Naomi is a jewelry maker who sells her art at craft fairs and on Etsy and runs a jewelry blog.
Craft Fair Vendor Tips: How to Increase Sales
About two years ago, I began making my own jewelry. While it was a fun hobby, I also wanted to make some extra money from it. I began selling online with some success but have found that I make even more sales when I sell at craft fairs.
While online sites like Etsy are wonderful, the difference is that at craft shows, customers can actually see your items up close and personal. They can touch them, try them on, and since you're right there, you can answer any questions that they may have. You have much less of that distance that you get online, so you can close many sales right then and there.
But I won't lie; my first craft festival was a disaster. I expected people to buy from me just because my booth was there, and it doesn't work that way at all—especially if you sell a more common craft item like jewelry or soap, for which there are many vendors. You still need to prepare for the event and act as a business person, which I quickly learned.
After doing several, though, I've gotten the hang of selling at street fairs and festivals. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way.
15 Tips for Selling at Crafts Festivals
As with anything, I recommend that you learn as much about it as possible and not just jump in. It's the same when it comes to craft fairs. Selling at shows is a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work. You can make some good money, though, if you follow some simple suggestions.
- Find out which fairs are best for you. It's important to find out which craft shows a) welcome vendors who sell your particular craft and b) actually get traffic. So before signing up to do a show, learn more about it. If you sell jewelry at a fair that's really for buyers who are looking for painting, you won't sell very much. Nor will you have a good sales day if you attend a fair that doesn't get much traffic. I found this out the hard way when I agreed to do a fair that got maybe 100 people wandering through all day. Needless to say, I didn't sell very much. I've found it helpful to chat with other vendors about local craft fairs, and they've given me some great tips on which ones get the most traffic.
- Once you have your list of fairs to sell at, find out exactly WHAT you have to do to sell at them. Most fairs will ask for a registration price (this can range from $10-$3000, but I refuse to do fairs that charge more than $200) and most require that you get an official state or federal tax number so that your business is legit. There are then others that make you "audition" your projects for a jury. You send in photos of your items, and they decide whether they're high enough quality for the fair or festival. Also, many craft fairs will provide a space, but not a table or chairs. It's helpful to know all of this information beforehand—otherwise, you'll show up and not have a table for your items!
- Find out what environment the fair will be in. Is it indoors or outdoors? In a park? Under a tent? Then take precautions to make sure that you're prepared for the weather. For instance, if it's a windy day, bring tape and weights to keep your items from blowing away. At that early disastrous craft fair that I mentioned above, I did not do this, and my jewelry kept blowing over. I knew that the next time, I'd need materials to keep my jewelry in place during a wind gust. I also froze my butt off during that show and hadn't brought a warm enough jacket . . . and because I was so uncomfortable and miserable, was just not in a mood to engage the customers. So, as the old saying goes, be prepared! Bring a warm coat or sunblock or sunglasses or a portable tent for some shade. You need to be as comfortable as possible during what is often a very long day so that you can be "on" and stay in the game.
- Have a quality product. This seems pretty obvious, but would you buy your product? Only put out items that you're proud to sell and that you're sure won't fall apart. People are more likely to buy—and become a repeat customer—if your items are of high quality.
- Have an attractive booth. This booth is basically your "store" for the day. Don't just dump your stuff onto the table or have so much clutter that it's difficult for customers to find things. Lay out a nice table cover that makes your crafts look attractive. I like to use black for my jewelry and recommend against using table covers with distracting prints. Have a nice-looking sign that spells out your company's name; you can make one, but it's easy and inexpensive to have one professionally made. Then organize your items in an order that looks nice and makes it easy for customers to see everything. With my jewelry, I hang my earrings on earring trees, the necklaces on necklace hooks, etc., and try to place like items together. I also arrange everything in a circular display so that every piece of jewelry can be seen by passers-by.
- Have very clear price points. I like to list all of my prices, but if you don't, at least be able to give the price immediately. Don't hem and haw because you'll sound as if you don't know what you're doing or you're trying to rip off the customer. And be prepared to change prices from show to show. In that first show, I overcharged. At the next, I slightly lowered my prices and made many more sales.
- On the other hand, offer some bargains. I usually do a buy one, get a percentage off the second item type deal. Don't bargain down prices to the point where you lose a lot of money, but people love getting discounts.
- Exchange information with the customer. Get professionally made business cards (you can get them made for free online) and have them prominently displayed. Then collect e-mails from anyone who comes to your booth. This way, you have a list of interested people and potential customers.
- Know your stuff. Customers will often ask about your product and what goes into it. I make sure that I can tell them exactly what type of metal and stone is in each of my jewelry pieces. So if you paint, be prepared to discuss the type of paints you use. If you make soap, be ready to explain the process.
- Engage the customer. Don't be too pushy, but definitely be friendly. Smile and welcome them to your shop. Making small talk can definitely help because it keeps the person there and establishes a little bond. For instance, I once questioned a customer about a shirt she was wearing that had a picture of Australia on it. We ended up having a conversation about traveling to the country, and she purchased seven pieces from me! Obviously, you don't want to spend too much time talking to one person if there are other customers waiting in line, but being polite and friendly is never a bad thing.
- Be prepared to let customers handle your items. Many people, especially when it comes to jewelry or clothing, like to try things on. I let them, but always show them how to work the clasp or wear the item. What you can also do is have a few items on the counter that are there purely for display and then keep other items in stock.
- Have change handy. At craft fairs or street festivals, people probably won't be walking around with tons of cash. Have change of different amounts (I keep a bunch of $20s, $10s, $5s, and $1s ready) in case they don't have the exact amount. You can also get a credit card machine.
- Package your items nicely. When someone buys something from you, don't just hand it off to them unless they choose to wear it right then and there. Don't just dump the item in a plastic bag. Wrap it in a nice box or gift bag so that it looks nice and travels well. The last impression you make is as important as the first.
- Get the customers to come back. I've had so many people look at items, say, "Oh, I like it, but let me look around first," and then never return to my booth. It's so frustrating! One way to deal with that is to give them a reason to return. You can host a mini-raffle where everyone has to return at a certain time for a drawing where they can win a free item. Or, as above, you can get their information to put on a mailing list.
- Be respectful. If you treat the customers well, they'll have a better chance of remembering you. Pay attention to what they seem to want and use that to your advantage at the next show. If a certain item sells well, you know to make more of it. If a display was ignored, maybe put those items on the backburner for now. The great thing about craft fairs is that there are always more of them—and you always have a new opportunity to make money!
- US Craft Events & Festivals Calendar
My Fairs And Festivals provides information on upcoming craft shows, fairs and festival across the United States.
- Craft Shows, Music Festivals, Craft Fairs, Fine Art Fairs
Looking for music festivals, craft shows or art fairs? Turn to the best festival database online. More than 24,000 North American events. Search the Festivalnet database.
Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on April 20, 2012:
I really appreciate these tips. I'm doing my first craft show in a month and am trying to prepare as much as possible.
Helena Reimer on April 20, 2012:
These are great tips for anyone to succeed at these events. I've never done craft shows, but would love to give it a go one day. Love your jewelry creations btw.