When I was young one of the highlights of the year was an annual fair held in the local church hall. My parents were involved in organising the event, and for months before we would be making things to sell. Knitting egg cosies and hot water bottle covers; decorating jars for baths salts; padding coat hangers; and nearer the actual day, baking. I remember the joy of seeing someone buying something that I had help make.
With this in mind I love buying from a small maker because I know that my purchase will make them happy.
If you are looking to buy gifts try to find time to go to a Christmas Fair and buy something from a local crafts person. If you aren’t able to physically go to a Fair there are virtual fairs you can join in. Now I have to admit, I don’t understand how these work – so I am hoping Gemma is going to add a bit below to explain to us how they work!
Remember when you buy from a small business you make somebody really happy!
Gemma (Concrete Gems) says:
There are lots of online craft events happening this year. The ones I am involved in are on Facebook and Instagram, but I imagine other social media channels also run them.
On Facebook, an event or group is created and images of products are uploaded with details of prices, sizes etc. On the day of the event, often a password is provided and you would use that password to comment on the item you would like to buy. The seller then contacts you to arrange payment and delivery, which can be through their website, PayPal, etc.
Instagram works in a similar way, except the items are just added as images to the business feed.
Last weekend I had a stall at my first ever craft fair and it was certainly a fantastic learning experience! I didn’t sell as much as I’d wanted to and only really sold to friends and family, which is definitely not the way to have a profitable business, but hey ho it is still early days.
The above picture is my stall table. I think it looks quite good but it definitely couldn’t have had anything else on it. I actually requested a smaller table, not realising quite how much stock I had and how big some of the pieces are. Luckily they were able to squeeze in a bigger table for me, but I did feel a bit silly and guilty for messing them around. So I’d really recommend doing a full mock up of your table before you go if you can. I only mocked up a few items at home beforehand but that obviously wasn’t enough.
It took a lot longer than I thought it would to set up my display. I had a lot of stock as I didn’t want to risk running out, so it took quite a few trips from the car to bring everything in and then I had to unpack it all and figure out how to display it best. I moved things about quite a lot and rearranged it as the afternoon went on. This is definitely one of those things that gets quicker with practice and experience.
My biggest light bulb moment though was that it is so important to present your items to the right demographic. The fair I attended was in a church, where the majority of footfall were the elderly population, who were buying things like cross stitched Christmas cards, mini paper Christmas trees and stained glass decorations, all of which were at the lower end of the price scale and were quite traditional in design. It seemed like a lot of people weren’t even there to buy anything, except many some tea and cake! My products are definitely more on the modern and on trend size of things, which is in opposition to the majority of customers.
Now I did have items on my stall which fitted a range of price points, but I think that my ideal customer just wasn’t there. So many people complimented my products, which suggests that they are aesthetically pleasing, but obviously they didn’t like them enough to actually pay money for them! My ideal customer is in the 25 to 45 age bracket, mostly female, with disposable income and a liking for unique, modern trends, and that is not who came to visit my stall!
Another factor in this was that there just were not that many people attending and there were not that many craft stalls either, which wouldn’t have helped bring in customers. So I now know that I certainly need to consider who might be attending a fair before I decide whether to have a stall there or not! If I want to make a profitable business, then I need to be a bit savvy in this respect, otherwise it is just a waste of time.
However, in spite of this, I think this was a really beneficial experience as a first attempt. It made me consider how to set up as stall, what stock and equipment I’d need and how to behave whilst there, so now I feel much more prepared to tackle a bigger fair in the future!
Having a stall at a craft fair would initially seem to be fairly straight forward when you are already selling online, but think again! There are so many additional things that need to be considered, which I am just starting to find out. I jumped at the chance to have a stall at a local craft fair, thinking it would be an easy way to get some local exposure and see how my products fared (excuse the pun), before deciding whether to tackle a larger fair.
