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Tips for Doing a Craft Show

October 15, 2013

I have done two craft shows so far.  I am by no means an expert.  Yet, I find this is a topic that many crocheters have lots of questions about.  My craft show tips are focused towards crocheted items, but no matter your craft, you will be able to gain some helpful insight from this post.

I learned most of what is posted here just by stepping out and doing a craft show.  Each show I do (just completed my second one this week), I learn more things and ways to improve my craft show experience.

I have developed a few different categories of questions that I will address in this post.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments, or email me at rcraftycreations@gmail.com.

WHAT ITEMS SHOULD I HAVE OR SHOWCASE?

This question gets asked a lot.  There are various forms of this question:  How many of each size do I need?  How many hat types?  What items sell the best?  Below are a few things I’ve learned through trial and error.

1.  What sizes do I make?  I have found that the smaller sizes do not sell very well.  While that 0-3 month hat is so adorable, people tend to buy for older children.  I think this might be related to the fact that older children tend to have more need for a hat.  🙂  I sell the most in the 6-12 months size and the 1-3 year size.  I had lots of sizes smaller than that, and lots of sizes bigger than that in all the hats I brought, but I sold the most of the aforementioned sizes.

When making your hats, focus more in the toddler to child sizes than in the really small sizes. (I do 2 or 3 in each size, but the toddler and child sizes are more popular).  If you are on a time crunch, work on the 6 months to 3 years sizes first!

2.  How many different styles should I bring?  How many hat types or item types you decide to bring is up to you.  The first show I did, I only had two hat options.  While I did do well, this year with so many different hat styles (6 different styles), people had such a wide variety to chose from, and I sold more hats than the previous year.  You will need to determine what you have time for and stick to that list before adding new products (this is a problem I have).

3.  Make a list of what items/ hats you want to bring.  Prioritize it.  Then start at the top and work your way down.  If you can’t finish everything on the list in time for your show, at least the things on your list that you feel will sell the best will be completed.

4.  What sells the best?  If something sells well at one craft show, it will probably sell well at any craft show (unless it’s a fad item that goes out of style).  My first show, I had apple and pumpkin hats for infants (o months to 12 months).  I quickly realized I needed more sizes.  However, these hats were really popular.  I took my leftover inventory, built it back up and added some sizes and took them to my second show.  The apple and pumpkin were still among the most popular (one man came in search of my booth to buy an apple hat he had seen the year before).  I have heard in some of the crochet forums I’m a part of that slouchy hats also do really well.  My lovely shells hat with it’s adorable flower has been my most popular item for two years now.  I took note and made a ton of them for the show (they did well).

4.  Have some items that you COULD sell, but that you use to draw attention. For me, my stuffed animals didn’t sell well at all, but TONS of people stopped by to see them, thus allowing me to at least give them a business card.  My scarves and adult items also do not do very well.  Many people will stop by and look at the scarves (they are so gorgeous), but rarely purchase one.  I’ve only sold one scarf in the two shows that I’ve done.  Impressive items will make people take a second look.  I always bring several things that people will stop to look at, even if I’m pretty sure that nobody will buy them.  🙂

5. Have items in different price ranges. At my first show, I sold hardly any of my higher priced items, but my lower priced things (between $6 and $15) did really well.   My second show, one of my hats was super popular, and the lower priced things were looked at a lot, but not purchased.  Sales will vary between each show.  Don’t get discouraged if people don’t buy what you thought they might!

6.  Making an inventory of items and sizes before the show can be really helpful if you keep careful track of what you sell in what sizes.  This will help you avoid going through all your items again to see what you actually sold.

HOW MUCH ADVERTISING DO I NEED?

This topic will relate to both inside and outside of the show.  What is necessary to advertise before the show?  What kind of advertising do I need at the show?

1.  Do what you can to advertise your presence at the show.  Post it on your social media venues, tell friends and family, etc.  However, most craft shows do their own advertising, so outside of the free advertising venues, it’s not necessary to pay money for advertising.

2.  Bring tons of business cards and hand them out to anyone who stops at your booth.  Some people will refuse, but the more you get out there, the more likely people are to remember you.  In my personal experience, most of the cards I hand out do not show any results.  However, a few people might check out your facebook or blog.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results from this.  You never know when they’ll run across your card again and be like “oh yeah!”

3. Have a big picture or poster of a cute picture of one of your items – this also draws people in.   Multiple adorable pictures never hurt.  We get tons of interest in our booth by posting pictures of adorable babies wearing our hats.  People see the picture, their heart melts, and they must come over and see one of those hats for themselves.

4.  Be super friendly!  Talk to everyone who stops at your booth.  Say “hello” or other such greeting.  If they aren’t inclined to conversation, don’t push things, but let them know you are paying attention and available to answer their questions.  Do not be so engrossed in conversation, or a project you may be working on, or your phone to acknowledge their presence.

