We had a hole in our show list for this weekend so I grabbed a show because it was available. After I just got done telling you to be sure to do your homework on a show first, I broke my own rule with this show. My justification was that some show was better than no show on this busy craft show weekend. As a result of not doing my homework, here we sit at a very slow show. We are almost 2 hours into this 5 hour show and we have not had a sale. We will be lucky to make back our booth fee and the cover the donation I was required to make.
The problem with this show is the lack of shoppers. This generally means that the coordinator did little or nothing to promote the show. This supports a county 4H program so I would have expected at least 4H members to be aware of the show. The location we are in is a bit off the main roads but well placed signs would have helped with that. We only saw one small sign. The few shoppers here are also lookers not purchasers. Normally by the weekend before Thanksgiving, people are starting to think Christmas gifts. This is not the type of show where our items sell best so I already know this one is a no go for next year.
For the past at least seven years we have exhibited at Mark Twain Craft Bazaar in Westerville, Ohio. I have spoke of this show before. This is a long established popular show that benefits the PTO of an Elementary School. Every year I wonder if we have tapped out this show but every year it continues to exceed my expectations. Once again this year it was a great show. But what makes a great show?
Not every show fits every item so it is really about what shows you feel work best for the items you sell. It also depends on how serious of a crafter you are. Maybe just one or two shows a year in places close to you is enough but if you are a crafter who considers it a business, finding the right show can be crucial. Here are some things to consider as you determine the shows that work best for your items.
Every show is different. Some allow commercial items and some only handmade items. In the past craft shows or bazaars were a way to show off and sell your handmade items. Now with the shift in how commercial items are marketed (31, LuLaroe, Lipsense, Scentsy, etc.), craft shows have become an important way to sell and market these type of items. Since a shopper only has so many dollars to spend you could be competing with commercial items for those dollars. We have exhibited in shows that allow commercial items as well as ones that are only for handmade items. Our sales tracking shows that we do better in handmade shows so these are the types of shows I look at for our products. You will need to carefully read the show information before you apply in order to know if commercial items are allowed at the show if this is an important consideration for you.
Blogging every day takes more time than I expected. I knew it was going to take time but it proved to be very time consuming keeping up with everything that went with researching, writing and publishing a new post each day. Many times I rushed through this process just to post something. The reactions I got showed that you enjoyed the posts that I spent more time with. The entire process did speed up as I went along but I still struggled.
One of the things I thought I was prepared with and wasn’t is topics to blog about. I had a pretty good list but as the month went on a lot of the “quick” posts seems repetitive and not really my best work. I eliminated most of them in favor of posts that I already knew a lot about and could write about easily. While this was better, I found myself scrambling to keep up due to last minute planning. From now on I will plan out an entire month in advance with both titles and a brief outline.
Food/Snacks in Cooler - Do yourself a favor and pack a lunch. I actually prefer small snack items such as carrots, nuts, cheese, hard boiled eggs, raisins or protein bars. These are easy to eat when you have a few minutes. Your alternative is usually a hot dog or sloppy joe with chips. These can be hard to eat while you are managing your booth. Since most shows are their busiest between 11 am and 2 pm, lunch time, you may not have time to eat. People who are spending time eating are not spending time selling and could be missing sales.
Water/Drinks - Be sure to stay hydrated at a show. You will be doing plenty of talking while you are communicating with customers. Drinks can also be expensive at a show, a water bottle from home is free. Be sure your drink has a lid. That way if it gets knocked over there is less mess. Try to keep your food and drinks off of your selling tables. You are showcasing your items not your food and drinks.
Appropriate Clothing/Shoes - The temperature outside might be cold but the area you are exhibiting in might be broiling hot. Be prepared for this by dressing in layers. Also be prepared with comfortable shoes. You will probably be standing for several hours and then there is unloading and loading your show stuff. Most vendors I see dress in jeans, tennis shoes and a nice shirt.
Friend/Helper - Bringing a helper is a plus. They can step in when you need a break or help with sales when it is really busy. It is also great to have help during setup and tear down. Some shows do offer assistance throughout the day with people to unload, load or watch your booth when you need a break but help might be limited.
Chair for each person - You might want to consider bringing your own chair. Most indoor shows generally give you a chair or two but they are generally a metal folding chair. At outdoor shows bringing a chair is a must. We have folding lawn chairs with tables that flip up. We use these whenever we have room. Sometimes your booth space is tight and there may not be room.
Cart - We recently invested in a good cart to help get our numerous bins, tables and shelves to and from our truck. This was the best investment. Now we can move multiple bins easily making fewer trips and getting setup and tear down done quicker.
