5 Craft Show and Market Season No-Nos
Posted on November 1, 2019
Welcome back to another installment in the Handmade Markets 101 series! While I am by no means a craft fair/market expert, I do have quite a few years of experience selling my finished items at fall and winter markets, and during those events I have learned A LOT about how to optimize everything within my power in order to make it a successful event for my business. There is a lot that goes into the makings of a good market day, even if you’ve done your research and found really great events that are the perfect fit for your business, there are a still a lot of variables out of your control, but here are a few of my top tips on what to avoid if you want to have a great market day!
*note: Bella’s Custom Crochets rebranded as Fiber & Fox in March of 2021. While now my focus is on designing patterns, for a long time I was a finished items/market maven! Hope you find what I learned helpful!
1. An uninviting display: for the most part if you are selling knit or crochet items, unless its something like amigurumi, your items are going to look pretty…flat. Even if you make the most beautiful, trendy hats and scarves, if you just pile them laying down on a table no one will give you a second glace. (you can find more about how I set up my booth- with a video!- here!) Make sure your table/booth has some visual interest! You can get really creative on displaying your pieces, but think about drawing people in with different levels for their eyes to wander over or by displaying your pieces “in action,” like on a mannequin or hat stands.
This year I invested in a bunch of wooden crates that I painted to match my brand colors that I will be stacking up like cubbies on my tables. But your display doesn’t have to be expensive! Get creative! In the past I have used baskets from my home, or cardboard boxes wrapped in pretty paper, just to add some levels to my otherwise flat display. I have my scarves and cowls hanging on a standing garment rack, and I like to feature a selection of my hats on stands (I actually used wooden candle sticks I got second hand!). I’ve seen other makers using pegboards or pallets to hang items off of, or coat tree stands to hang hats! However, you decide to display your wares, just make sure its more visually enticing than a pile of yarniness that no one will want to sort through!
2. Not engaging your customers: Don’t forget, you’re not just selling those cute pom pom hats you made, you are selling YOU and your brand! Sitting behind your table, scrolling through Instagram or awkwardly looking at the floor is no way to make sales! It’s alright to have a chair if its a really long event but for the most part I try to make sure I am standing and looking alert and inviting! And believe me, I am a major introvert, so being “salesy” and sociable doesn’t come naturally to me! Be genuine. You make beautiful stuff that you should be proud of. Stand up tall and act like it! I usually greet everyone with a “feel free to touch and try on anything you’d like” and try and make conversation (and eye contact! with a smile!) from there!
If its an event with a little less foot traffic, having a mindless project to work on in between customers can sometimes help draw people in, because it reminds people “OH, SHE MAKES THIS STUFF!” (just make sure you’re not TOO focused on making that you’re not engaging potential buyers!). It’s also a great idea to wear some of your finished items if you can! (bonus points if you can bring along your handsome husband and cute baby and make them wear your stuff too!) Ultimately, your products and brand will be much more memorable to people if you yourself are memorable. My brand is all about vibrant and fun colorful, modern crochet and my hope is that people walk away from my booth, whether they purchased something or not, remembering my personality as being as vibrant and fun as my finished items are.
3. Unclear signage and branding: It’s super important that people know who you are! Different venues have different “requirements” for displaying your business name, but at the very least you need to have your business name on your table somewhere. That can be a pretty framed sign or a trendy letter board. Better yet, something tall that draws the eye. I have a hand painted bunting-like banner that I hang above my table if the venue allows it. You can also purchase hanging or standing banners from companies like Vistaprint. I also use a printed table runner from Vistaprint that has my logo, business name and website printed on it. And ALWAYS have business cards on the table! Hand those babies out like candy!
Along the same lines, it’s super important that people know what your items cost. No one likes walking into a store where nothing has a price tag. You can either individually tag each of your items with your prices, or you can have some sort of signage that clearly displays your pricing. I tend to do a combination of both. I have one master list of prices printed and framed, but I also have smaller chalkboard blocks and mini chalkboards on clothespins that I will write prices on and place alongside the corresponding items (just to avoid questions like “which one is the There & Back Again Cowl?”). Certain unique items that I may not have a sign written up for I will attach a card stock tag with the item name, price and stamped with my logo. Just make sure people can easily find your prices without having to dig through a pile or ask you to explain them!
4. Incorrectly priced items: On the topic of pricing, make sure your prices are high enough that you are actually making a profit! KNOW YOUR WORTH! There are a lot of craft pricing models out there, but the one I generally adhere to is this:
(materials)+(hourly wage)+(expenses)X 1.3= Wholesale price. Wholesale X 1.5 = Retail price.
I will post in greater detail about pricing models and why this one works for me at another time, but just make sure that you are using one that works for you! For now, Pam of Crochetpreneur and Chantal of Knititude have some really great info on pricing for your worth and profit advise to offer!
Just remember, you absolutely deserve to be making money on your hard work. There is no reason to be doing events otherwise! It’s not fair to you to not be making money. It’s not fair to other makers if your prices are undercutting theirs. It’s not fair to your loved ones who have given up a day with you for you to be able to be at an event. It’s not fair to the maker community as a whole if you are representing handmade items as cheap. There may be people who don’t agree with your pricing and walk away empty handed, there may even be bold ones who will argue with you that they could “buy that hat at Target for $8,” just remember your worth and stick to it. Don’t cheapen yourself or your brand to appeal to everyone. Your target audience, the people you make for, will respect and understand your pricing and will be happy to see you paid for your hard work! Let me say it louder, one more time for the people in the back YOUR ART IS WORTH A PROFITABLE PRICE TAG! You are worth it! Know that worth and never forget it, my friends!
5. Talking about customers or the event negatively: Even if there are those argumentative customers (it doesn’t happen often, but they are out there!) or if the even doesn’t turn out as you hoped- maybe weather interfered or perhaps the event wasn’t exactly as well attended as it had been in years prior- don’t be caught talking bad about any one, be it customers or anyone involved with the event! This includes at the event and on social media! Everyone has bad days. Even the best events have variables that you and all the people in charge really have no control over. Represent yourself and your business well. Even if someone was rude to you, or if it turned out the event was poorly organized, don’t let your business be one that is remembered as being negative. Your customers are watching. (And you never know who knows who, and what will get back to someone you didn’t want it to!) And even on the worst day at your worst event, always consider the connections you might be making with other makers or future events. Make the very best of every craft fair/market your business attends and always act professionally. Now I am not saying that I won’t be complaining to my husband on the car ride home, or my group of maker friends (here’s looking at you, Nutmeg Collective), but when you’re on the job, act like a pro!
Now that you have my top no-nos, make sure to check out the other handmade market tips I’ve been dishing out. For more regarding selling your crochet and knit items at craft fairs and handmade markets, check out my Handmade Markets 101 series on the blog! I talk how to find the perfect shows to sell at, things to consider before applying to a market, more tips on setting up your display to be tip top, BIG no- no’s to avoid , and must haves for every craft show or handmade market! Oh, and if you’re a market hat maker like me, you might want to check out how I make my own faux fur pom poms and save alllllll the $$$! And if you’re into saving money, this post on how to get all your yarn + supplies for cheap might be helpful too! And you can also find videos on how I set up my booth for an outdoor tent space, and indoor table space, and a tinnnyy indoor space on my YouTube Channel!
And I’d love to hear some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way! Did I miss any big things everyone should avoid? Drop me a comment! Happy making and marketing, my friends!