If you are a handmade crafter, selling your products at craft shows can be a great way to earn money and get instant feedback. Customer feedback is a vital part of running a successful handmade business, and there is honestly not a better way to get feedback than by talking to customers in person.
For those of you who don't know, Beth Anne and I got started in business initially by selling handmade jewelry with other family members. After several years we decided to go in a different direction, but ultimately the experiences we gained running that handmade business have been invaluable for us in our other endeavors. With the handmade jewelry business we attended several craft shows each year, so these tips are derived from my personal experience. Picking the perfect craft show to sell your goods is important because craft shows cost money, and they take a lot of time. And time and money are obviously things you don't want to waste. So follow my tips to picking the perfect craft fair for selling your handmade artisan wares!
#1 Start Visiting Craft Shows Now!
The best way to discover if a craft show is a good fit for you, is to visit it before you apply. Scope out the fair for attendance, type of customer, type of vendors, table setups, and more. Vendors are a friendly bunch, so talk with them about their success at this particular event, and other venues they regularly sell at. Also keep in mind that applications for fall craft shows are often due in the spring, so get your name on the application mailing list early.
#2 Consider the Audience of the Craft Show
Does the demographic of the craft show attendees fit well with your product? If you have a hip product geared for 20 somethings and the average age of attendees is 75, take that into consideration. In addition, are the other vendors selling outdated crafts, or would your product fit in nicely with the selection offered? Also consider the neighborhood in which the craft show is located. A craft show in an area with more disposable income will probably result in attendees willing to spend more money, which is always a good thing!
It may help you to think in terms of what you will need to sell to break even. If a show costs $80 per table, and your product costs $8 each, you will need to sell 10 items to break even. Also keep in mind that the cost of a show is more than just the booth fee. There will be costs involved in making a pleasing display as well as cost of goods sold.
#4 Bigger is not Always Better
We once participated in a show (without attending first!) where the tables were so close together, the aisles were cramped, there were two buildings to get through, all of which did not make for a pleasant shopping environment for patrons. In addition, if you saw something early in the day, it would have been next to impossible to get back to their booth later in the day to make a purchase. Although this event was well attended, our sales did not reflect that. In this particular case, the big show was not better. On the other hand, we sold at a very large outdoor show each year that had a very pleasant shopping environment with wide aisles and easy access. This show was consistently our best each year.
#5 Consider Outdoor vs. Indoor
There is something about an outdoor craft event which is just so nice and makes for pleasant shopping. The outdoor event we sold at each year was consistently our best show, except for the one year we had bad weather. Weather can be a major draw back for outdoor shows, in addition, the cost to set up an outdoor booth is often greater than an indoor booth. An outdoor booth requires a tent, tables, chairs, and extra provisions, while at an indoor event the tables and chairs are often provided, and tent is not needed. It certainly takes more effort to set up an outdoor booth, but the atmosphere for an outdoor show can be really nice.
#6 Consider Amenities
The main amenity to consider here is electricity. If you rely on electricity for your display or product, be sure to look into availability early. Many venues have limited electricity or they charge extra for electricity.
#7 Only Handmade?
A craft and “vendor” show is going to have more than just handmade crafts. A wide variety of businesses will be present. Most likely you will have the most success at a show that only features handcrafted items.
#8 Is it Juried?
A juried show requires you to submit photos with your application. High quality craft shows are most often juried. If a craft show is willing to accept anyone, the quality of combined crafters will be lower.
#9 Is it Online?
I mention this one with a caveat, most of the shows we attended were well established local events that did not necessarily have an online presence, and we did very well at these shoes. But obviously everything being online is the way of the world, so especially if your item is geared to a young crowd, then I think a craft show with an online presence would be important.
#10 Mix it up
Even after finding the perfect craft show to sell your products, you may still need to mix it up a bit. We found that year after year the same people attend the same craft shows. So if they bought from you last year, they may not need to buy more, even if they loved their purchase. Market saturation can occur with your products, and therefore sales will decrease a little each year. Attending different craft shows in different areas will help.
Hopefully by following these 10 tips, you will find a fantastic craft show to sell your handmade items and make a killing! Craft shows are a time-intensive endeavor, so you want to choose carefully.
Do you have any more tips for selecting a craft show?