Indoor vs. Outdoor Craft Shows

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.

Weather -

The biggest negative for an outdoor show can be the weather.  A rainy day can cause slow or no show traffic.  A windy day or a sudden gust of wind can ruin your display or cause you to lose merchandise.  A sunny hot day can melt perishable items.  Here is where those canopy sides will come in handy to help protect your space and your merchandise.  The biggest positive for an outdoor show can also be the weather.  A beautiful sunny day can bring out lots of people and make for a very profitable show.  Indoor shows are climate controlled so you don’t have to worry about heat, sun, wind or rain. The weather can still cause problems by preventing customers from getting to the show and make for a slow unprofitable day.

Merchandising -

Deciding if an outdoor show is for you will depend a lot on your items and how you merchandise them.  Since indoor shows often give you limited space in one booth,  you may want to rethink how you want to merchandise at an outdoor show.  We use shelving to merchandise our hand turned wood bowls.  It brings them up so a customer can see what we have before they get to us.  At an outdoor show we have plenty of room for our overflow table and we are able to spread out and still have lots of room for us and customers.  I like how they can also shop on both sides of our side tables.  We generally use our canopy sides as a wall behind the shelving to help highlight the items on the shelves and discourage theft.  However you merchandise, make sure all of your display items are secure so that they don't topple over from wind or uneven ground.  If you need merchandising ideas, visit an outdoor show and see what others are using.  You will also find tons of great ideas on Pinterest.  


Customers -

You will find that you have different types of customers at outdoor shows vs. indoor shows.  Since outdoor shows are often part of street fairs or festivals you will see more families enjoying an outing and possibly people on vacation.  Generally the customer is in a relaxed mood where impulse buying can happen.  At the show in the picture we were exhibiting in a popular park with a great playground.  We had a lot of customers who had just brought the kids to play at the park and were excited to find a band festival and a craft show.  We ended up having very a profitable day at a small show we had never sold at before.  Indoor shows are more purposeful.  Your customer chose to visit the show and probably has specific things they are looking for.  This is especially true with holiday shows.  These shows can be very profitable too but you will probably find more competition for the customer's dollar.

As I’m writing this it occurs to me that these experiences and observations are written from a Michigan perspective where outdoor shows can only be done part of the year due to snow and where we can have changing weather conditions the rest of the year.  Share your experiences with outdoor and indoor shows.  Which do you like best?  Have you ever done an outdoor show in December?