Here are some lessons I learned from my first craft show. I had many fears going into my first craft show… Would people buy my items? What if a part of my display gets broken? (This actually happened to me, be sure to bring super glue!) How do I talk to customers? How do I take payments? Here are a few things I learned along the way…
Do’s:Plan and Do a Little Research. Get ideas for craft show set ups. Pinterest has lots of images to get ideas from. Catshy Crafts blog has great ideas and links to help with your first craft show. Since I hadn’t been to a craft show in years, this really helped me.
Prepare using items from around your house. I didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of money on my table set up so I used items I already had around my home. I gathered photo frames and baskets from around my house to use for the day. One item I did purchase was a clearance priced white sheet set, which I would use as my table cloth. My table was 6 feet so the bed sheet worked well to cover the table. I safety pinned the pillow cases to the side ends of the table so the table sides were fully covered. I made sure to hide all the safety pins so the table would look clean and neat and not look pinned together. With the side edges of my table covered, I could pile my containers under the table and no one would be able to see the clutter of my packing containers.
Taking Payments. I looked into taking credit card payments and came across ‘The Square’. I highly recommend getting this tiny credit card reader (swiper) that plugs in to your phone or ipad. It takes a little while to get your reader in the mail, so make sure you give yourself enough time to receive it, set it up and customize your items on the application. It costs 2.75% per swipe, but no set up or monthly fees. Giving your customers the option of paying by credit card gives your shop/table a more professional look. Plus, many people don’t carry cash with them even to craft shows, believe it or not. So giving them the option of credit card payments can increase your chance for sales.
As for cash, keep a variety of bills and coins on hand to make your change. To keep it easy, make sure to round all your items prices to the nearest dollar. Example – don’t use $1.25 use either $1 or $2, unless you want to make change using coins, which is a huge hassle.
‘Square’ does offer the option of having a receipt emailed or sent as a text message for a credit card and cash sale transaction. But in case someone insisted in having a paper receipt, I purchased a carbon receipt book from the dollar store.
Decide if you are willing to take cheques from people. I personally decided against taking personal cheques as a payment unless I know the person. (But this might just be me being over cautious, since I used to work in a bank).
Make Product Inventory. Make sure to have lots of inventory made and displayed. I found the tables that were successful had lots of products organized on their tables. Make it look plentiful and like a mini store.
Make sure to have different price points. This is one thing I need to improve on. I received some advice from another vendor at the craft show and they told me that I should try to have a variety of different price points. Sometimes only low priced items will sell (eg. $1), depending on the buying crowd at the show and this might be how you cover your table fee.
Display Your Business Cards. Whether you make your own business cards or have them made, you should display them and have them available for potential customers to take home. I purchased my business cards from Vistaprint.ca. For a box of 250 business cards it cost me $26.74 (approx. $0.11/card) including shipping. Vistaprint has frequent sales, so keep your eye out and you might be able to save a little money if you can wait to receive your business cards. Another great source for business cards is Moo.com, a little more pricey but lovely designs.
Manage Your Time. Try to start preparing for your show early. I started preparing for my show right after my application was accepted in October. Start getting ideas and gathering display items early.
Don’t wait until the night before the show to start planning your table set up. Allow yourself some time to play around with table set ups and different signage options, especially if this is your first show. Take pictures of your practice set up with your phone so you can see at a glance how things were placed in your set up at home. That way, you can replicate your practice display at the craft show easier.
Be sure to plan your driving route to the show and give yourself enough time to arrive early.
Be Organized. I can’t stress this enough. Make ‘To Do’ lists of all the things you need to do before the craft show and make another list of all the things you need to do/bring the day of the craft show.
Give Yourself Enough Set Up Time. If your event allows it, try to set up the night before the show. You never know what could happen the morning of the show (for me it was freezing rain and icy roads) and having your table already set up for the day makes things a little less stressful. Give yourself lots of time to pack your vehicle. Since I used baskets to hold many of my items, luckily many of my baskets were able to be stacked inside each other to cut down on trips to the truck when I was hauling things in to the show.
Plenty of Signs and Price Tags. Not many people want to ask vendors for a price on an item. Make sure you have all your items clearly priced by placing price tags on the front of all your items. Some people don’t want to pick up items and flip them over to find prices. They will simply move on to the next table. This is one of my fatal flaws. I placed the prices on the back of my tags or back of the items. Although I had a price list on display, many people did not read it. But I still recommend having one, as it helps some people understand what the items are for sale.
Say ‘Hello’. Simple isn’t it? Not really, if you are shy like me. But I put on my big girl panties and tried to say ‘Hi’ to everyone who stopped at my table. I found from observing other tables and trying it out on my own, that if you try to initiate a conversation, most people will get scared away. Say ‘Hi’, but wait for the customer to ask a question or further the conversation or they might get frightened and leave your table. Some people want to look at your items and not be bothered, but saying ‘Hi’ lets them know you acknowledge their presence and you are open to answering questions. Don’t forget to smile!
Things I’d like To Do Next Time:Find Out About the Show. Many things contributed to how my first show turned out. Some things were out of my control, like the weather. We had a freezing rain warning in effect the whole day, which drastically dropped the expected attendance. After the show, the parking lot and roads were crazy slippery. The ice in the parking lot made taking my set up to the truck at the end of the sale a very slow process.
This show was also scheduled the day after ‘Black Friday’. So there was was a ton of competition from retail stores and internet shopping.
The people at the show were not my target market. I found it to be an older crowd. I also had lots of competition from non-handmade shops. Lots of tables were filled up direct marketing companies like Tupperware, PartyLite and Scentsy. Next time, I hope to find out more about the potential craft show and if it draws in my target market or not.
Incorporate Lighting. I was not near any electrical plug-ins for this show so I didn’t have any extra lighting. Lighting at the show was actually not bad, but I know some lighting will definitely help next time. Next time, I would like to look into battery powered options for lamps and candles to draw a little more attention to my items.
Use Vertical Table Space. Next time, I would like to try using more vertical space on my table to make my items more visible. I had a small 6 foot table and I was placed next to large tables. As a result, my display did not standout. Small 6 foot tables, seemed to get lost if they were beside 8 foot tables or beside vendors with two 8 foot tables together.
For this show, the vendors were limited to using the assigned tables only to display their products and could not have items on other displays in front or beside their tables. I will need to work on staggering heights of my display props and making my items more accessible for people to see and pick up. My table was in a center isle on a corner, so I could not utilize any wall space for my set up. So utilizing graduated heights in my display really would have helped.
Ask For Help. I was stressed. I was doing this craft show on my own. Everything was new to me. Next time, I will try to have my husband drop by or hopefully a friend because it would have made the show more enjoyable. Although, I made friends with my neighbour and he and I would watch each other’s table when we took breaks. I found the set up and take down of my display challenging as I was hauling everything in and out myself, an extra set of hands would have helped enormously!
Take Pictures. For this show, I didn’t take any pictures of my table at the show. I think I was scared of getting a person in the shot who didn’t want to be in a picture and they would get mad at me. I know, weird fear. If someone was upset at me, all I would need to do is delete the picture they were in. Oh well, gotta love irrational fears! Next time, I would like to take pictures of how my table looked at the craft show. My table set up was basically the same as what I practiced at home but I did take down the ‘Simple is Pretty’ sign at the back, I found it to look cheap and it was in the way for me when talking with potential customers.
Enjoy It! Now my first craft show is out of the way! Looking back, there is lots I would change, but I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Next time, I hope to be a little more comfortable and take some time to enjoy the day. To see more pics from my first craft show, click here.