Are Craft Fairs Still Worth Your Time? 20 Vendors Say “YES”

For crafters looking to sell their goods, the idea of breaking into craft fairs may be both exciting and nerve-wracking. There's the cost of raw materials, the cost of gas, the cost of booth space and of course pressure from online craft sites like Etsy. With all these costs even seasoned craft fair vendors have been asking – “is it still worth it to show at craft fairs?”

We recently surveyed 20 craft fair vendors and the answer was a definite YES... And most of them reported that their sales at craft fairs have increased their profits at least somewhat.



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However, these sales don’t come merely from showing up — you have to know how to draw people into your booth, engage with them and then close the sale. Advice from successful vendors fell into the following 6 categories:

    1. Make sure you’re selling what customers want

    1. Be willing to learn from mistakes

    1. Prepare in advance

    1. Know how to draw people into your booth

    1. Know how to engage people once they're in your booth

    1. Know how to close the sale


Here are some tips from experienced crafters in each of these areas.

 

1) Make sure you’re selling what customers want.

    • Make sure the products you have are in line with the demographics of the particular fair you’re considering. “Don’t sell at a family art fair when all you have to offer are hemp soaps shaped like pot leaves,” recommends Random Girl of It’s On Random, www.itsonrandom.com.

    • Offer a unique product. “Be innovative,” says Denise Kiggan of Freshly Found, www.freshlyfound.com. “Try not to produce run-of-the-mill stuff.”

    • Pay attention to what draws you in when you attend craft shows. Then see if you can incorporate those things into your own display.

    • Understand the benefits of customers seeing your product in person. People are drawn in when “they see a product in person versus a photo online [because] they see the size, vivid colors and its quality,” says Dalia of Inspirations by D, http://inspirationsbyd.blogspot.com.


 

2) Be Willing to Learn from Mistakes

    • Learn by trial and error. “Try new things to see if they work,” advises Debbie Lamb of DeDa Studios, http://www.deda-studios.com. “When they don’t, try something else. Keep on trying and changing! No two fairs are the same.”

    • Listen to your customers. Improve your products based on the feedback you receive.


 



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3) Prepare in advance.

    • Get the word out through social media or an email list. Make sure customers know where and when to find you.

    • “Make your booth memorable and easy to describe,” recommends Kira Nichols of Oops, I Craft My Pants, http://oopsicraftmypants.com. “A lot of sales come from people who see that others have bought your items at that fair.”

    • Do your research. “As each year goes by, I research the market and vibe of the consumer, and adjust accordingly,” says Kathy Cano-Murillo of CraftyChica.com.

    • Know your profit margin. “Expenses like fuel and the costs of goods and raw materials have increased,” says Sara Dunham. If you’re undercharging, you lose out. “A lot of vendors I used to see on the circuit have gone out of business,” she says.


 

4) Know how to draw people into your booth.

    • Be friendly and approachable. “One must be friendly, smile and acknowledge everyone who shows even a slight interest in their product,” says Tracy of Mama-press, www.mama-press.com. “In fact, say hi to everyone who walks by.”

    • Make your booth uncluttered, well-lit, and easy to explore. Make the display inviting!

    • Have a niche. If you’re the only one offering a particular type of product, people will be more likely to stop.

    • Put up signs. “I used to go to art fairs and not put up signs because I thought it was kind of silly, but with the right sign comes the right customers,” says Random Girl. “You need your pretty signs, people, and they need to be worded right too.”


 



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5) Know how to engage people once they're in your booth.

 

    • Carry items in a variety of price ranges. “Small sales all the time will pay for the booth,” says Karen Norberg of Art on Park Avenue, colorado-artclasses.com.

    • Offer a container customers can look through. “People always like to shuffle through stuff!” says Marie Biswell of CraftieRie.com.

    • Display prices. Some potential customers are scared away when they have to ask about pricing — either they assume it’s more than they can afford, or they think it displays greater commitment to buying than they’re comfortable with.

    • Don’t be pushy or overshare with potential customers. “They don’t want your personal history,” advises Shelly Chapman, producer of Auburn Hills Arts and Crafts Fanfare.


 

6) Know how to close the sale.

    • Consider offering deals or being open to bargaining. People are more likely to buy multiple items if they get a discount.

    • Offer choice. “It doesn’t matter if an item is what they’ve wanted all their lives — if they don’t have choices, they won’t buy,” says Sandra Bong of Bast’s Garden, http://sandrabong.deviantart.com.

    • Get people excited about your products. “Be excited about what you display, how it works and why a consumer needs it,” suggests Megan Elizabeth or Above Rubies Studio, http://www.aboverubiesstudio.com.

    • Offer on-site customizations or personalizations of your products. Everyone wants to own a one-of-a-kind item made to their specifications.

    • Get a credit card reader. Glenda Wolfe of Tiger Stripes, www.tiger-stripes.com, says that getting a credit card reader for her phone has helped increase sales. Make it as easy as possible for customers to give you their money!


 



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Lastly, don’t be discouraged if your crafts aren’t a big hit at your first fair. “I have learned that it takes a lot of dedication, time and hard work to make a profit out of doing what you love,” says Whitney Panetta of Look Between the Lines, http://www.lookbetweenthelines.com. Keep at it and you’ll likely discover that yes, the right craft fairs catering to the right customers for you are definitely worth your time.

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