Craft Fair Secrets – How much to pay for a stall or table

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.

Amy Orange Juice - Glass Bunting

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).

Demographics

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?

Position

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’.

Alissa Lissha Designs

Footfall

“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: hilary@folksy.co.uk

This article is one of a series of articles from Folksy featuring tips and advice on how to sell at craft fairs – the images used are taken from items for sale at www.folksy.com

21 Comments

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Deb

    Great post, thanks. I did my first fair recently and realised I was in completely the wrong place – my work was so much more expensive than everyone else’s. The stall next to me had the most beautiful handmade soaps, but they were only charging £1 per bar, and obviously that sort of price is what people going to that fair expect. I think it’s a shame as they were really beautiful soaps, but almost everything I saw at that fair was so underpriced. And then people come to my stall and the cheapest things there is £8, because I price my stuff up properly, and of couse they’re not going to buy it. So, that sort of small school-type of fair is not for me, I guess! :)

    The table there was £12, which I didn’t mind at all. I’m doing another bigger, much more established fair in July and the table there is £25. I’m expecting (and hoping) that even though it seems more expensive, it will be worth it in terms of people coming through the door and sales.

  • Great article…I’m in my fourth year and still enjoy doing craft fairs. I’ve got a bit more selective – I know which fairs I usually do well at and it’s nice that past customers come and seek me out at these events. I also love to try new events and the Folksy forum has provided me with 2 new venues later this year which I’m excited about. I’m philosophical about the revenue generated v costs of doing fairs. I think it is really important to have cards etc. for people to take away so that if they don’t buy on the day they can find you again on the web or in person when do need that unique hand-made gift. I’m not the most confident person in the word, but at craft fairs I love to meet people – I have my dolls to talk about and it stops me being a bit of a hermit! People can also see the quality of your work, and I’ve had many a commission via the net after people have met me at events.
    It was with the encouragement of a lovely lady I met at the first village fair I ever did (Tracey at Foxtail Lily Barn shop, Oundle) that prompted me to set up Northfield Primitives – and here I am four years on with a proper little business!
    When you consider the overheads of a shop, or commission charges for selling through someone else’s shop, craft fairs seem quite good value to me. I usually pay between £20 and £40 a day for a table at the events I attend.

  • I’ve been selling at craft fairs for … well, when I first started Margarett Thatcher was still PM. I really enjoy them, even the ones where I don’t make much money. There’s just something about setting out your stall and waiting for people to come and buy. Sometimes it’s a long wait!

    I usually pay between £15 and £35 for a pitch, both indoors and out. There are a couple of larger events near us which charge £150 for a 3m pitch, but that’s just too high for me – apart from the need to sell a lot just to break even, the thought of handing over that much money just gives me the heebies.

    The events I attend are a minimum of 4 hours; there’s no point in the smaller, 2 hour ones. The majority are in schools or village halls; you can’t discount school events just because of the venue; two of the best events I attend, both in terms of organisation and takings, are in schools and I always sell my higher-end items at those.

    It’s really just a case of trying everything you can, so that you can find your niche.

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Dottie Designs

    Great article!

    I have done fairs for the last 3 years and know which fairs work for me and which don’t! I did a few howlers in the beginning!
    Public schools at Christmas time are great for my personalised things and my best ever fair was a 4 day Christmas Fair in a City Centre.
    I tend to find the more expensive a table is the more advertising etc is done so the greater my profit!

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Amanda Robins

    Last year was my first attending every local craft fair that I could lay my hands on. This year I’m going with those that were good for me last year and avoiding those that were not. I pay £25-40 for a 6 foot stall, and find that an outdoor position is most succcessful during the summer months.
    I have organised 4 of my own 40 stall fairs as fundraisers for charity, and always ensure that similar crafts are spread evenly around the rooms. I also limit craft types to 7 of each category. I provide free drinks for crafters throughout the day, but have never been offered drinks at any other craft fair. I think it’s a nice little extra for all those hard working artisans, and they always appreciate the gesture.

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Shaz from OddSox

    Tons of useful advice here, thanks for sharing. Great idea to try and visit a venue first. The last Xmas fair I did at a school I was fairly confident about because I’d attended the previous 2 years as a buyer – definitely takes a bit of uncertainty out of things. Shaz

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Pretty Goods

    I’ve done my first outdoor craft fair of this year, and have just about thawed out – it was so cold today!
    I paid 75.00 for my pitch (inc VAT but not table/chairs/gazebo) for two days and yesterday(Sunday) took 98.00. I set my table right at the front of my gazebo and also had items displayed outside. I had a lot of visitors and buyers. (You can see the stall on my recent blog post http://www.prettygoods.blogspot.com)
    Today, as it was spitting with rain when I arrived to set up, I put the table inside the gazebo. It stopped raining before the fair opened but I left the table where it was as it’s too difficult to move once all the display is in place. This was a mistake. Not many people ventured in to look and by 2.30 I hadn’t sold a thing! I did make some sales, however, taking another 52.00 but only after moving some of the display in front of the table.
    My cheapest items are 4.00 (egg cosies) and 5.00 (pincushions and lavender hearts) and the most expensive cushions and bags are 25,00.
    So if I sell a couple of cushions and a bag it makes my takings look quite good and the profit is good too.
    When choosing fairs I try to pick those that are in the right area, with a venue, customers and ambience that suit my products – but I do get it wrong sometimes!

  • Reply June 1, 2010

    Victoria

    Great tips, I never really thought about the cost of petrol as an addition to the prices. I was wondering what people think about paid for fairs where you have to pay for a stand and people pay to get in?

