What I Learned About Craft Shows

I survived my first real craft show season. I know that 3 big shows is not a huge deal to many crafters but it was my first true experience in the field. I have learned a lot and want to record some of it for my own reference next year and maybe someone else can get something out of it too.

  1. I learned that I can probably handle 5 shows if spread out by a few weeks. Especially if a few of them are the boutique style where I don't have to be there the whole time.
  2. Indie shows are the way to go for me. These are designed for a younger more urban target market that seems to like my designs and generally has dispensable income for higher end purchases.
  3. Make more neutral and black scarves. All of my black scarves sold at Mad Art Gallery. I love working with vibrant colors but I really need to have something for everyone and some people really like wearing darks and black.
  4. I should continue to expand my lines with all different price points. I want to continue to come up with innovative designs and have some items at the lower end so that everyone has something they can buy.
  5. Prices should be clearly marked and consistent. I made the decision this year to have 2 different price points on my scarves instead of having individual prices on things. This made it hard since there were some scarves that I was charging more for on-line, but it made shopping my booth much easier. I decided that it was worth it but I really need to think about the issues of having different prices on-line and at the shows.
  6. Too much is not necessarily a good thing. I always brought all of my merchandise to the shows but I found that over filling my quilt racks and table actually overwhelmed shoppers. If someone was interested in a different color I could always get out the plastic tubs with the rest of my inventory and let them look through them. I sold a bunch of scarves right out of the tub.
  7. Always have a mirror, the bigger the better. This should be obvious if you are selling jewelry or wearables but at every show I did I had other vendors asking to borrow my nice big mirror I bought at Big Lots for $4.
  8. Keep my inventory organized throughout the year. This is a big one. I spent a lot of time organizing and reorganizing my inventory this season. As I'm finishing things, instead of just putting it into the nearest plastic tub, I need to keep them separated by type. This will also make it easier when I'm looking for something that has sold on-line.
  9. Keep my inventory list updated all year long. I need to keep the Google documents spreadsheet that I created for the last show up to date to keep record of what I have and what has sold at any given time.
  10. Renew my Propay account. It paid for itself the first day of my first show.
  11. Shows that allow you to set up the night before are much less stressful the morning of. After rushing to the site and unloading everything and then setting it all up I was exhausted the first day of Strange Folk. Lindbergh has you set up the night before which makes that first morning much more relaxed.
  12. If you can't set up the night before than at least pack up the car and be ready to go. Have the mapquest directions printed out and read through carefully. Try to get a good night's sleep. I'm always amped up and have a hard time settling down so try a beer or glass of milk.
  13. I should do one local show. I had several people in the office and whatnot that wanted to go to a show but didn't really want to travel the distance. I should find a small St. Charles show that has a low booth fee next year for the locals.
  14. Let people know where I will be. I had at least one person come to the show because they saw on-line that I was going to be there. Hopefully people will come back to the shows next year expecting me to be there which will also be nice.
  15. Bring tons of business cards. I ordered 1000 cards before the season started and I'm down to a few hundred left. I know of at least one big sale that came from someone seeing me at a show and then going to my Etsy shop soon after. I should also mention that I used my cards as price tags and wrote info on the back. Next year I want to print little labels to stick on the back with the price, fiber content, and washing instruction typed out.
  16. Start an e-mail list. I am going to bring a sign up sheet next year that people can put down their e-mail if they like. I will then send out a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter. I will entice them to sign up by giving them some sort of coupon they can use on-line.
  17. Research the shows ahead of time but have room for the unexpected. I was actually signed up for a different show on the weekend of the Big Ass Show. When I got the e-mail suggesting I apply I signed up on a whim and it sounded like it would be a good venue so I went for it. Luckily I was able to get my money back from the other one.
  18. Make friends with the organizers and keep a smile on your face even if it's painful. The last thing you want to do is to be seen as a trouble maker by the organizer, especially if it is a juried show.
  19. Make friends with your booth neighbors. When I got to the Lindbergh show I noticed my neighbor had her display blocking my entrance to behind my table. I first asked her if I could move it over some but I then just rearranged things so I was able to get out on the other side. If that was not an option I would have had to push it more and had her move but it would have made for a painful 2 days. And come to find out she has been in that spot for many years and I will be doing the show next year in the same space so making an enemy right off the bat would not have been worth getting an inch more of wiggle room. I think you really have to choose your battles. Sometimes it may be worth it but in that case it just wasn't worth it. And in some cases you need your neighbors to watch your booth while you slip to the bathroom so having a friend is a good thing.
  20. Wear your product. Again this should be obvious but I found that when I wore wrist cuffs or necklaces they were even more understandable and people bought more.
  21. Take off work the Monday after. I work full time and this year I took the Thursday and Friday off before my 2 first shows. If I stay organized I think it would be better to have the Monday after to regroup and reinventory.
Feel free to add your own suggestions! I'm always looking for tips on how to improve my shows.


GrayEyedScorpio said...

Are you promoting your blog?
I'm sure you'll get a lot of hits with this comprehensive list of lessons learned!

HammelmanArt said...

congrats on your good shows. And organizing you thoughts like this will help others as well as yourself.

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Wonderful list, I love it. I am going to put a link on my Arts & Craft blog:):)

uniquecommodities said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing! This is awesome!

Random Musings said...

I am going to add a mini blog to mine about this! Lots of people have been discussing this in the forums! Set it to post tomorrow morning at 7:30ish EST!


Waterrose said...

That is a lot of great information! Thanks for taking the time to post it.

Meekiyu said...

that's a very great list of craft fair tips... I might be doing a craft fair this Saturday but I really don't know reading your tips have definitely answered a lot of questions...

Tiffany said...

Wow, Paige. What a great list. I am so proud of you for evaluating yourself like this and asking yourself what does and does not work. This will help so much for future shows.

Also, this is great material. Without sounding too much like a business woman here, you should be charging for such content.

You go girl...

TiLT said...

fabulous...the things you learned will help me lots too :)

Over The Top Aprons said...

Very good information; I really don't like craft shows but maybe I should give them some thought.

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Those are great tips! :) Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great tips! I'm looking to get into the craft fair scene soon, and appreciate it!


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