Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Craft Fairs Part 2

(if you missed part 1 or part 1 a)
Craft Fair Part 2: Once you've been accepted
a) Product Prep
This will vary from business to business. Online my biggest sellers are the pencil sets. However, at shows its the "I left my heart in" cards and custom stamps. You have to think about what kind of experience the shopper will get once they get to feel and see your product in person. I go to shows with at least 10 of each card, 10 of each pencil set, and 6 of each stationery set. A good rule of thumb is to prep as much as you can, then you won't feel bad if you sell out- because you did as much as you could. You will always be happy that you invested that time into building up your stock.
b) Display
Displays need to be consistent with your brand. You need to consider that before buying/making/building everything you plan to put in your booth. Ask yourself, what does this say about my brand? How does this fit in? Am i buying this only because I like it, or because it works with my product? First you need your business sign. I think a handmade business should have a handmade sign- it's really off putting to me as a shopper to see beautiful handcrafted clothes with a shiny vinyl sign behind them. I've had many handmade signs- I make a different one for just about every show I've done. For November, I had a simple sign but added a paper Thanksgiving feast to it. During the holidays, I had a sign that looked like cookie cutter letters, complete with pastel "frosting." For Valentine's day I made a heart banner with letters stitched onto them. Even though my set up has become pretty streamlined, I like to add a special touch that celebrates the season.
If you can, attend any show where you would like to be a vendor. Walk around and see what catches your eye- in a good or bad way. Take notes and be inspired. It should go without saying that you shouldn't "borrow" so many ideas from one person that they feel like you ripped off their whole look. A good way to avoid this is once you have your design complete you can talk about and list your sources of inspiration.
Because you will be vending at many craft fairs, you need to have your display work within the space. Sometimes you'll get a 10 x 10 booth, sometimes you'll only have a table top. It's a good idea to set up your booth in your house and let it sit for a few hours. Come back to it later and see what you like and dislike.
Definitely Don't:
-lay everything flat on the table
-over clutter or have too little product on the table
Polly is an expert merchandiser, her post is coming soon.
A good point made at the recent Unique LA workshop was to think about your target shopper, and what would appeal to this person. Think about where else they shop, what kind of hobbies they have, even how they dress. Visualizing your ideal shopper will help you build the perfect display for them.
No matter what your final display looks like, every vendor needs:
1. table+ chairs- Most large craft fairs provide these with your booth fee, others have these available to rent, and sometimes you are expected to provide your own. I like having my own set because I know they are quality (won't be sticky, shaky, or an odd size) and so that I could have table cloths made for them.
2. table covering-I highly recommend investing in a fabric you like and having a table cloth made. There is nothing worse than seeing beautiful table top displays and then the mess that is always underneath. Hide it!
3. the right shopping bags/boxes for your brand. Think of color, material, and how to get your business name on there.
4. proper signs - make sure you have a price sign and any necessary details for every product in your booth. Don't make customers feel uncomfortable by having to ask about the price. You need a sign that says any info that will help your customer shop- "visa/mc accepted" "gift wrap available" "international shipping."
5. receipt book- in case a shopper needs one.
6. change + cash box/pouch For big shows I get $100 in fives and $40 in ones.
7. calculator + pens
8. business cards
9. mailing list
10. booth helper- I can not stress the importance of this enough. You need a booth helper that is knowledgeable, friendly, and happy to be there. All too often I see miserable boyfriends/partners/friends/husbands who sit grumpily in the back, wishing they weren't there. You are an extension of your brand, and so is your helper. Make the most of this and arm your helper with all the necessary info and supplies. Everything you have, she has. Prices, pen, calculator, contact info, business cards. A helper is also great for bathroom breaks, coffee runs, and breaking down when the show is done. Treat your helpers right! Buy them any meals/snacks while they are helping you and send them a thank you note after. The better you are to them, the more willing they will be to help you again.
c) Advertising
Though larger fairs do a lot of advertising, you should also be promoting the fair yourself.Twitter, facebook, flickr, a blog, your friend's blog, your friend's facebook- the list goes on and on.Unique La gives the vendors as many postcards + posters as they can carry and I take them where ever I go- boutiques, my hair salon, coffee shops, friends houses (so they can take some to work) and a lot of cafes. I live on a busy street so I even put some posters up in my window. You shouldn't just be promoting your own company. Find out if any friends or other companies you admire are going to be vending and spread the word! You could get someone to come because they love your jewelry line but you could get three more shoppers to come since you mentioned your friend's poster company will be vending too.

d) Leaving a lasting impression
Customer service is the top priority of Paper Pastries. I stress that online and in person. Consider shops you frequent again and again, why is that? Is it because they have great coffee, or great coffee and a friendly barista? Think of any thing else you can do to improve your shopper's experience; maybe give out lollipops, or a free gift with purchase. You want to make it easy for them to remember you. No matter how small your space is you need to make room for a mailing list. Here you are making great connections but you have no way to let these new friends know about current happenings without getting their email address. Business cards are helpful but also easy to forget, and easier to lose. These shows are not only about the shoppers, just look to the left and right of you. Does your neighbor have a booth helper? Need a cup of coffee? Need a bathroom break? Introduce yourself and let them know that you are there if they need anything. Be a good neighbor to the other vendors and you will make great friends.


  1. I loved your booth design at Renegade SF! Very snazzy.

  2. This was such a great refresher course to read. I'll be at Renegade Brooklyn too and it'll be my first outdoor show of the year. I'll kep my eye out for you. These always seem so much more intense than indoor events don't they?

    Time to dust off the ol' tarp and weights.




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