This article outlines the requests I’ve received from craft show shoppers over the years. They’re ones I wish I hadn’t accommodated (or at least not with some serious thought first).
Shoppers don’t head to a craft fair with the intention of insulting the vendor. They’re usually just asking a question they see no harm in asking. So this article is not to shame anyone who’s uttered the words below to a vendor.
Rather it’s to point out to craft show vendors, that just because someone asks doesn’t mean you have to cater.
Consider your business’s goals, values, and message before agreeing to something.
For example, if you want your work to be valued, viewed as high-end, and raise awareness about the importance and costs of using ethically sourced materials, don’t hand out discounts anytime a shopper asks.
Being flexible is a perk people love in small businesses. So you don’t necessarily need to say no to the scenarios below but you do need to put your business first. If you’re going to alter your designs to suit a customer, drive across town to drop off a purchase, or rush to fill an order by someone else’s deadline, put a price on the extra work.
When you’re willing to make a sale at any cost, you’re sending a message to yourself and your customers that you don’t believe your products will sell on their own. Have confidence in your business and know if you take pride and believe in your work, others will too.
Of course, there are times when it is best for your business to say “yes” to the questions below.
Just be sure the decision is yours and you’re happy with it, and you’re not saying “yes” to please the shopper or avoid an awkward situation. No shame if you have though…I definitely have 😉
Here are 10 Questions a vendor should consider saying “no” to
Just to put things in perspective, think about whether a shopper would ask a mall retailer these questions and whether they would say yes or no.
They keep their profits top of mind and you should too.
If you don’t know your business’s profits or how to increase them, check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
Always consider profits before accommodating a shopper’s request.
1) “Since you haven’t opened yet, can I get this for half price?”
This question is often asked at street markets where there aren’t doors that stay closed until start time. I’m not sure where the logic comes in, thinking purchasing before a vendor opens warrants a discount.
It’s more of an inconvenience to the vendor to stop in the middle of their setup, dig out their cash box and conduct a sale.
If the event allows vendors to, and you’re willing to, processing a transaction before you open is accommodating enough; you don’t need to hand out a discount as well.
A retailer would almost never open their doors early to allow a shopper to come in and shop because they’re in a rush. And, if under very special circumstances they did allow it, they certainly wouldn’t be offering a discount.
2) “Could you make one just like this?”
Sometimes we overhear a shopper asking a friend if they can make an item you’re selling. That’s just wrong. But sometimes they’re bringing a photo of another vendor’s work to you and asking if you can replicate it.
If you’re in the business of taking custom orders, this may not be a huge issue but remember you are the artist and people are interested in your designs, not how well you can copy someone else’s.
Unless you’re at a store that offers customization, you would never hear a mall shopper ask if a retailer could make the exact item another retailer carries.
Why wouldn’t they purchase it from the original retailer?
They’re most likely looking for it at a cheaper price.
If that’s the case, they won’t be a loyal customer to the brand and its products.
3) “How did you make this?”
This question isn’t a problem if they’re genuinely interested in the process. But it becomes a problem when they’re looking for details so they can make it themselves.
Determine which details are selling points and which are trade secrets and be okay telling people you, unfortunately, can’t share certain techniques.
Alternatively, you may find a vague way of sharing information. For example, if someone were to ask how I sew a detail on one of my bags, I could simply state “It’s a technique I learned in sewing class”. If they pushed for more details I could say it’s a bit too complicated to explain without a sewing machine.
Retailers would never give away their trade secrets. They put in a lot of research and manpower to turn their operation into a well-oiled machine. If someone else wants to build a business to the same level, they need to put in the hard work and find their own way.
4) “Can you make this in blue?”
Again, if you’re a vendor who’s open to taking custom orders, this question is not an issue. But do consider if the materials will cost you extra and the time it takes to source them and make alterations.
If you’re not set up to take custom orders, don’t let a simple question make you feel pressured into taking them.
I strongly disliked the work a customized order added. It involved extra trips to the fabric store, double the communication, sometimes drafting new patterns and I was always left with materials and designs I wouldn’t use again. But I would feel guilty saying no to a customer, end up caving, and then resenting the order. Had I set a strict “no custom orders” policy from the start, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration.
