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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If you are like most crafters, you dream of selling out at each show you do along with all of the dollars that can bring. Selling out is an awesome feeling but it can also bring some added challenges you had not considered. Here is a story of what happened to us and lessons that were learned from it.
As you may know, my husband is a wood turner, The Lathe Junkie. One of our most popular items are hand turned wood magic wands. We have managed to develop quite a good following on Facebook as well as on his Etsy Shop. Because of this we were invited to sell his wands at a Harry Potter event that was sponsored by our local baseball club. This invitation came two weeks before the event but there was no fee so all we had to do was show up with our wands and sell. Plus we got to watch the game for free so it seemed like a win win situation to us.
The biggest challenge we had was inventory. Hubby already had a pre-scheduled surgery the Monday before the event that could not be changed and would include an overnight stay. On top of that we had just exhibited at a popular art fair and our online sales had been brisk. We were down to only 50 wands without a lot of time to make more. With a short two weeks to work with, he started working on wands as quickly as possible. While he can finish one in a pretty short amount of time, standing for long periods was a problem before the surgery. Removing listings from Etsy would mean that our shop traffic would suffer so sales kept coming in too. The two days he was in the hospital, we had orders for 11 wands. Luckily he was able to get back to wand making quickly after the surgery and by the time we had to leave for the event we had 75 wands to sell. Not at all what we would have wanted to take but it was what we had.
Warmer weather brings summer festivals and new show opportunities. This means exhibiting your merchandise in outdoor settings. This can present a whole new set of challenges in setting up your booth area. Once you understand the needs of an outdoor show, you might find you like them best. Let’s take a look at the differences in an outdoor show vs an indoor show.
Your Space -
At an outdoor show you know that you will have a 10’x10’ space to work with. This allows for a large display area and
lots of room that customers can use to shop your booth. It also allows you to be more creative with your show set up. Indoor shows generally give you a smaller display area per booth. This may cause you added expense in the form of additional booths to get the same 10’x10’ size. One indoor booth may cause you to have to alter your setup to accommodate the smaller area. We actually have a basic setup that can be easily altered depending on the size of the booth area but we like the openness of the setup that can use at an outdoor show.
For outdoor shows you will want to invest in a canopy that includes sides. These are generally 10’x10’ and most promoters (especially art shows) want it to be white to give a uniform look to the show. We purchased one at Ecanopy but they are also available at sporting goods stores and club stores. Just make sure it is sturdy as weather can play havoc on weak canopies. The sides will come in handy to protect you from the wind, rain and sun. Ours can be added individually and then zip together. Stakes work great to secure your canopy in grassy areas but you will also want weights to secure it in parking lots, streets, and other areas where stakes can’t go. You can purchase weights or you will find lots of ideas to make your own on Pinterest.
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.
Whether you are seller of vendor items or you make hand crafted items; craft shows are a great place to sell your items and promote your business. If you are new to craft shows or you have done a few, there is always room for improvement. We have been selling at shows for many years and we are always looking for ways to improve on what we are doing. Over the years we have seen many things that people do that can result in an unsuccessful show.
The Bad Show…….
It had been steadily busy all morning for me and I finally had a minute to catch my breath. I looked across the aisle and there they were, the two friends who had a large pile of linens, blankets, and other items that all looked like they would sell well. Their inventory was crammed onto a table that was covered with a plastic table cloth. Their product pricing consisted of a handwritten list that was hard to read. I had heard them lose a couple of sales because they only took cash. They had obviously worked hard to have this much inventory but they were not making that many sales. They were just sitting behind the big pile gabbing between them, answering questions and communicating with customers only when asked. At lunch time they seemed more concerned with eating than working with customers at the busiest time of the show. As the day went on the smiles I had seen at the beginning of the day had changed to frowns as they sat behind the table with their arms crossed. I saw them pack up a lot of inventory to take home at the end of the day.
Here are the 5 things they could have done better to have a successful show.......