  • Reply June 1, 2010

    amyorangejuice

    Wow, this new folksy blog is amazing! well done, what excellent advice, its really got me thinking about my business. Thank you and thanks for using the photo of my bunting x

  • Reply June 1, 2010

    amyorangejuice

    oh, and I must say even though I am running a business and need to make cash I love doing craft fairs, even rubbish ones! x

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Deb

    I wonder how much is down to the organisers and how much is down to the venue? There are several fairs quite close to me, but they are all organised by the same people as the one I mentioned earlier, and I felt a bit like a fish out of water there which has put me off a bit. I can’t really afford to do them all to see which I like and which I don’t, so I find I’m having to be selective right from the outset. I don’t think the fairs they are organising are really geared towards the type of things, and price range, that I sell, so I’m tempted to just give them a miss and wait for the more high-end (if I can say that without sounding snobby) ones.

    And I agree with amyorangejuice, this new blog is fab. :-)

  • Reply June 2, 2010

    Andrea Berry ( polka)

    I love doing my childrens school fair and I always sell the most there. In the weeks leading up to it i drum up interest by showing a few samples to the Mums at the gates ( helps when you know most of them!) last year I made over 40 hairbands and sold them all. Also I stick to what I know will sell and for around £5 but with some of my more expensive things so maybe they will buy round Christmas.

  • As both a seller and as an event organiser, I’m really enjoying this blog series. This particular installment is really interesting – really valid hints and tips I think. Amazing. On top of all the info that’s been shared above, I’d probably add a couple of comments.

    Re. footfall: Made in the Shade (the indie craft event I run with my creative chum Clare Nicolson) attracted just over 10,000 visitors over 3 events in its first year. Our stall fee was set at around £45 for a 6.5 hour selling day. The following year, our event was displaced from its usual venue and attracted significantly fewer visitors per event than year 1. However – interestingly, feedback from vendors showed that massive footfall was not necessarily the key to a day of great sales. For example, we held a slightly smaller Made in the Shade event last year that attracted just over 500 people through the door – yet an overwhelming proportion of our vendors reported record sales – even in comparison to our launch event which attracted over 3000 people! So – beware of working out the ‘value’ of an event by the footfall expected. Our stall fee is set at a level that allows us to pay for a well appointed venue, advertising, printed promo materials, extra event features, promo staff and much more. We make very little (sometimes nothing) from an event but we work our socks off to do everything we can to make our events go with a pop for our vendors AND our customers. We’ve come to realise over the years that attracting a high volume of customers is much less important than attracting a healthy number of carefully targeted, engaged customers :) It’s probably more useful to judge the value of an event by the level of expertise and dedication demonstrated by the organiser. Get to know where the organiser fits in to the wider craft community – what links/contacts do they have? Do they operate within a supportive network? Do they understand the work they showcase? Do they CARE about the work they showcase? Is the event a purely commercial enterprise? ooooph… Questions! Questions :) I’ll shut up now. Great blog series – great post! Keep ‘em coming! Can’t wait for the next bit.

  • [...] to remember that the experience and new contacts or friends you have gained were probably worth the cost of the stall. Getting over the hurdle of your first fair whether it’s profitable or not is a giant step [...]

  • [...] How much should I pay for a table? [...]

  • Reply November 4, 2010

    colon cleansing

    I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  • Reply July 5, 2011

    Doug Hyde

    How to get people to your stall.
    This is an amazing tip. It works in all forms of retail.
    Take a couple of people with you to your craft / art fair.
    When it’s quiet get these people just to browse on your stall, pretending to be customera. You’ll be amazed how well it works. Having customers attracts more. Most peopl don’t like being the only customers having a look, so feel more comfortable when others are there.
    I use to work on a ameket and would use this trick every day. You’ll eb amazed at how it works.

  • Reply July 5, 2011

    Marjorie Brabazon

    That sounds like a good idea; I will give it try this weekend, I have two stalls one saturday and one sunday.

    Wish me luck.

  • [...] very popular series of posts on all sorts of aspects of how to sell at a craft fair or market. From choosing the right craft fair to what to say to customers, and none has been more popular than our post on how to create a great [...]

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    snorkus

    It is really important to visit the fair before saying yes, watch out for hidden costs like extras for a table and chair – do they do any marketing? or advertising? – I live in Brighton and a lot of people are jumping on the “run a craft fair” bandwagon, they tend to it for profit only and can charge commission as well as huge fees.
    Also ask the stall holders about the fair (a dead giveaway is if they look glum and bored) some will be honest.
    .. other simple things lto look out for – not enough room for customers because the tables are badly organized.

    A good fair should charge between £10 – £35 depending on location, anything above this would need to have and ATM, good footfall and a lot of marketing as most people just don’t carry that much cash with them when the items are expensive.

    Sharing a table is also a good first time option.
    Good luck!

  • Reply April 28, 2014

    Lucy Ann Cover

    This is a great article with really useful advice.
    I am currently organising a small food, art and crafts fair in Twickenham this summer and am looking for stall holders to get involved. I’m not organising the event to make money, but more as a community project for locals to get together, have some fun and meet new people.
    I’ve recently discovered that in order to take part in any of the existing art and craft fairs in London and surrounding areas it is very expensive and quite an intimidating experience, particularly for people selling their crafts for the first time. I want to give people a chance to sell their products, some for the first time in a supportive inexpensive fun atmosphere.
    This fair will be a lovely summer event for local crafters to meet new people with similar interests and exhibit their hard work and for families and friends to get together at a local event and snap up a handmade bargain. There will also be music at the event I have a great steel pan player and hoping to get a band to play also. If anyone is interested please e-mail me: lucyanncover@gmail.com
    Happy crafting everyone! :)

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