So you want to start selling at craft shows or you have been on the craft show scene but haven’t had much success? The world of vendor shows can be a tricky one. Most creatives believe that they can pick a show, set-up a beautiful display and sell. That is not the case.
It is important to understand that there are some specific steps that you should take to increase your success potential. With that being said, not every event you will attend will be a whopping success. Even the seasoned vendors have shows that are complete flops. I have been a vendor at various craft shows since 2013 and boy did I learn a lot. As a shopper, I thought that becoming a seller would be a piece of cake. NOPE! I did no research. I asked no questions. I just paid the booth fee and had grand ideas of all the money I would make.
I want to help you learn from my mistakes. You are going to spend a great deal of money purchasing the supplies you need to create your craft not to mention your time and effort. Making a profit is everyone’s dream. In this post, you will read about what I have learned from the crafting circuit and have some insight and understanding of how to increase your chances of success.
First Things First. Create A Budget.
- What are you willing to pay for the booth space?
- How far are you willing to travel for a show?
- Don’t forget to budget for gas, food and hotel (if needed).
- Will you need to rent a van, UHaul or trailer?
- Cost of your supplies, inventory, etc.
- How much will your display cost? What do you need to purchase?
Once you have these questions answered for yourself, the research begins.
Search for Shows On-line
One of the most difficult aspects of becoming a craft vendor is finding the shows you want to sell at. Where do you begin?
- Search fairsandfestivals.net and festivalnet.com. You can search by state and radius from where you live.
- Facebook. Search for “craft show”, “expos”, “vendor shows”, “arts and crafts shows”, “trade shows” and add your state, county or town along with the search. Join these groups.
The Best Way
Attend the craft shows you want to attend before becoming a vendor.
- Look at the number of vendors present.
- What type of vendors are there?
- Mostly direct sales.
- Only crafters.
- Mix between direct sales and crafters.
- Is the location easily found and/or in a well traveled area?
- Pay attention to the foot traffic. Is it well attended or only the vendors buying from each other?
- How many vendors are selling the same or similar items?
- Are there 10 vendors selling jewelry?
- Are there multiple vendors selling the same items you want to sell?
- Chat with the vendors. They are your best resource and have the scoop on what shows to attend and what shows to avoid. Ask them:
- How many years have you been a vendor at this show?
- How are your sales?
- Would you recommend this show to other vendors?
- What other shows do you sell at?
- Was the event advertised well and how?
Search Out The Organizer of the Event
It is ok to “interview” the person or persons organizing the show. Even though you will be the one selling, you need to look at the organizer as your employee. The planner of the event is responsible for the advertising and having a smooth running show. Here are some important “interview” questions to ask.
- How many years has the event been happening?
- I avoid shows 3 years or younger.
- What are the fees?
- Booth rental
- Does the organizer expect a percentage of your sales?
- Do you need to provide a silent auction or raffle item?
- What is provided in the booth fee?
- What booth sizes are available?
- What advertising do you do?
- Social media
- If the show is outdoors, is there a back-up plan in the event of bad weather?
- Do vendors need a tent or canopy?
- Does the canopy need to be a specific color?
- Are weights mandatory?
- Can the canopies have sides attached?
- Is it a juried show?
- This means that there is a committee that you either need to send photos of your items or present your items in person. This committee will determine whether you can be a vendor at the show.
- I like juried events.
- What are the dates and times of event?
- Take down
- Do you have an average number of shoppers? If the event has been going on for several years, the organizer should be able to provide you with a ballpark number.
- Is there a discount for early registration and what is the cut off date?
The hardest part of selling at a craft show is the display. You may not think that it matters, but it does. You goal is to bring shoppers in and make it a great shopping experience. When you are attending a craft show as a shopper, pay attention to the following:
- Which booth is getting the most traffic?
- What is the layout of the booth?
- What booth(s) stand out to you?
After you have seen the various booths and made mental notes there is even more you can do to make your booth special.
- Go to Pinterest of course. You will find awesome ideas.
- Practice, practice, practice your display.
- Try different set-ups. Pinterest has some awesome layout designs.
- For each practice set-up, take pictures at various angles and look at them later. You will be able to see what the shopper will see and decide which layout you like best.
- Share the photos in Facebook groups and with your friends for their input and suggestions.
- Practice different lighting if your show will have evening hours. Shoppers can buy what they don’t see.
- Make sure you have good signage.
- Banner with you business name, website, contact info and social media.
- Business cards. I use Vistaprint.
- Price tags.
- Sign with payment types accepted. Paypal, credit cards, etc.
- If you do custom orders, have a sign letting shoppers know.
- “No Pictures Please”. This one may sound weird but I have found that people take photos to either show someone and ask them to make one or for their own personal use.
- Have an email sign up form. Even if the shopper doesn’t buy, you will have their email for newsletters and specials.
This is a hard one. Everyone wants to know how much inventory they should take. My philosophy is have too much is better than not enough.
- When you visit the show first, like we discussed earlier, look at the amount of inventory that the vendors have.
- If possible, make several of the same or similar products. You can display a few at a time and then refill the inventory as items sell.
- Take photos of individual items and place them in a photo album or on your IPad or laptop. You can create a slideshow that runs continually. This will let shoppers see your products and is a great way to obtain custom orders.
What To Do At Your Show
- Make friends with the vendors next to you.
- This is beneficial in case you need to go to the restroom. They will watch your booth for you.
- Talk with other vendors and pick their brains.
- They are your best resources to find other shows in the area and which ones to avoid.
- Walk around the show and pass out your business cards.
- I can’t tell you how many sales I have made to other vendors during the show.
- Engage the shoppers in your booth.
- Say “hello”.
- Ask if you can answer any questions.
- Compliment them on something they are wearing. This breaks the ice and starts the conversation.
- Let them know you do custom orders and direct them to your photo album or slideshow.
- Inform them of any specials or discounts.
- Ask them to sign up for your email list.
- If a shopper looks interested in a product, offer to hold it for them while they shop the show (get payment first).
- Always offer them your business card.
What Not To Do
- Continue to read your book, talk on the phone or be on social media when a shopper enters your booth.
- Look bored.
- Tell the shoppers that business has been slow.
- Pack up before the show is over.
- Many events will not allow you back the next year if you leave early.
Craft shows are a great way to get your name and your products in front of people. You can make great contacts sell your items in a large arena. Even if you follow these suggestions, there will be some shows that just aren’t successful. This happens to all of us. Don’t get discouraged, continually learn and keep going.