5 Mistakes to Avoid at a Craft Show
Whether you’re getting ready for a large trade show and have an entire booth to fill, or you’ve booked a table at a community craft show, these 5 mistakes are always important to avoid.
Craft Show Mistake #1: Too much variety
Although you don’t want an empty booth and you do want to give your customers options, you don’t want to overwhelm them.
When I started selling at craft shows, I figured: the more types of products and product options I have, the better chance I have to sell something to each shopper.
There’s actually a study proving that more options can actually reduce sales. You can read about that here if you’re doubting less selection can produce more sales.
Not only does too much variety make your craft show table look disjointed (and sometimes unprofessional), it also makes it hard for shoppers to make a decision.
If you have the choice between vanilla or chocolate ice cream, how quickly can you make a decision and purchase your ice cream?
A matter of seconds right?
If you have 50 ice cream choices, plus cake, pie, and donuts to choose from, it’s going to take you much longer to make a decision.
This is what happens at your craft show booth when you have too much selection.
Shoppers take longer to make a decision, and sometimes need to walk away and think about it.
You’re not a department store; you’re a small handmade business.
Don’t try to offer something for everyone, or try to serve too broad of a target market (e.g. jewelry for all women).
Determine who your target market is (e.g. people who are a mother to a daughter) and what you want your business to be remembered for (e.g. mother-daughter jewelry).
In the craft show display below, I have too much variety, as I’m selling:
- cosmetic bags
- burp cloths
- baby blankets
- heating pads
I’m targeting a few different types of customers and serving conflicting shopping occasions. Meaning, when someone is shopping for winter accessories (mittens), they’re unlikely to also be shopping for cosmetic bags.
Trying to get shoppers to think about bundling up in winter accessories and then think about what type of cosmetic bags they need for traveling is too much context-switching.
Keep your shoppers focused on one task while at your table (e.g. accessorizing for winter OR organizing cosmetics for travel; NOT both).
What’s your key message?
I sell ___________
For example: I sell cosmetic bags.
If I have cosmetic bags, mittens, and burp cloths on my table, that message (I sell cosmetic bags) won’t be clear to shoppers.
When I remove products that confuse my message, my display looks cleaner, easier to shop, more cohesive, and more professional.
Instead of looking like a crafter who dabbles in a variety of products, I now look like a business selling cosmetic bags.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather buy a cosmetic bag from someone who specializes in them; not someone who dabbles in them.
I’m also willing to pay more for a product when it’s made by an expert.
>> If you’d like to read about the 6 mistakes made with the first display and how to correct them, check out: 6 Simple Ways to Improve a Craft Show Display
Bonus points if your message also tells shoppers what you do differently or better than competitors.
For example, I may focus on “vegan cosmetic bags” and sell only high-quality vinyl bags. Or, I may be different from competitors by focusing on cosmetic bags for brides.
If you sell jewelry but every piece is made with a healing crystal and has a bohemian style, you have one message: you make bohemian healing crystal jewelry.
On the other hand, if you offer a wide variety of jewelry and some are bold statement pieces, some are minimalistic gold pieces, some are made with plastic beads and others incorporate healing crystals, you’re sending a mixed message. In general, you’re saying: I make jewelry. Millions of people make jewelry, but far fewer make “healing crystal jewelry”.
When narrowing your selection, you may want to consider what types of products tend to sell better at craft shows:
Or, the types of products that are trending:
If you need a little help and direction when it comes to refining your product selection, join the FREE email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY.
Craft Show Mistake #2: Not enough variety in pricing
Although you may be narrowing your selection, you do want to offer a range of price points.
This not only helps you appeal to a range of budgets, but it also makes shoppers who are on the fence feel more comfortable buying.
For example, if I discover an artist at a craft show, I may not be ready to spend hundreds of dollars on an original piece of art. But if the artist is selling smaller prints for $20, I might buy a print to take home and test in my space, or to have something to enjoy until I’m ready to spend more money.
A variety of price points also allows you to increase your units per transaction (UPT) and boost sales.
If I only offer one size and style of cosmetic bag, it’s unlikely one customer will buy 2 or more of the same bag.
But when I offer a bag in different size and style options, a customer is more likely to add items to their purchase.
You can still offer pricing options, even if you only make one type of product.