5.   Have some kind of draw or pull to get customers interacting with you and with each other.  We generally sell some cookies at our booth.  We have samples which pulls lots of people in who wouldn’t maybe have been very interested in our booth.  While they’re there, they look around and a few of them actually buy something!  We also had a frisbee toss this past show.  It was mostly to prove that the crocheted frisbees really do work, but it helped pull people in.  Anyone who got the frisbee in the target received a piece of candy.  This worked great with young children.  Their parents are more than willing to let them stop to win a piece of candy and it gets the parents perusing your booth a little bit more.  (FYI:  I only ended up selling one frisbee, but everyone who tried the toss loved them, it just didn’t translate to a purchase, I guess).

BOOTH SETUP

Booth setup!  This can be so fun!  It can also be a lot of work.  Plan accordingly!

1.  Make sure you are aware of your booth size before the show.  Booth sizes can vary greatly depending on the show.

2.  Always do a booth setup beforehand (outside, in your living room, anywhere you have the space).  This will greatly help when you show up at the show.  If you know where things are going, you can pack them accordingly, or at the very least cut your set up time in half!  Also, setting up beforehand can even give ideas for improvement, or helps you know what else you might need or what you don’t need.

3.  Find ways to add height to your booth.  Your items are more likely to catch customers attention if the items are placed at eye level.  Use shelves, or boxes, or whatever you can.  Get creative!  Below are the pictures from the two shows I’ve done so far (you can see I learned a lot from the first one).

For my first show, I used boxes and crates underneath the table cloth to add some height.

October 064

The lattice in this picture wasn’t ours, it was part of the setup of the booth behind us.

As you can see, I got much more creative with height for my second show.

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See the adorable baby picture? 🙂

4.  If you plan on doing more than one craft show in your career, it does pay to invest into your booth setup.  The more attractive and functional your booth is, the more attention you will get.  Your first craft show might not bring in as much profit as you desire after accounting for the money you spent on your actual setup, but the next show, besides your booth fee, will be almost entirely profit!  Even though our second show was nearly rained out (the festival was low in attendance and many factors made attendance really low), we still did better!  Our booth was so inviting and attractive, that it drew in more people.  It also helped that we had an excellent spot.  🙂

5.  When setting up your booth, try to arrange it so people can “come in” to your booth.  This is especially needed if the walkway between booths is small or crowded.  People will be more likely to browse your items if they don’t feel as if they’re blocking traffic.  The easiest way to do this is to pull your table back from the front of your booth.  We like to achieve this feeling by using two card tables instead of one long table.

6.  Use your space to its potential.  If you get a little creative, there are some great ways to use up your booth space.  Make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut and just do the same thing you’ve always done.  Also, the easiest setup isn’t always the best!  You may have to get a bit elaborate to use the space effectively, especially if you aren’t given much space to begin with!

6.  When you setup your booth, remember less is more!  Try not to have your booth too cluttered, or people will walk right by with out bothering to decipher what they’re looking at.  You want your booth to look full, but have your items spread out and separated so it’s not too overwhelming to the customer.  I always put extra items under the table and when i see someone looking at that item, I inform them that I have that in more sizes.  I try to put at least one of every size out, and replace as the items are sold.  Use baskets and other “separating” containers to make the space look neat and organized.  You want to avoid just lining up all your crocheted items on a table.  It’s hard to see what is going on and browsing isn’t very easy that way.

7.  Research other booth setups!  I did a lot of browsing on blogs and Pinterest and gathered a lot of ideas.  Then I just kept an eye out for things that would work for my booth idea.  Old picture wooden picture frames, suitcases, shutters, the lattice (some of these things my husband got for me at auctions), etc.  Spray paint does wonders!  I also kept my eye out for shelving that would work well in my space, but not be too expensive.  I also used a ton of stuff I just had around the house:  baskets, rugs, sheets (tablecloth), and other stuff like that.

8.  Do you let people try on the hats?  I didn’t really have a good place to put this question, so I thought I’d put it under the booth section.  Most of the time, it’s parents or grandparents wanting to try the hat on a baby that is with them.  🙂  I have no problem with this.  In fact, allowing them to try it on ensures they will be happy with the purchase.  Also, seeing the item on the child normally prompts them to buy it as the child looks so adorable.  I rarely have adults trying on hats, but I have no problem with it.  As of yet, nobody that looks unsanitary has tried.  🙂

MONEY QUESTIONS

This is somewhat of a broad category, covering pricing, credit cards, taxes, and change.

1.  Price each individual item.  In my experience with the public, I have found that people just don’t read signs.  They just don’t.  It will be right in front of their face and they will ask the one question that is answered by the sign.  I do place signs with my items as well, but people will see the price on the item before they see the sign.  There are many ways to put the prices on your items.  I tag each of my items with a business card, a care instruction card with the size of the item printed on the back, and a price tag (purchased at Wal-Mart).  I attach with yarn.  You will want to develop your own method of pricing.  My reasoning behind using a separate tag for the price is that it is easy to remove if giving the item as a gift.  I don’t want customers removing the care card or my business card when giving it as a gift, so I made it easy on them.  🙂

2.  Have a different sale every hour.  This really helps if someone is “not sure” about an item.  “It’s only going to be that price until 1 pm.”  This was a thought I had, but we didn’t put it into practice.  This is just an idea.  If you try it, let me know how it works!