Craft to work on - I crochet so it is easy to take something with me to work on at the show. People like to see you making what you sell. I have crocheted for so long that it is easy for me to work while I talk and to easily put it down when I have sales. If possible bring your work to keep you busy during slow periods. It will increase your inventory and keep you from tuning out with your phone.
Wet wipes - Because goo and dirt happens everywhere.
Hand Sanitizer - Germs happen everywhere too
Plastic grocery bag for trash - I keep this in my booth area for the trash I create throughout the day then dispose of it at the show. Just helps to keep my booth neat and organized.
Bug Spray/Sunscreen - If you do outdoor shows consider taking these two items. Even though you may be under a pop up, you are probably going to be in the sun more than you think. Bug repellent is also a good idea at certain times of the year.
Tylenol - As I get older I find this to be a very useful item. Just handy to have on hand if needed. If you take prescription medicines remember to pack those too.
Paper Towels - Spills and messes do happen so these are handy to have too.
This list is all things to make your day more comfortable so add whatever you need to make that happen. If you are comfortable and prepared for the day, you will be able to focus on selling your craft.
That wraps up our week long look at my Ultimate Craft Show list. I hope you have found this useful for your crafting needs.
Here we are at day four of my Ultimate Craft Show List and today we are going to take a look at the miscellaneous supplies that you will want to have. Once again, since my background is administrative, these seem like logical things to have but maybe not to everyone. You may have additional needs based on the way you do business.
Pens/Pencils/Sharpies - I am a self admitted color pen addict. I always have to have two or three colors of pens. I also like to have pens that I don’t mind losing if someone walks off with one. You will want to have this type of pen or pencils for people to use when filling out your mailing list form. I also keep a sharpie or two on hand for tags or a quick sign.
Paper - I always have my notebook that I use to track inventory and sales at a show but you might handle things differently. Just make sure you have some paper for notes. You never know when you will need to jot down a phone number, web address or information on another show. Spiral notebooks are a great tool to have for this purpose. I stock up at back to school time and often find them for $.25 or less.
Day three of my Ultimate Craft Show List looks at Business related items you will want to have. My background is administrative based and I have lots of experience with forms and spreadsheets to help make things easier. I am excited to share some of my ideas and know that maybe they will make your life easier too.
Show Information/Confirmation - I have a zip shut folder that I use to keep all of my craft show information in. For each show I have a copy of my application and check as well as any information I received from them by email or in the mail. I keep everything for a single show stapled together and keep all of this year’s shows in the same folder. For next year I will start a new folder. It is good to have the information with you when you arrive at a show in case there is last minute information you need such as specific entrances or times. It is also proof of acceptance just in case of a mix up.
Inventory List - You should always have a list of what you took to a show. I always grab my notebook or wand and bowl items. Not quite as formal with scrubbies and pet toys but I do always know how many I put out on the table. Read my post on Post Event Craft Show Tracking for more on this.
Sales Tracking Form - You will want a way to track your sales. It will help you know what you sold and what to take next time. Some items sell better at different times of the year or in different locations. In my Post Event Craft Show Tracking post, I discussed how I use a spiral notebook at a show to keep track of sales and then balance the show at the end. This services as a makeshift inventory list. I do however have a more formal process specifically for our Lathe Junkie bowls, wands and other art.
This day two of my Ultimate Craft Show List details of why each item is important. Yesterday we looked at the Selling Group. Today we break down the Display Group.
Tables - At most shows you will need to supply your own table(s). We use four. We have two 5 foot and two that are 6 foot. This seems to work best for the different set ups that we generally use. Maybe you only need a small table as a checkout table and the rest of your display is shelving or display racks. Whatever your needs, this is probably the second most important thing next to your product.
Props/Display Aids - This would be anything that you bring along to enhance your items and how they are displayed. I use some glass fruit in our Lathe Junkie bowls as well as some props such as an old cell phone and wallet. These show a potential customer what they can use the item for. Many crafters use items from around their home to accent their items. They can also be practical too. I have a large basket that I use to display dog toys and a big wire mesh basket holds scrubbies.
Table Cloths - If you use tables, table cloths can make a big difference in how your display looks. I used sheets for a long time. Just some plain white ones we had hanging around. They did their job going to the floor and hiding my bins under the table. I have since invested in some fitted black table cloths, which I highly recommend. You can find many options with a quick internet search. I have always used a over cloth on top of my tablecloth to accent what I am selling. I normally just get a yard of fabric and hem the edges (use fabric glue if you don’t sew). I have seasonal cloths as well as ones that work with items I sell such as a paw prints one for my dog/cat toys or a kitchen one for scrubbies. I have used as many as three on one table.