It’s okay to have shoppers choose from the selection you brought. They do it all the time at the mall and will understand. They may ask a retailer if an item comes in another color but if it doesn’t, they don’t expect the sales associate to whip one up.
5) “So expensive! Can you make one for less?”
Some shoppers may not understand the cost of buying handmade and how much work a vendor puts into each piece. In which case, they’ll be shocked at all the vendors’ prices.
If you happen to be selling items that are higher than the typical craft show item, explain why your prices are higher.
Use signage to state the organic and ethically sourced materials you use or share the amount of time you spend on each piece so they understand the value they’re getting.
You may also consider raising the perceived value of your products through your display (here’s how to create a craft show display that makes shoppers think your products are worth more).
People don’t walk into Tiffany’s and gasp at the price tags. Tiffany & Co. is branded as a high-end jeweler and they have educated people on their prices. Every detail, right down to the little blue box and white ribbon, tells customers their products are worthy of the money they’ll spend.
But if you saw a Tiffany’s bracelet displayed on metal shelves at the dollar store, that item would no longer seem worth the high price.
Make sure every element that surrounds your products is as high-value as the products themselves.
Join the free email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY to get your display in order and silently telling shoppers how valuable your products are.
One person’s opinion of your prices does not mean they’re not worth the price you’ve set.
*Make sure you have indeed priced your products properly. Here’s the right way.
If they’re not willing to pay the price for your quality products then they’re more than welcome to go find another vendor. You should never feel you have to reduce your prices to accommodate a shopper’s budget. If they can’t afford it, they can’t afford it.
If someone walks into Tiffany’s and can’t afford a piece of their jewelry, they leave the store. If they want one of their pieces bad enough, they’ll save their pennies and come back when they have enough. They would never ask Tiffany’s to make something cheaper for them.
6) “Do you deliver?”
You may consider the option of dropping an item off to save your customers shipping costs, or to get it to them faster. But instead of a postal service driving across town, searching for the right address, burning gas, and adding miles to their vehicle, it’s you. Be sure those costs aren’t coming out of your pocket.
I haven’t personally shopped at a retailer that has offered to deliver an out-of-stock product for free. The most they’ll do is use their computer to look up which stores in the city have my size and it’s up to me to pick it up. If a retailer does offer delivery, it’s through a postal service and I’ll be paying for any shipping, handling, or customs fees.
7) “Can you make me one by Friday?”
If you’ve been a vendor at craft shows through the holidays, you’ve dealt with last-minute shoppers. They need an item and they need it before Christmas. I would make myself miserable trying to take on as many orders as I could to bring in enough revenue to get me through slow times in Jan/Feb. I didn’t even allow myself time to enjoy the holidays.
The better plan is to set a sales goal for Nov/Dec and make enough stock to hit it. You’ll feel less pressured to say yes to every potential sale that comes your way, knowing you have what you need to meet your goals.
*Check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER for a guide on setting goals and putting steps in place to make hitting them inevitable.
Christmas is the busiest time for retailers and they’re focused on making hay while the sun shines. Yes, they want to help people complete their shopping lists but they’re not going to throw their operation out the window and neglect other shoppers to cater to one person who waited until the last minute. It’s first-come, first-served and every man for
themselves during holiday shopping 😉
8) “This is $100, I only have $80 on me. Will you take $80 for it?”
9) “I want to buy two, can I get a discount?”
10) “I see you’re closing up for the day, can I get a discount?”
These last 3 are common “can I get a discount” questions. The more aware you are of the type of questions shoppers might throw your way, the better prepared you are.
At first, making a sale at the end of the day for a discounted price seems better than no sale at all.
I’m not in favor of giving discounts just because. Although I’ll admit, as a handmade vendor, I did allow myself to feel pressured into giving discounts to those who asked, but I almost always regretted it.
What did work for me was setting a Friends & Family discount for people I knew. If someone I didn’t know asked for a discount and I felt it was appropriate, I would offer to give them the Friends & Family discount.
This gave me a set percentage to apply and ensured I wasn’t being talked into a discount I wasn’t comfortable with or discounting myself out of a profit.
If you define the scenarios you will and won’t discount for and the percentage you’ll deduct, you’ll have an easier time responding when you’re put on the spot.
What do you get tired of hearing at craft shows & always say no to? Or say yes and regret it later? Share in the comments!
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!