Last summer we ran a 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 craft fair stall.
Whilst browsing facebook last month I noticed that Kirsty Elson, a popular Folksy shopkeeper, was preparing for a craft show. It was fascinating to watch her updates detailing her (sometimes frantic!) making for the show deadline, so I got in touch and asked her if she would share her story here after she had recovered from the event. I wanted to add to our series of useful craft fair secrets with a very personal take on the ups and downs of preparing for a craft show and anything that Kirsty had learned from the experience or that she may do differently next time.
As a rule, I don’t do many craft fairs. I tend to stick with a couple of familiar ones – and these only take place once or twice a year. I just don’t seem to have enough time to make loads of stock on a regular basis. To be honest, I find it a little stressful – and no matter how organised I promise myself I will be next time, I am inevitably still frantically making the night before the event!
Shortly after Christmas, I received an e-mail from a lady who runs a craft tent at the Royal Cornwall Show, a huge agricultural event, inviting me to exhibit. Naturally I felt flattered, but a lot of questions flew around my head: How much would it cost? Would my products fit in at such an event? And what do I do about childcare over the 3 days of the show?
The price was actually a lot lower than I had anticipated, and though it’s natural for a maker to think, ‘I need to make a lot of sales to get that money back’ (ie break even) , I decided to take a different approach. I figured that whilst sales were important, it would be a really good experience for me to have a go, and get myself ‘out there’. The event is vast – well over 120,000 people attend – and you just never know who’s going to be there!
I had about 6 months to prepare – but with a busy workload and a young family, I didn’t properly get down to it until about 6 weeks before. Royal Cornwall Show is a 3 day event – and far bigger than anything I’d ever done before. I had no idea how much stock to make! It would be awful not to sell anything, but just as bad to sell out on the first day and have an empty table for the remainder! I decided that I would concentrate on low-cost items that I knew I could sell elsewhere should it be a disaster, and make a whole variety of other items that would nevertheless sit well together and draw attention to my stand.
The time grew closer and I became increasingly nervous. I’d had to consider factors which I hadn’t at smaller fairs. For a start, a gazebo or similar was essential (extra cost, but I’ve got it now, and can utilise it again). I also bought a banner and ordered plenty of business cards.
Soon enough the time came. I was very fortunate that my partner was able to take time off work to look after our boys, and that my friend (The Cow Lady) was also exhibiting and gave me a lift in everyday!
We set up the day before the event started. Setting up in itself took half a day! Only when everything was hanging in it’s place could I breathe a sigh of relief. Too late to make anything else now – too late to worry!
Three days on my feet from 8.30am – 6.30pm was far more exhausting than I could have imagined! And how did it go? To be honest, I still haven’t made up my mind! I did ok, sales wise, and I met some great people, but it was blimmin hard work! There were some lovely customers for whom my style of work is right up their street. Too bad that there were a lot of people who simply walked past me without giving my stand a glance, and that can be really disheartening! And whilst the crowds piled in to the marquee when it rained, they weren’t spending any money. These are difficult times for people. On the upside, I gave out 200 business cards, so who knows where that may lead?
I’ve just signed up for a Christmas craft fair at a very reputable venue. It’s far more likely that the customers there will be visiting solely for the crafts on sale. I’m going to be super-organised for that one!