The Christmas craft fair season is here again – my fourth as a stall holder. I’ve had a few conversations with other bloggers recently about selling crafts, so thought I’d pass on some of the things I’ve learned. I’m not an expert, but this is what I do, and (mostly) it works ok!
How to choose a fair
When I started, I took every opportunity that came along, and found the more I did, the more I was approached to do. I think this is the best way to find out what works for you. Now, I stick to larger fairs, mainly at National Trust houses, and local country fairs. Although I also go on instinct. One of the best fairs I’ve done was at a local village hall, which was brilliantly organised and promoted using social media. School and church fairs don’t work well for me, but they do for others, so the only way to know is to give it a go. I pay between £40 and £70 a day for a table at a large fair. £10 – £20 is usual for a small one.
Your product range
I sell fabric covered notebooks and colouring rolls and find having a wide range of prices works well – mine go from £1.50 (for a fabric flower hairgrip) to £18.
Having something inexpensive is good to attract attention, which keeps you busy, which in turn is attractive to other shoppers. And it’s surprising how those small sales add up. I also sell bags of fabric scraps which patchworkers love – only £2.50 a time, but every little helps. I know a potter who sells tiny pottery mice, a jeweller with beaded flower brooches, a ceramic artist with Christmas decorations – all for a few pounds.
Lots of trial and error here, and worth visiting a few craft fairs to get some ideas. I find a range of heights is good. Some things are flat on the table, some on bookshelves, and also in baskets. I experiment all the time. It’s nice to use something other than a white table cloth, which tends to show crease marks and dirt. I used to use a pale green spotted laminated cotton cover, and now use striped French table cloths which set off the colourful fabrics well. I’ve also seen striped ticking used as a cloth, which was lovely.
I put my business cards on my table for people to pick up, and also have a notice with my ‘Handmade by Dottie Doodle’ logo. Before I did this, some customers didn’t realise I make everything myself.
Stand up, sit down
So what to do when you’re behind your stand and the public arrive? I’m most comfortable with a relaxed approach, rather than a hard sell. I tend to stay standing and say hello to people. I can often tell just by the way they respond if they’d like me to tell them about what I make, or just be left alone to browse.
Sometimes I’ll sit and sew (those hairgrips!) and just look up with a friendly hello when someone approaches. People like to see crafters making what they are selling, and it can start a conversation.
I’m often behind my stand for hours, so my aim is to look interested and approachable, not like I’m losing the will to live!
What else to take
- Plenty to eat and drink. There may not be anything available at the fair, and it can be a long day.
- Business cards – I recommend Vistaprint
- Price cards (see pic). Having a price card beside each category of product works best for me. I’ve also tried having a price list in a frame and pricing items individually.
- Carrier bags – I use small brown paper carriers and larger clear plastic bags (useful if the weather is bad).
- Scissors, painkillers, lipstick, lipbalm, safety pins, handwipes etc
- Leaflets with a list of the fairs you are attending. I produce these myself – just a single A5 sheet – and they are really popular.
- Money apron (similar to mine here). These have four pockets, so I sort money out into large notes, £5 notes, and small change. Which means I can give change quickly.
- Notebook to record sales. I use a five bar gate system for each category of product. It’s fascinating to look back at past events.
- I find a folding sack trolley really useful to transport everything from my car – and it means I can park further away if space is tight. Similar to mine here.
It’s great to have some kind of internet shop which you can promote on your business cards. I’ve often sold things online to my craft fair customers. Folksy (UK) and Etsy (everywhere) are both very good and inexpensive to use.
For another view and more tips, Handmade Jane has a great article here.
And finally, I have a copy of The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin to give away. To enter, leave a comment on this post and I will draw a winner at random on 1 December.