3.  Accept credit cards as payment.  Use Paypal Here or the Square that enable you to take credit card payment.  This will help boost your sales, especially if people are running low on cash!  I always print out a little blurb about the program I’m using so that people feel safe giving me their credit card to charge.  We used Paypal Here, but service wasn’t very good due to the rain and the walls of the gymnasium we were in, but we found that people were very patient and willing to wait for our program.  🙂  Don’t panic.  One simple apology is enough.  If they’re still willing to wait, then don’t keep apologizing.  🙂

6. Pre-determine beforehand what your “lowest” possible price is for each item. That way, if you see someone is really thinking about an item, dropping the price $5 makes them feel as if they’re getting a good deal. Knowing your bottom line will keep you from making unwise deals (lesson learned the hard way).

7. Taxes.  I live in a state that has no sales tax, so I haven’t had to deal with taxes much.  However, when discussing this issue with someone, I came up with a great idea on how to deal with taxes in a pain free manner.  My idea will take a lot of work before the show, but will streamline things for the show.  The show this lady was participating in did not allow you to put the final price including taxes on the items.  Taxes had to be added after.  My solution?  Figure out your prices in such a way that with tax it rounds up to the nearest dollar.  Example (without any actual math):  Price your item at 14.56…when figuring in taxes, it will total $15.  This will greatly cut down on the change you have to make.  You would need a little chart indicating the totals of each item with taxes.  If you would rather just add the taxes in, I’d make sure I had a chart with me that tells me the total amount with taxes.

8.  How much change should I bring?  This is one of the areas I really struggle with.  Both years I have brought way more change than was ever needed.  I have found that most people come to shows planning to spend cash and as a result, they don’t need much change.  I would suggest the following change:  ten in $1, 4 in $5.  This is based on my experience, you will have to determine what is good for you.  Also, I know that doesn’t sound like much, but the first year I only had $30 in cash (all in $1 and $5) and never ran into any problems.  Also, make sure you bring change if you’re doing your taxes in a way that will add change, or if any of your items end in .50, etc.  If you are taking credit cards, running low on change won’t be a problem as you have a backup!

ORDERS

Taking orders at the show can be overwhelming.  Having a process to do so is very helpful!

1.  Have a way to display other items you make, but didn’t bring.  I use a digital picture frame and create a slideshow to play during the show.  I also have a notebook of all my products so that customers can look at specific sections, or view the items at their own speed.

2.  Take a few order forms (you may have to create a simple list one even) and lots of business cards. I gave business cards to everyone that stopped. I haven’t seen many results yet from it, but who knows? I did take 4 orders at the show. One of the orders resulted in 4 more orders as the lady raved about my hat to ladies in her Curves group.    You can see a sample of my order form in the links category at the right of the page.

3.  Require full payment for an order.  If they don’t want to pay then, give them your card and tell them to order when they are ready.  I take full payment, including shipping, at the show.  I give them a little paper receipt stating what they ordered and give them a time frame of when it should arrive.

4.  Do not be discouraged if your show doesn’t go quite as well as you planned.  If you made up the money you put into it, then you did well!  You also would have learned a lot of things you could do different.  Don’t give up yet.  Besides, you gave out lots of cards and sold a few things.  You just might have earned some new returning customers!  🙂

RANDOM TIPS

1.  Bring a friend!  They are much better at promoting your stuff and it’s nice to have company.  Also, it’s really great to be able to take a bathroom break or take turns looking at other booths without the worry of missing out on a sale.  🙂

2.  Bring a comfy chair!  You’ll be sitting or standing most of the day, and you want to be comfortable while doing it, which leads us to:

3.  Wear comfy, but attractive clothing.  You want to be comfortable all day.  There is no need to dress up, but accessories can help your casual clothes look more dressy!  Wearing some of your items is great too…scarves, hair items, bracelets.  People might notice those before your display and ask if you “made that too?”  Don’t forget comfy shoes!

4. Bring something to crochet during the lulls. People like seeing you create things and might stop by just to watch or comment.

5.  Don’t forget the most important tip of all:  Have fun!  I love doing shows.  It’s fun to meet other crafters, fun to interact with customers all day, and it’s especially fun to hear people gush over my items!  🙂

I hope you find these tips helpful!  Reading something like this when I was first starting out would have really helped me!  Have fun at your show!

If you have any suggestions, ideas, tips, or questions, feel free to comment below!  🙂

P.S.  Doing a show while pregnant is really tiring.  Fun, but tiring.  haha

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2013 5:33 pm

    Fab article!!! Thanks for sharing this wisdom 🙂

  2. October 16, 2013 7:07 am

    Excellent tips. Thank you for sharing.

    – Adele @ Mammy Made

  3. October 17, 2013 12:27 pm

    Wish I’d had these tips when I started out. Really great post.

    • October 17, 2013 12:32 pm

      Thank you! I wish I had some of these tips for my first show too! 🙂

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