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.
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.
Exhibiting at a craft show can take a lot of work getting your items made and prepared for selling as well as finding the supplies you need to take with you. Then there is packing your vehicle, setting up the show and of course selling. You know that selling your products will make it a successful show but there are some essential things that you should not forget.
Don’t Forget Change: Make sure you have more than enough change. But how much is enough? That all depends on what you sell. I recently read a discussion on this subject and someone recommended $200. I sell small items that are mostly less than $5 so that amount seems excessive for my items. I generally start with $40-$50 mostly in $1’s. If you have items that cost less than $1 you will need coins. Have a lot of $5 or $15 items? Take lots of 5’s. Being able to take credit cards is also a must. Services such as Square or PayPal Here don’t cost as much as you think and not having the ability to take a credit card can lose you a sale.
Don’t Forget Your Display: There is nothing worse than arriving at a show to find that you have not brought part of your display. It can throw off your entire show. One time I forgot our bin of table cloths. It was accidentally left behind in our rush to pack the car. Luckily there was a close store that we were able to purchase something to make due. Table cloths may be a small thing but it could easily have been any part of our display that was forgotten. Check and recheck that you have everything you need.
Don’t Forget to do a Trial Run: Setup your booth area ahead of time as practice for a show. This is a great way to make sure you have everything you need and also to know how you are going to set up. You can work with different ways you want to display your items. It will allow you to pack everything away properly and get you set up quicker at the show since you already know where everything is going.
Don’t Forget to Interact With Your Customers: This is my #1 piece of advice! At the show; stand up, smile, say hello or good morning; interact with the shoppers! By doing this you are making an impression and a connection with your shoppers. I make dog and cat toys so I often ask “do you have a cat (dog)?” Don’t just sit behind your booth and gab! This makes it seem like you don’t care about your customers or your products. Don’t worry if the customer doesn’t interact back, there are plenty who will. Even if they don’t stop then they could come back around. I see plenty of people who walk through the entire show first and then do their purchasing the second time through.
Don’t Tear Down Early: Even if you have sold nothing all day, don’t tear down early! Not even 5 minutes early. Sometimes the last few minutes of a show can be the busiest with last minute shoppers or other vendors who have been eyeing your goods all day. Once we sold a $150 bowl to a woman in the last 2 minutes of a show just because we were the only booth that was not tearing down. When you do start to tear down keep your most popular items available as long as you can. We have sold plenty of scrubbies, pet toys or wands to other vendors as we were packing.
Lots of thought and effort goes into a great craft show. Make sure you are prepared to make it the show that you want it to be. In tomorrow’s post I will be sharing my Craft Show checklist with essentials you need at a show.
It is craft show week for us and maybe for you too so I thought I would rerun a post from back in June. In this post we take the promote using Facebook idea a bit further and discuss how to both find shows as well as promote your own show using Facebook. Enjoy!
Originally posted June 17, 2017:
Facebook is a powerful marketing tool that you can use to promote your craft business, network with other crafters, and find great shows. If you are a crafter who regularly sells their craft, I highly recommend getting yourself a business facebook page. You can see ours here Holton Handicrafts or Lathe Junkie.
A search for craft shows on Facebook, will give you information on groups in your area that support crafters. I urge you to join one or several in areas that you sell in. We sell in Michigan where we live and in Central Ohio where my daughter lives so I belong to groups that are active in both areas. Can’t find one in your area? Consider starting a group. I’m sure there are lots of other crafters that would join.
One of the groups I belong to is Central Ohio Craft Shows. The admin of this site encourages members to regularly participate by asking where they are going to be selling each week and then at the end of the weekend, asking how they did. Members can see how other members are doing and gain ideas for shows they would like to exhibit at in the future. You often see several members who have been at the same show. The admin also encourages members to ask questions on different aspects of craft shows. These types of questions always get lots of conversation and you can gain great new ideas.