Price Signs/Extra Signs - As I have discussed before there are many options to pricing signs. Create signage that works with your display. I use laminated business card size signs that state the item name and price. These are then clipped to the basket I use to display the item with clips I found online. Our Lathe Junkie items have price tags on them but in either case I find that I always need an extra one or two. You will find that one always gets lost or or tattered or maybe you need a sign for a sale or a special.
Emergency Repair Items - What if something falls apart, tears or you loose a screw, bolt, nut or other part associated with your display? Go prepared with extras and a back up plan for repairs. Putting together a small kit with nuts, bolts, screws, needle/thread, glue or whatever you need is a great idea. This could be a lifesaver if something breaks at a show.
Tools Needed for Display - Do you need a screw driver, socket wrench, hammer or other tools to assemble your display? If so these are must haves on your packing list. Assemble a separate set of the tools you will need and keep them with your craft items. This way you will be prepared with the proper tools and not have to so searching the house for them every time you do a show.
Canopy/Side Curtains/Weights - Canopy related items are primarily for if you exhibit at outdoor shows (I have seen them used indoors too). If you do outdoor shows, a canopy is a must! Most formal art or craft shows want you to have a white one so that their exhibitors look uniform (Read my post on Indoor vs Outdoor Shows for more information). We found a great one on ECanopy. It is easy to set up and comes with sides that help block out the wind, sun and weather. This is very handy on windy days or even to block off your neighbors. It comes with a bag on wheels that stores everything away neatly. Canopy weights can be an added benefit to keep your canopy under control on windy days. Even though it comes with steaks, these can’t be used if you are set up on a street. You can find lots of great ideas on how to do this on Pinterest.
That is all for the Display Group. Tomorrow we will explore the Business Group. Remember doing a trial run setup of your display is a great way to make sure you have everything you need as well as experiment with your setup.
This week we are going to take the Ultimate Craft Show List I gave you on Friday and break it down with some details of why each item is important. Today we start with the Selling Group.
Product/Items you are Selling - Now this sounds like an obvious thing but this can be forgotten. I am often working on last minute things that are not with my regular inventory. If I forget to grab that last bag of scrubbies, those last few wands, or that last bowl or two, we may not have that thing that really sells. I try to keep inventory in the fewest bins possible but for a big show there might be extras that don’t go to every show. A quick double check before you walk out the door can make all the difference.
Change for Cash Sales - I have mentioned this before. This seems to be an area that I always forget until the last minute. If only the bank machine out spit out $5’s and $1’s. I often find myself stopping at stores the night before or the day of just to buy something little to get change. This week I got smart and took my start change back out in small bills before I balanced the event. This change went into a small purse and got put in my work box with my other administrative needs. This way I will be all set for the next show.
Another show is in the books. We had an average show yesterday. Not the best show ever but not the worst by any means. We made our booth fee back and a good profit. Now is the time I start thinking forward to the next show but don’t make that mistake. Instead I will take some time today documenting sales and making notes about the show. Here is why this is so important.
Even if you are a casual crafter that just sells in one or two shows a year, it is important to keep track of what you sell. This can help you know what items sell best, if you are pricing correctly and how much profit you made.
Here is how I do it. I have a spiral notebook that I use during the show. This is where all of my handwritten notes are kept during the show. If we are exhibiting with Holton Handicraft items, I use a count and recount system to track sales. I count each item before the show and write it down in the notebook. Then at the end of the show I count each item again and enter it into the notebook. For Lathe Junkie items we used a tagging system to keep track of inventory and make it easier to select items out of our Etsy shop. During a show we write down the tag numbers in the notebook. The actual tags are set aside for comparison later. This notebook page is also used to make note of our booth number, booth fee and starting cash amount. It is also a great place to write down tidbits picked up throughout the day. I balance out the cash and credit card amounts on this page too and compare them to the tallies I kept throughout the day. At the end of the day it is a one page snapshot of what happened at the show.
I use a worksheet to track all of our sales, online and at shows. This worksheet is designed to look at what was sold my month. I can also track the items that were sold and the expenses involved. It tallies my sales for me so I can see quickly how I am doing each month.
I like to give a show three years and then look back at how we did before I decide if it is a good show for the following year. My tracking methods allow me to see that quickly and know when it is time to walk away from a show or if we should continue to exhibit in it.
Take the time after each sale or show to track your sales. Use my method or create your own. You will find lots of benefits and maybe even save some money and grief in the process.
Hello! I am Linda Holton from Holton Handicrafts. I am partner to my hubby The Lathe Junkie, mother to two grown children, two fur babies, and four grandchildren. I love to craft and write and have a large variety of interests. On my blog I share with you my experiences and fun ideas for You, Your Pet, and Your Home with lots of other fun thrown in.
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