When you first start out selling at fairs it can be difficult to guage how much to pay for a stall, some seem really expensive but that may be for a good reason, how can you work out what’s the right price for you?
“Once upon a time I’d book everything I was offered but no longer. I don’t find school fairs work well for me and because of my set up it takes me an hour to prepare and an hour to pack up so spending just 2 hours selling is not often worth my time. I don’t have much for children in my range and naturally parents are usually shopping for their children at these events.” Sue – Bluebox Studio
Break Even Point
You should hopefully know the profit margin of each piece you make, think about how much you will need to sell in order to break even. Remember to include the cost of fuel and any packaging / wrapping. You may also consider your man hours and if you are having to pay for any child care. If a stall costs £60 and you make an average of £5 profit per item you will need to sell in excess of 12 items to cover the cost of the stall alone. This can be quite a scary moment of truth, it may be that you need to re evaluate how your items are priced.
You may not be attending a craft fair to make a profit on the day but quite wisely thinking about it as an opportunity to let the general public know about your Folksy shop or website. If you come back from a fair and after doing the maths you realise you have actually lost money don’t be too disheartened, remember you still have your stock for another day. Handing out cards and talking to members of the public about your products may well result in many after fair enquiries, custom orders and sales.
Consider adding in a figure to your calculations that covers your marketing costs before you start – how much are you prepared to pay per lead? If your costs come to £60 and you hand out 60 cards but sell nothing, you are paying £1 for each of those leads. The quality of these leads is important, how many of those 60 people will keep that card? Adding 30 email addresses to a mailing list may actually be better than handing out 300 cards and worth the cost per lead. (I’d love to hear from anyone who uses fairs to expand their mailing list, has it been a successful marketing tool for you? – we’ll be covering mailing lists in a future article).
Identify the demographic of the visitors and also find out where the fair will be advertised, just flyers and posters on the day or local press and radio too? It’s important to know where your fee is going, a good fair organiser no matter how small should have a sound advertising campaign worked out well in advance. It may just involve adding leaflets to childrens school bags, but even a simple strategy like this takes organisation well in advance. Most organisers will also be selective about the type of craft stalls they have, will your pink polka dot change mats really go down well at the ‘Mud Riders’ annual summer biker festival or are they just desperate to fill tables?
Find out how the organiser lays out the fair if you are unable to visit and see for yourself. Are they considerate of where they place sellers and how many of each dicipline they allow; how much space will you have around your stall? You may be able to pay extra to be given a prime position or more space, but remember to factor in the extra time and costs you will incur having to stock and display your items in a larger space, even if it seems like a bargain to ‘upgrade’.
“I nearly always visit a fair before booking it, especially if I don’t know the organiser. I’ve helped organise fairs in the past and know it is not an easy task. It is a lot more than just booking a venue, opening the doors and expecting the world to flood through the door.” Sue – Bluebox Studio
You can weigh up the fairs that are available to you on a cost per visitor basis in addition to whether or not the visitors represent your target audience. The organiser will have details of how many visitors they get on average so just ask. This will not tell you which fair is best or how many sales you’ll get but it could highlight fairs that are overpriced.
For example –
‘Fab Stuff’ fair costs £20 for a table and last year it was attended by 1000 people – that works out as 2p per visitor;
‘Handmade Heaven’ costs £60 but had 3000 visitors last year, working out again at 2p per visitor.
“I have done better at small events and at school fairs, maybe it’s just the kind of things I make and sell but I have done two big organised events and have been treated badly and barely covered the cost of my stall. My advice to any new seller is to start small and ask other people, other crafters and local sellers, the forums are good on folksy too for fairs and events around the country.” – Daisie – Daisie Davies Originals
On reflection of all of the above factors, or if you have had a few disappointing fairs you may feel that your stall money is better spent buying more targeted online advertising. Although fairs can be alot of fun too! Just take a look at Daisie’s experience in her blog post about a fair she attended last summer. This is an area we will be looking into in more depth in a future article. If you have any experience of using online advertising (eg. google adsense / adwords, facebook ads, project wonderful) then please get in touch and let us know how they worked out for you, we would love to share your experiences or thoughts with the Folksy community.
Would you rather spend your money advertising online or do you think craft fairs are important for growing business and sales confidence? Does the excitement of selling at a fair outweigh the costs, or do you have to turn over a profit at fairs to make a living and afford to restock your shop?
Please share your own experiences by adding a comment below or sending us an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org