Craft Shows Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Fairs
Bean, Lily and the Beantown crew just returned from a whirlwind road trip out to Portland where we attended Crafty Wonderland, a large indie craft fair at the Oregon Convention Center. The show worked out to fall perfectly within our vacation timeline and we have friends we’d been dying to visit in the Portland area so we piled into the car and took a 12 day road trip that included visits to Spiral Jetty in Utah, state parks in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and a day in Yellowstone. It was an amazing trip and we had a blast. The craft show was a great way to make it a working vacation and earn a little money for the return trip. Crafty Wonderland was our first large indoor fair and I learned a lot. I thought I’d share some tips for first timers to either indoor or outdoor fairs.
Include your company logo on a sign somewhere at your booth. Whether it’s a large banner or just a small sign, you want to give your potential customers a visual they will remember. Hang tags on all your products are another great way carry branding throughout your booth and to provide customers with valuable information about your pieces. I use our hang tags to include sizing and pricing information. I created lots of small signs with images of Bean in our products to help customers visualize the way they look in action. Most of our signs were destroyed after our last outdoor fair when it rained, so I invested in laminating everything so we could use them again and again. I did not include pricing information on the laminated signs so that if prices change (we include sales tax so when we go to different states it often does) we can still always use our signs.
I brought WAY more inventory than I needed out to Portland, but when people wanted something in a different size I always had it on hand. That’s money in my pocket I wouldn’t have had otherwise and more of my product out in the world. Many people are not comfortable placing orders at shows and waiting several weeks for a product to be shipped to them. A lot of folks come to shows expecting to purchase on the spot, and will expect to have multiple sizes or colors available to them. I put one of everything out on the table and keep multiples and alternate sizes and colors in tupperware under the table skirt.
Get Creative with Your Display
My favorite part of attending indie craft fairs is checking out the amazing booth designs. I have seen people use cake plates, wooden milk crates, old suitcases, cupcake tiers, candy dishes, vintage mirrors, cigar boxes, shoe cubbies and granny rugs in some really creative (and low budget) presentations. Booth design is all about creating a cohesive look that represents your brand. Spray painting things all one color was our method of choice for tying together things we’ve built with thrift store finds. I created my own Boston Terrier mannequin to bring our hats to life and displayed it high on our table to draw attention to our booth. Height is your friend, especially if you are working with just one 6′ table. Banners, bunting and tiers will catch the eye of passers by. Not handy with power tools? Pegboard or chicken wire in vintage frames is an easy project to start with, and is a great way to display jewelry or other small items.
Too much or too little attention to customers
My face always hurts from smiling too much after shows. I do make an effort to be cheerful and greet customers, but then I retreat a bit for them to look around. Think about the last time you walked into a store at a shopping mall and gauge your customer response accordingly. As someone who used to work retail at a mall I know it’s not fun for the greeter or the customer to hear a bunch of sales and gimmicks rattled off. When I’m able I don’t eat in front of customers or text. I let them know I’m there if they need me, and if I notice a lot of interest in a particular item I might answer some commonly asked questions. I love hearing about pets and if you want to show me a picture of your dog on your phone at a show, bring them on.
If you have done a craft show, you know there are certain things that get asked or comment made again and again. In my case it’s usually, “oh Buster would never let me put that on him”, “squeel, so cute but Tina would eat that in a minute” or “your dog is going to kill you in your sleep”. I do tire of telling people that my dog could care less because I’ve spent hundreds of hours training him and earning his trust, but I find that putting out a photo of me photographing Bean and giving him liver snacks usually does the trick. Other common questions – what materials are used? how do I size my pet? do you do custom work? I now put out information about our fibers including a color chart, I put together a sizing diagram and custom order forms as well. Every show we attend I learn more and more and write notes while things are fresh in my head. Do you wholesale? Put out information about it. I bring packets with information for potential wholesalers. Better yet, contact shops ahead of time to let them know you’ll be in their area. There will always be things you didn’t anticipate. For example, I never thought I would need a sign that said, “please don’t put your dogs on the table”.
Braving the Elements
If you are doing an outside show you will want to prepare for the worst. We did a load in once in a freak downpour and I was wearing canvas shoes. All my signs and table cloths got soaked, and I had wet feet the entire day. Aside from laminating signage, bringing cinder blocks or tent weights is a must for outdoor shows. Large sheets of plastic to line the walls of your tent are helpful just in case. You may want to bring clips or pins to raise the hem of your tablecloths off the ground in case of bad weather. Muddy, rain soaked tables don’t look so hot. Weigh down your displays with tiny sandbags or bags of beans if they aren’t already heavy. You can find tents online for $125-200. We purchased a 10′ white EZ Up tent and it has worked well for us.
Accepting Credit Cards
We do a lot of credit card sales at shows. Accepting credit cards makes things easy for the buyer and encourages larger purchases. You can purchase a knuckle buster that will imprint cards through Mr. Imprinter
or a similar service online. Make sure they come with imprinter slips! You will need to get tour customer’s card number, name, exp date, and ask for their zip code to process through most online terminals. We process cards using ProPay, and they offer a discount for Etsy sellers. You will need to use a imprinter to record card information, then enter information into the computer after the show. The bummer with this method is when cards are rejected and your items are long gone. Crafty Wonderland provided sellers with card swipes that connect to your smart phone. Sellers could sign on the phone and receive their receipt via email. It was magic! You can find a variety of electronic card readers online, and if you do a lot of shows they will probably be worth the investment.
I’d love for experienced craft show vendors to share any tips you might have as well. Next week I’ll post a great big craft show checklist. Don’t forget your breath mints!
Looking for more art and craft show tips? Click HERE.