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Tips for a Successful Craft Show Season

This is the season that I look forward to each year! I enjoy the relationships I have built over the years within the craft show community and getting to see everyone. I love my customers! Meeting new people and visiting with each customer who visits my booth is rewarding especially when helping them pick out just the right item. Now, don’t get me wrong here- craft shows are a TON of work and are not for everyone. I’ve been going to craft shows for almost 10 years and have learned a few things that have helped me to have great shows year after year. In this blog, I share my top five tips to have a successful craft show season.

1.  Find the right show-Not all craft shows are the same!

Every craft show has a target audience. Some shows feature antiques and vintage items. Other shows feature multilevel marketing (MLM) items such as candle, jewelry, makeup, and essential oils. As a crafter of handmade items, I look for craft shows that feature handmade items from artisans, have been in existence a while, have great promotion and are well organized. Keep in mind, the perceived value of your product is equal to the vendors around you.  Many craft shows are juried, meaning that you must apply and go through an approval or judging process to be accepted.

Look for shows that are established and have been in existence for a while because these shows are usually well promoted and well attended. As a result, you will have a more successful show. If you are like me and sell handmade items with a large booth display, a two-day Fall or Christmas craft fair may be more successful than a Wine Tasting event downtown or the local farmer’s market every third Saturday. I consider my work to event ratio…how long it takes me to prepare inventory, set up my booth and take down my booth compared to the length of the show and projected sales/profit.  It isn’t wise to spend six hours setting up for a two to four hour show if you don’t anticipate an acceptable profit margin.

2. Create an inviting booth- Your booth will be one booth in a sea of many….how will you stand out?

Create an inviting space by displaying your items so that customers can see what you are selling.  Have enough items to make your booth look full and intriguing enough to stop customers in their path and pull them over to see more!  Your booth set up may be different if you are indoors versus outdoors. Know the requirements of the venue. Some shows require a tent and some venues only allow white tents!  If you purchase a tent, consider getting one with walls.  You and your customers will appreciate the walls on windy and rainy days!  Will a table be provided by the venue or will you need your own? Are there requirements for table coverings?  A long table covering that goes all the way to the ground on all sides looks professional and provides a place to hide your supplies during the show.

Reserve a booth space big enough to accommodate your needs.  Most shows configure the booth spaces very close together and you may only have one exterior wall space and your inner space to create your display and flow in your booth.  Fire codes are very strict and you will not be allowed to go beyond your designated space.  Get a double booth if you need it!

3. Be prepared- You won’t regret it!

Make a list and check it twice before you leave home!  I have several show check lists to help me remember all the things I need to take for set up, taking payments, taking care of myself (think hotel, clothes, pajamas, etc.), display items, inventory, and emergency items.  To create your list, you may want to practice setting up your booth in advance of the show and then write down EVERYTHING you needed to set it up.  Don’t forget frequently overlooked items like sunscreen, bug spray, ant spray (you never know when your booth will be over an ant bed at an outdoor show!), and take plenty of water and snacks.  You may be too busy to break away for a full meal.

Find out if the show will have Wi-Fi or cell phone signal for your carrier and plan accordingly so that you can take payments with your card reader or phone.  Bring cash so that you can make change.  I recommend bringing at least a hundred dollars in small bills.

Will you need help at the show?  Get a helper committed in advance and have a back up in case someone gets sick. My hubby has come to my rescue several times!

4. Know your sales strategy- Actively engage

One of the most valuable tips I can share here is to be actively engaged during your show! Avoid sitting in the back of your booth, looking at your phone or reading a book.  Do not lose a sale because customers don’t want to disturb or interrupt you.  Instead, try staying active by rearranging your inventory and engaging with customers when they approach your booth. I have a rule that all customers receive a greeting and offer of assistance.  Then I give them space to browse.  Watch customer patterns and you will see they will gravitate back to an item that drew their attention the most.  That is when you can offer to take it off the display and let them see it up close.  I have found that most of the time, your customer will purchase the item and you won’t have to return it to your display.

Create a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Offer to keep your customer’s purchase for them while they shop- then put a sold tag on the items and watch how many customers will ask if it is available!  Be ready to redirect them to a similar item to capture a sale!

Frequently move items around. Customers who didn’t purchase an item often return to your booth later in hopes of getting that item.  By moving items around, you can create a sense of that they might have missed out and if the item is still available, they will often commit to a purchase. I frequently have to tell customers that the item they wanted sold and guess what?  The next show, they come to my booth first and so they don’t miss out!  I now have repeat customers who place a “pre-order” ahead of the show to ensure they get a beautiful new wreath each season! 🙂

Hand out business cards and collect emails so that your customers have a way to contact you for their next purchase and you have a way to keep in touch with them after the show.

5. Evaluate your success- Don’t forget to analyze 

After the show, you will have time to look over your sales and inventory.  Look for trends in what sold well and what didn’t.  I love the reports feature on my Square App.  These reports show my sales broken down into average sale, sale by hour, and if you categorize your inventory when you set up your items (inventory) list- you will get a report on each category.  I set up my items by seasons and by type of design.  For example: Fall Wreath, Fall Swag, Fall Bow, Christmas Wreath, etc.  This helps me see trends in sales and plan my inventory for the next show.  You will be amazed at how the trends can vary from venue to venue and season to season.  My hottest trend right now is anything made as a swag!

My last tip is to remind you to be sure and follow up on any post-show taxes and fees due.  You should get tax information in your show packet from the show producer.  If you don’t, be sure to ask about what taxes are expected.  The responsibility rests on you to ensure you know the requirements and meet the deadlines.  If your show was successful and you would like to return, ask if you can go ahead and reserve your spot for the next show.  Many shows encourage vendors to pre-book for the next show by offering a guarantee of your same booth location and accepting payment while you are there.

Good Luck!  

For an extroverted creative such as myself, craft shows are very rewarding and a way to meet my customers and form lasting friendships! Having the opportunity to engage with everyone from the show producers to fellow venders to all the customers is exciting and I look forward to each show.  I have shared my top five tips for a successful craft show season.  Follow these tips to help guide your show adventures and let me know how you do!  I’d love to hear all about your adventures in the comments or in my social media!

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