SELLING AT CRAFT FAIRS

Tips for sellers and organisers of events


This page is mainly dedicated to preparing yourself for selling items at craft fairs but much of the information is useful for organisers of events too. For simplicity, I will be using the word “table” to mean the spot you are given at the event. It’s possible you may need to bring your own table, it depends on the venue. If it’s not obvious or you haven’t been told, be sure to ask.

Here, you will find information on:

  • choosing an event
  • all the things you should bring including all the possible extra things you might want to bring
  • costs involved
  • preparing yourself before the event including communicating with the organisers
  • how to price your items
  • what you could or should be doing after the event has finished

If you are selling somewhere on your own, for example in the lobby area of a company, much of this information will still be relevant.

How to choose an event especially if it’s your first one

Consider choosing an event on the basis of one or more of the following

  • an event that is local to you
  • you know the organisers
  • have a friend with you

How much will the event cost you? Consider the cost of the table, getting there, possible parking charges, these could be the deciding factor on choosing this event over another one on the same day. We’ll talk more on costs later when we go through a detailed list of expenses

Pre event preparations

  • Get written confirmation that your booking has been registered including payment received, often done via email (helps reduce organisers costs) but might be via traditional letter.
  • How much table space is provided? Do you need floor space for your own tall display props and do you even need to bring your own table?
  • Make sure you know how to get there and parking arrangements.
  • Test your set-up with your stock and props at home with the measurements you’ve been given.
  • Have sellers been asked to consider donating a raffle item? Consider taking advantage of this by adding a label or business card to it.
  • Is there a theme? Take account of time of year with what you are making to sell.
  • Look into methods of accepting credit cards, especially if you have higher priced items. For example, Paypal has a free app for smartphones.

What do you need to take?

This is deliberately a long list of items, some of which are more necessary than others.

  • Loose change (“float”) in a convenient secure container or bag
  • Tablecloth(s) (themed is nice if appropriate but white always works well)
  • Business cards (my views on these further down!)
  • Pens, paper, notebook, calculator, sticky tape
  • Nice bags to put sold items in (e.g. “organza” bags look great)
  • Sign(s) with prices/information/websites
  • Props such as the “jewellery tree”, boxes, covered shoeboxes etc
  • Bring a WIP to work on (some people haven’t realised I’ve personally made my stock)
  • Camera
  • Mirror (especially if you have hats)
  • Banana hook (useful for hanging items for sale)
  • String of battery operated Christmas lights
  • Wine bottles (empty is best), if you sell wine bottle covers
  • Suitcases on wheels to transport stuff from car
  • Spare stock to replenish table
  • Spare price tags (particularly useful if you change your mind about prices)
  • External battery pack for phone (useful if your phone will get heavily used during the event)
  • Bottle of water
  • Mints (great if you will be talking a lot!)
  • Wet wipes

Likely costs involved of selling at a craft fair

The prices you charge for items at the event should take event costs into consideration. I’ve included as many things as I can think of, obviously not all will apply to you or all events.

  • Materials used to create your stock (yarn, eyes on teddies etc)
  • Tools of your trade
  • Cost of the table at event
  • Travelling (e.g. fuel)
  • Parking charges
  • Props such as mannequin heads, jewellery stand and the list above - “what do you need to take?”
  • Display boxes, cardboard boxes (maybe covered), wooden crates
  • Cost of printing signs (including laminating if laminated)
  • Tablecloths
  • Price tags
  • Business cards
  • Drinks, snacks, meals (but you would be eating and drinking at home anyway)

How To Price Your Items

Compare your items to similar items online, view several websites. Take account of how much it cost you in materials. How long did it take you to make? Don’t under value your time. Try to find out what potential customers would be prepared to pay. Ask friends and family how much they would pay for your items. The more research you can do, the better. You can re-price things when you get there, take spare price tags (may affect any signs you’ve made)

Price Tags/Signs

I have previously tagged everything individually. This is fine but might be impractical for some items, especially if you have a large number of small items. Now I make at least two price signs, one visible to customers coming up to the table and one for me (or have a list of prices in my notebook). The sign should detail everything but keep easy to read and neatly laid out. If appropriate, mention some items are marked individually. I suggest you don’t price things in unusual amounts as it would make it fiddlier for giving change to customers.

Consider including a QR code on the sign or on a separate sign. It’s a digital spotty looking image which can be read by a QR code reader on a smartphone and when “read”, a website will be displayed on the ‘phone. This could be your Etsy store, your Facebook page or any other useful website. You can easily find information on QR codes on the internet including how to generate one.

Before the public arrive

So, you’ve got yourself booked for a craft fair, you’ve made plenty of stock, you’ve packed everything you need, you’ve arrived, set everything up, and you’re ready for the public to arrive! Take a picture(s) of your set-up, useful for future reference. Take a couple of minutes to take a few deep breaths before the doors open to the public.

