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.
From October through December it seems like every organization is having a craft show. You will see Churches, School PTO’s, Band Boosters, Athletic Boosters and many others. Who is sponsoring the show and especially where it is being held should also be a consideration when selecting a craft show. Churches often have a limited area for vendors so your booth space options may also be limited. There tends to be fewer crafters/vendors in smaller spaces so your shoppers may also be limited. Shows supporting school organizations have the ability to use the school and have multiple areas such as the gym and cafeteria to use for their show. Certain geographic areas of a city or region could also work best for the types of items you sell. A young, hip product in an area with an older population may not sell that well.
The length of time a show has been around can also give it credibility but new shows also bring new customers and new ideas. More established shows shows normally have more traffic and are better known. Shows that are in their infancy may not have the amount of shoppers you are looking for.
Juried shows are ones where you submit photographs of your work and a committee decides if you are accepted into a show. Craft shows featuring only handmade items often use this method to select the vendors for their show. It allows them to make sure they don’t have several vendors making the same things and that the work is the quality they are seeking for their show. I have found that juried shows seem to be a better quality show since the organizers are taking the time to select the exhibitors.
Small booth fees can also be an indication of the quality of a show. My experience has shown that when you pay a $20 fee the show is probably not that organized. That is not to say that the more the booth fee is, the better the show is. In my area of the country the average fee is between $50 and $75 for a one day show. I would like to take our Lathe Junkie items to an art fair but fees for those shows average $300 to $500 dollars per booth and numbers that are a bit scary for me. That all being said the booth fee at our best selling show ever was zero.
In today’s social media environment marketing and promotion of an event are very important. Some shows are really good at this and others ignore this totally. Shows that have Facebook pages, create events and feature vendor’s products are working hard to attract shoppers for you to sell to.
Other little things can also contribute to a good show. These are things such as; an easy application process, providing next year’s application and dates at the show, giving you a Friday night move in option, and having lots of helpers to load, unload and provide help throughout the day.
Through trial and error I have determined the type of craft show that works best for the items we sell. I like to give shows three years unless there are obvious reasons not to do so. I also like to try to spread my shows out into different areas to expand the number of shoppers who see my products. You will need to determine what type of show works best for you. Do your homework, listen to what others have to say or visit the show as a shopper. Evaluate how you did after the show to determine if you want to do it next year. Taking the time now can help you have profitable shows every time.