Let’s say I only sell a medium-sized cosmetic bag. I can offer that bag in:
- a polyester fabric (low price point)
- a vinyl fabric (medium price point)
- leather (high price point)
A shopper who loves my pieces but is on a budget may purchase the bag in polyester fabric, while someone buying a gift and wanting to spend around $40-$50 can purchase the bag in leather.
Craft show shoppers are browsing and discovering new products and businesses.
This means, most shoppers won’t be prepared to spend a lot of money.
Try to stock up on low and mid-priced products so those who are being introduced to your business for the first time, have a selection to buy from. Use your high-priced items as the showstoppers. Place them at eye level and in a spot that catches the eye to draw people in.
Here are several ways to add a variety of price points and increase sales:
- How to Use Up-Selling to Sell More Handmade
- How to Use Add-Ons to Sell More Handmade
- How to Create an Entry-Level Product for your Handmade Business
- How & Why a Craft Business Should Down-Sell
And here’s where to place each type of product in your display: Craft Show Table Layout Tips
Craft Show Mistake #3: Customers don’t know where to find you after the show
The majority of craft show shoppers won’t buy from you.
The average conversion rate of a brick-and-mortar store is 20% – 30% (source). Which means, if 100 people walk into a shop, on average, only 20 – 30 people will actually buy something.
Online conversion rates are lower; typically 2% – 3% (because options are endless online).
Your conversion rate will vary depending on what type of event you’re selling at, what you’re selling, price points, time of year, etc.
Because shoppers don’t know what they’ll find at a craft show until they walk through the doors, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of vendors to choose from, it’s likely conversion rates at a craft show fall somewhere between brick-and-mortar and online averages.
Let’s say the average craft show booth conversion rate is around 10%.
That means 90% of shoppers won’t buy from you.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interested in your products.
So it’s important to market to those shoppers in hopes they buy from you after the event.
First, your booth should be memorable.
You want to be known as: “THE vendor selling candy-scented soaps”. Or, “the vendor selling healing crystal jewelry”, or “the vendor selling cat-themed bags”, etc.
“The vendor selling a few bags, some mittens, burp cloths, and heating pads” is NOT as memorable.
Then, you should give shoppers a way to contact you after the event.
Place a stack of business cards on the outer edge of your table so it’s easy for shoppers to grab one as they’re leaving your space (or try this trick to save money and ensure shoppers hang onto your information).
For shoppers that do purchase from you that day, stick a clever business card in their bag so they can easily buy from you again.
Even better, give yourself a way to contact shoppers after the event, by getting them to sign up for your newsletter.
There are several factors to think about and you don’t want to break any laws so be sure to read over this article in regard to newsletters.
>> You may also be interested in: 3 BIG LEGAL MISTAKES CRAFTERS MAKE.
Craft Show Mistake #4: Hiding behind the table
Craft shows can be intimidating, especially if you don’t like selling (or small talk with strangers).
But people attend craft shows because they want to meet the maker and hear the story behind their work.
If you don’t share the story behind your business and your products, you’re taking away an important part of their experience.
If you’ve got your head in a book or are busy chatting with your helper, you’re going to miss opportunities to gain a new customer.
You don’t have to be someone you’re not; just smile and start a conversation (here are easy ways to do that).
Sharing your story with craft show customers gives them something interesting to talk about or think about each time they use your products.
You don’t have to be saving the world or reinventing the wheel to have something interesting to share with shoppers. There are a variety of ways to uncover the hidden stories behind your business and products.
I’ll teach you how to tell a story that sells in the FREE email challenge 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY.
Craft Show Mistake #5: Leaving your display as an afterthought
If you hate selling, let your display do some of the selling for you.
I know how much work craft sales are and the majority of your efforts go into building stock.
But your booth setup deserves just as much thought and effort as your products.
If your booth doesn’t catch shoppers’ attention and draw them over, you won’t even have a chance to sell all the products you’ve made.
When your ideal customer walks in the door, you want them to notice you right away based on the color of your space and products, the font in your signage, your display fixtures and props, and the image you give off (here’s how you should dress to boost sales).
Secondly, if you don’t put effort into your display, it can actually devalue your products.
Imagine being served a filet mignon on a paper plate in a dirty, noisy, run-down restaurant. The meat may be worth $20+ but you’re not willing to pay more than $5 based on the surroundings.
