the other side of the table however, my approach is different. Definitely make eye contact, smile and say hello, read the person’s reaction. Their body language will tell you if they wish to engage in further conversation or simply shop.
6. What to sell?
Think small (ish) and think ahead! What kinds of things will people be needing in the next few months? In October, the best items would be Thanksgiving or Christmas related, whereas in March you might want to stock your table full of items pertaining to Easter, spring cleaning/useful things and perhaps even some items geared towards the 4th of July.
You also want to have a wide array of items, including unique items you can’t just find at Walmart. Keep much of it simple and trendy. Many times the smaller items, like the Aldi Quarter Keepers, dishcloth sets, chapstick keychains, mini-blind cleaners, sell better than scarves and blankets simply because it’s an impulse buy at just a few bucks – and those sales add up! Don’t forget that if they buy something small now with your business card attached, when they need something large like a blanket or a poncho etc, they’ll remember you (and be able to contact you)!
7. Wear your items, if possible
Do you have a selection of super cute hats for sale? Wear one! If not possible, or if you just have too many different items to wear without looking like a walking pegboard, try to display the items in the manner they would best be worn/used. A shawl just laying on the table won’t get nearly as much action as it would if it were aesthetically displayed on Catherine (a.k.a. my mannequin).
8. Packaging, packaging, packaging!
Spending a little bit of money to offer quality packaging goes a long way in the professionalism of your brand. The packaging does not have to be expensive to be effective. These merchandise bags would suffice, and just between you and me, Hobby Lobby has the best value on tissue paper (yes, even better than the Dollar store). Also provide care instructions, printed out on regular paper and cut to size (and be sure to include your business name for marketing purposes).
Photo thanks to Christine! (love that floor pouf)
9. Have a mannequin, props
I bought my mannequin Catherine, (named after the second beheaded wife of Henry VIII) to use as a photo prop for my crochet patterns listed here on Heart Hook Home. She’s pretty (albeit a little shy) and she’s got a great sense of humor. She was also one of the least expensive and best looking mannequins I found online. I am a deal hunter at heart, and Catherine and me are BFF’s now.
You might also have several heads for display if you’ve got the space.
10. Accept credit cards!
If at all possible, accept credit cards (Square is a great tool) and advertise that you accept them. Take up just a bit of your space to advertise a sign like mine below. I whipped this up using Canva, a free online photo editing tool. I added some of my most popular designs to draw people in. Create one yourself to convey that not only do you accept cash and credit cards, but you have other colors available as well.
Tip: Store a tote under your table containing various colors of yarn. If someone loves that hat but wants it in purple instead of blue, you can offer to have it ready for them in an hour (depending on how quickly you crochet, of course).
11. Create a photo book of your prior work
When presenting at a craft fair, you only have a limited space available to you. Why not create a hard cover photo book from Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens or CVS showcasing items you have made in the past, but may not have on hand today? Pack that book full of the blankets you’ve made, any amigurumi (stuffed animals) you’ve crocheted, use it to showcase the different stitches you know and/or colors you have available. Keep it open to the page with your most popular design(s).
12. Offer a free gift with $__ purchase
If you’ve got lots of little dishcloths or rings for kids, consider placing several in a special basket labeled “free gift with $50+ purchase”. You set the amount required, but if someone is spending $40 or $45, they might just pick up another $10 item if only to get the freebie.
You could also spin this a little differently and offer a spin wheel for small prizes as well. See what I did there?
By mingling I don’t necessarily mean with your customers. Sure, you want to mingle with them too, but if you take the time to get to know your neighbors (I hope they’re cool 😉 ) you might get information about other upcoming craft shows, item placement tips and tips on pricing etc. Also, you take note of each other’s inventory. They can send people your way and you can send people theirs!
14. Do not overcrowd
As I said above, this is not an episode of Hoarders. Don’t put all of your items out (unless you don’t have a ton) instead replenish them as they are sold.
15. Pay attention!
I feel like this should not have to be said, but here goes. One of the reasons I like to stand and crochet during a craft fair is because it keeps me from browsing on my phone. Nothing is worse than ignoring your prospective customers or looking bored. If you are up and moving, working, crocheting etc it shows that you are attentive and open for business.
16. Donate what doesn’t sell
You could save any unsold items for a future craft fair, or you could donate them to a worthwhile charity as well. If you do donate, make sure you get a receipt for tax purposes!
If you have someone with you at the table (your older children, a friend etc) make sure they have, in the very least, basic answers to any questions that may arise. Color choices, care instructions, different sizes etc. This way if you step away for a restroom break (which you should try to do at off-times) they will have those answers.
Not craft related, but my latest fair, a financial health fair at a credit union in Wichita, Kansas.
18. Don’t focus on the sales
Sure, we are all here to make money, but try not to focus on the sales. Focus instead on having fun, meeting new people and learning from the experience.
One thing mentioned by Dianna in the Heart Hook Home Crochet Community really struck me: having a booth at a craft fair is a lot like going hunting or fishing. You spend money on supplies (entry fees) and you spend all day trying to catch a buck (or make a buck). Even if you come home empty handed, you have gained knowledge, experience and you’ll be more prepared going in next time. What a great reminder!
What do you do differently at a craft fair, if anything? Do you have any tips I missed? Let us know in the comments so we too can leave our next craft fair feeling like a boss!
More craft tip and tricks:
10 Photography Tips for Selling Handmade Crafts Online
How to Create Planned Yarn Color Transitions in Crochet
How to Size Crochet Beanies + Master Beanie Pattern
Felting Tutorial: How to Felt Wool (with or without a washing machine)
How to Make Cat Toys Using Yarn and Felting
Creative Ways to Use Yarn Ends (Instead of Tossing Them Out)