Money management: consider keeping your “float” in a small bag over your shoulder or in a money belt. Some people will have those lockable money boxes and situated hidden from view. Know how much you’ve started with so it’s easy to calculate how much money you have taken at the end of the day. Some valuables I keep in my wooden boxes which I don’t need regular access to, such as my external battery.

Get yourself in the mood and go round the other tables before the doors open to the public to see the “competition”.  This also gives you a chance to see if anyone has brought the same kind of things to sell as you and what they are charging.

Get friendly with your neighbouring craft sellers, you’ll be with them all day. If you don’t have a friend with you, your neighbours will be your friends and this could be useful if you need to step away from your table for breaks.

During the event

  • Don’t sell “crochet” or “knitting” as such. You are selling “warm hats” or “soft scarves” etc – i.e. people may not really care how you made it, they are more interested in colour and feel.

  • Be confident in your own products and be prepared to talk if people are genuinely interested, being prepared that some customers may also be experienced in the same craft as you or they may know absolutely nothing.

  • Consider wearing something you’ve made if it’s suitable during the event.

  • Many people go around the whole event before coming back to buy something, so don’t be disappointed if people look and walk away early on. I do this myself as a customer at an event.

  • Be friendly but don’t overdo it! There’s a fine line between starting a conversation and harassing potential customers! Let them look, say “hi”, smile, be available to talk, answer questions.

  • Be standing, if you aren’t already, when people come up to your table.

  • It’s particularly important for you to look as happy and enthusiastic at the end of the event as at the beginning. Who wants to buy something or even engage in conversation with a seller who looks tired and depressed to be there.

  • My views on business cards: they are invaluable and I think anyone serious about selling should have business cards. But at craft fairs, they are an “escape” option for potential customers, “very nice items, I’ll just take a card for now”. Since 2012, I've only been contacted once by someone who has taken a business card at a craft fair. You are relying on them to contact you if they take one.

  • Take email addresses? Consider whether you will take commissions or need to continue a conversation after the event, maybe you produce newsletters via email. Ask for customers email addresses so you can contact them rather than relying on them to contact you.

After the event

  • Are you attending another event in the near future? Pack up carefully (assuming you haven't sold everything!) so you are ready for the next one.
  • At many events I have attended, organisers will request feedback on anything you wish to raise about the event. If they don’t ask for feedback and you have something which will be of interest to them for future reference, let them know.
  • Calculate your earnings. I have a dedicated notebook which lives with my craft fair props and has a record of expenses for each event and how much money I took for items I sold.

Organisers

Who is your target audience regarding sellers and customers? For a school craft fair for instance, your biggest number of visitors is likely to be parents and families of the students. This might make a difference to extra activities you arrange and how you advertise the event.

Insurance, e.g. “public liability insurance”, I am not an expert so you’ll need to check into this.

Choosing a venue: If you are a school or church for instance, I’m assuming this isn’t an issue. For everyone else, check a potential venue for things like:

  • Will you have use of a kitchen to provide refreshments?
  • Is the layout good for having the number of sellers you need to cover your costs?
  • Are there enough tables available, or do people need to bring their own?
  • Some sellers like to have access to an electrical power point, is this possible?
  • Is there easy access to the building for sellers to unpack?
  • Is there plenty of parking for sellers and visitors?
  • Are you planning to make this a regular event?
  • Do sellers have access to wifi at the venue?

Money flow: ensure you can cover your costs which can include hiring the venue, advertising, buying supplies for refreshments etc. Many organisers charge sellers a price per table but I’ve heard of charging sellers a percentage of their sales. Many events charge customers an entrance fee.

That can be two definite sources of income. You will then be persuading people to part with money for refreshments, raffle tickets, games, face painting, a tombola etc. These are fun extras, add excellent extra income for organisers and add value to the event which you should always consider doing.

But, there is a possible impact on sellers income by taking customers money way on too many of these extras. Exactly how much it might affect sellers is hard to say. But certainly, if customers arrive with a budget, they’ll have less to spend with the sellers. This is not necessarily a problem for the organisers, but can affect sellers who ultimately might make them decide not to come back as returning sellers for future events at this venue.

Do you have a theme, e.g. Christmas? This can easily make a difference to the style of advertisements for the event, type of refreshments and what sellers may wish to sell.

Maintain good communication with sellers. Work out how to find sellers in the first place. Let them know how much space they have, how much a table costs, is there’s anything in particular they need to bring (even their own table)? Would you like them to think about donating an item as a raffle prize? Ensure they know exactly all the costs involved and the arrangements for the day itself, including what time they can set up and how much time there is to pack up. Are you offering them a free tea/coffee before and/or during the event?   

Advertising: does anyone on your team have access to good, cheap methods of printing posters? Get sellers to help advertise the event anyhow and anywhere they can. Word of mouth, internet, posters in windows, noticeboards – schools, churches, village halls, school newsletters, community newsletters, newspaper adverts, local radio stations. Send sellers posters via email.

During the event, if at all possible, visit each table individually and ask them how they are doing. After the event, ask for feedback. Positive feedback is as useful as negative feedback and both should be welcome.