How a craft show is marketed can make a difference to you and how much you will sell. I love when the show promoter uses social media in order to gain excitement for their show. Some shows are better than others at doing this.
One of the best shows that I know of that promotes is one that we have been a vendor at for a number of years; Mark Twain Craft Bazaar. This show is a big fundraiser for the PTO at Mark Twain Elementary in Westerville, OH. The show promoter has a website http://www.marktwaincraftbazaar.org/ that gives you basics about the show. Over the years I have also seen her create a brand for the show that helps identify it to shoppers. She also uses the website to drive traffic over to the show’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MarkTwainCraftBazaar where she has over 1100 followers. Starting at least 30 days before the bazaar, she uses the Facebook page to showcase vendors who will be at the show. This gives the shopper a chance to preview items that will be at the show. You can see our post on the right. She also set up a Facebook event for the show. This makes it easy for me to share the event on my own Facebook pages. This promotes not only the show but the fact that we are going to be there.
Don’t trust your show is going to create and event and promote it. A lot of the shows we participate in don’t. In these cases it is up to you to do the promoting. There are a variety of ways to do this that are free. Rely on the social services you already use. Create your own Facebook event, post on Instagram, or Twitter. If you have an Etsy shop promote on the Etsy Local page or on your own web site. Even if the show does promote any of these can be additional free advertising for you.
In addition to these methods, I also post pictures on Facebook of us set up at the show with an exact location of our booth. The bottom line is to market yourself and your products. A little bit of effort can make a big difference.
A lot of how you display and merchandise your items depends on what you make and sell. Are you items big or small? Do they need to hang? Do you have a lot of different items or just a few? You have a lot to consider when deciding on how to merchandise your items. There are also factors like the size of your booth space and how you will transport your products and display materials.
You might not start out with the best display for your items but a lot of creating what is best for your items starts with looking at what others are doing. I make it a point to every show I do to walk the show. I am not only looking at what others are making and how they are pricing it, I am looking at how they are merchandising it. I have picked up lots of good ideas from looking at how others merchandise their items. Some people choose to pile up their items while others like to spread them all out on the table. Then there are people who have very elaborate displays that they need a trailer to transport.
I know a lot of people who participate in craft shows, art fairs or even flea markets every weekend but the number of shows increases starting in September or October. Are you ready for your shows? Having a good show means more than just having adequate inventory to support the show.
Here are five things you should consider in order to be prepared.
Gather your equipment and take stock of what you have. Are there things that you are carrying around that you just don’t use? If so eliminate them. Make sure you are stocked up on basic supplies such as pens, paper, clips and anything else you use on a regular basis at a show. Condense your supplies down to just what you use so that you are carrying less.
Do a mock show set up. If you have room to do this, setting up your display in a non show setting can help you determine the best setup for you. Doing it before a show can help you get ideas to improve on what you are already doing without the pressure of the show.
Clean and maintain all of your display items. Wash and press your table cloths, wipe down all of your shelving and props. Make sure everything is in good working condition and ready to use.
Make a marketing plan. You don’t have to be a marketing expert to have a marketing plan. Push out a facebook event before the show advertising you will be there or share the event the show used. Be sure to follow up with pictures and information the day of the show. Use a signup sheet to collect email addresses from people who want to hear more about your products. Have a printed list of upcoming shows that you will be at so your customer can visit you again. And the #1 thing you can have at a show is a business card! Make sure you have plenty.
Don’t forget about selling tools. Do you use shopping bags or just old bags that you have saved from the grocery? It is well worth the investment to purchase bags. You don’t have to have expensive branded bags, just something simple. We purchased some yellow grocery type bags on closeout. Selling tools also includes your taking credit cards. Are you comfortable using your Square or PayPal app to take cards? If not practice how so you don’t have the added stress of figuring it out at a show. Don’t forget to pack that charger so you can keep your tablet or phone going to use that app all day.
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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