However, now that I’ve started thinking about it more seriously, I’ve realised how much there is to organise. So here is my list, from one beginner to another, of what you need to prepare in advance of having a stall at your first craft fair (bear in mind that this is my first time too, so there may be some glaring errors here):
My first thoughts were that I’d just take along the things that I already had – one, or maybe two, of each item – and that would be plenty. But what if you sell that item and someone else might be wanting the same thing? Or what if all your cheaper items sell really quickly, you’d be regretting not having more stock. What I’m saying is, take more products than will fit on your display, so that you can stock up if items sell out (which is what you want of course). And take a variety of different items, different colours, sizes, styles, in the hope that your customer will find at least one thing they like!
Firstly, think about the pricing of your items. You might sell them online already, but this is not necessarily the price that you want to sell them for at a craft fair. The price you charge online may include listing fees, transaction fees, postage and packaging, which will not be applicable at a craft fair. However, you will want to factor in the cost of the stall and any other equipment you had to buy for the fair into your new price. So whilst it is more work, start your costing anew for fair items to ensure they are at a price that is competitive and reasonable.
Secondly, people tend to not want to spend hundreds of pounds at a craft fair, so having more lower priced items is probably a good idea. Take the high end pieces as well, but maybe be prepared to get a commission or that the person may want to order it at a later date, once they have thought it through or got the funds together. To this end, make sure you take plenty of business cards with you, so customers know how to get in touch easily!
Also, one thing that I think is really important is to put price labels on your products. This is especially so in the UK, where people do not like to ask questions about prices, and would often be put off buying a product if there is no price displayed. These can be bought very cheaply, such as 100 Quality White Strung Tags
This is the one I am panicking about most. How do I present my products in an artistic, attractive way to entice customers to come closer and buy my products. Actually though, I don’t think it needs to be such a big deal. When you strip it back, the products are the most important thing, so just make sure these can be seen from a couple of metres away and let them do the talking! That said, you still need to think about things like a tablecloth, stands to put things on, boxes or containers to put smaller things in, colour schemes, etc. Think especially about items that normally hang on the wall or items of clothing and how best to display these so customers can see what they are looking at clearly from a little way away.
The fair I am going to is providing those metal tables with the fold out legs, which are not the most attractive, so I’m planning on covering mine with a cloth. I also want to have rows of items with the ones at the back elevated so that they can be seen. Some ideas for this are pedestals, blocks of wood, book stands, mini steps, or plastic stands which are available from Amazon per the picture link below. Or you could improvise with objects found around your house or garden. Be creative, but don’t draw the attention away from the products you are trying to sell.
You need to be approachable, friendly and helpful, but not overbearing or annoying. So many craft stallholders I have come across have started up a conversation and kept me hostage as it were, when I was just browsing, and it really put me off wanting to buy anything. On the other hand, you want to be ready to jump in if a customer shows interest in a particular piece or looks like they have a question, so that they feel at ease with you, and not like they are disturbing you. You might have brought some work to do behind the stall, but try not to be too absorbed in it either, so that the customer sees that you are approachable. Answer questions directly without skirting round the issue or waffling on. And most importantly, the customer is always right, so smile and nod, even if you don’t believe a word they say!!
To allow you to be the best ‘you’ you can be, there are certain provisions that I will recommend. Make sure there will be somewhere to sit or take a chair. Tired, aching feet can make me very grumpy! Take water and snacks to keep you going and also I would recommend taking a friend (at least for a bit of the time), unless you have a very strong bladder!
Point of Sale
So, you’ve done all the hard work and you have a customer who wants to buy something! Hooray!! Just don’t blow it at the last moment! I think it is really important that the purchase stage runs smoothly, so make sure you are organised for this. Have all your packaging ready to go and neatly stacked so you can quickly grab the correct sized box or bag. Although you want to be quick, don’t rush and compromise on quality. You still want your product to look beautiful once it is packaged up. For all my online orders, I wrap them in tissue paper before safely boxing them up for postage, but I’m not sure if gift wrapping would be too much at a craft fair. People don’t want to be waiting around for ages. That said, you could offer it as an option.
For the payment, this depends on the type of fair. For me, I am only going to accept cash this time, but at a bigger fair, it would be prudent to investigate card or phone payment options. As I’m going to be cash only, however, I need to make sure I have plenty of change. There’s nothing worse than not being able to complete a sale because you don’t have the right change, or you have to run over to your neighbour stallholder to beg for change.
That’s all for now. I’ll post again after the fair and let you all know how I got on!!