Make sure each element surrounding your products in your craft show booth add to their value, not detract from it. From your tablecloth to your price tags, no detail is too small to put effort into.
And lastly, if the space isn’t designed properly, you’ll have a hard time keeping shoppers around long enough to buy.
You need your space to be shoppable and encourage people to pick up items. If shoppers don’t feel comfortable touching because a fixture looks like it might fall over, or your products look too precious to touch, they won’t buy.
I explain how to create the perfect craft show table layout in this article.
If you want to learn how to create a display that shares your message and tells a story, check out my free email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY
This tip is one I learned while working as a visual merchandiser for major retailers.
Sales associates had to follow a simple rule to boost sales:
As soon as there were more than 2 people in line to pay, an associate had to open a register and get that line moving faster.
>> The longer the lineup, the more reason people had NOT to buy.
>> The quicker the line moves, the more sales can be made per hour.
Even if you never have a lineup of people wanting to pay, your customers don’t want to stand around waiting for you to find your credit card machine, searching for change, or rummaging through boxes to find your tissue paper.
The longer you take to complete a transaction and wrap the purchase, the less time you have for other customers.
Keep everything you need for making a sale in one area and if possible, prep bags beforehand by pre-stuffing them with tissue paper and business cards.
Which mistakes do you see vendors make most often at craft shows? 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!
Boy, I wished that you could give this lesson to the Annual Festival we have here in our town. Vendors act as if they are part of the inventory and just sit there an never even say “hello”. I am so fed up I stopped attending. I stood at one booth with the product in my hand to purchase and the seller never open their mouth. I put the item back. My money comes with a price: Be nice to me and I will release it, act snobbish and it will never be yours!
I absolutely agree with you!!! When I would attend Festivals, people would just sit behind their booths and not greet me. Even when I would intentionally look around at their items to see if they would even notice me, some would never speak and I would leave. When I participated in a pop up a few months ago (I sell body butters, soaps, etc.) I greeted every individual that came to my booth and I would never stay seated when someone was at my booth. Here’s one of my pickup lines for shoppers to stop and look, ” Hey there!! I see you looking! We have body butters that will keep your skin soft and silky! We even have items for men too!” It worked every time! I had almost as many sales from men as I did for women! Just being nice and friendly got me plenty of sales.
Ive just booked my first stall and its for a Christmas Market.
these 5 pointers are so valuable…you have given me an amazing idea with number 4.
So excited and nervous at the same time, this all helps.
Hi. I have my first craft fayre tomorrow! How did yours turn out in the end? Jenny x
I felt the same way, excited but oh as nervous, before my first show a free months ago. I was pleasantly surprised by how it all went so well. Preparation is the key, engagement with your customers and have fun, enjoy it!! I also didn’t expect other vendors to be so helpful and how willing they were to share ideas and upcoming show listings and locations. That was great
Thank you for thr 5 tips. Really good advice.
Thank you so much Toni, glad you found it helpful! There are also some other inspiration ideas in this article for treating your booth like a store window: http://www.madeurban.com/News/want_to_stand_out_at_a_craft_show_try_these_displa/4217
and some other thoughts to consider for your set up here: http://www.madeurban.com/News/why_youre_looking_at_your_craft_show_setup_wrong/4203
Have an amazing event!! Everyone is nervous at their first few events but craft shows are always fun once you settle in 🙂
Thank you so much for this article. You will never know how much it has helped me get ready for a show.
That’s so amazing to hear Joy! Thanks so much for reading and good luck at your next event!
Thank you so much for the wonderful tips. I have done two Craft Fairs before but my main product that I want to focus on didn’t do that we’ll. I know now why. Because I had too much other stock. I am going to change that starting today. Thank so much for the great advice. Ina-Jean
Thanks for reading Ina-Jean! So glad you found the article helpful. Please keep us posted on how future craft shows go with your narrowed focus 🙂
Thank you for the wonderful tips. I’m about to do my first Christmas fair and your tips are very helpful. I’m excited and nervous.
Now I know that I have to decide what particular item will be the focal point. Thank you Bellatrix
Hi Bellatrix! Good luck at your upcoming event. I hope the tips help you have a great show!
This is a very helpful advise. It’s really not appealing for customers if you show no interest or not interacting with them. It makes them feel unimportant. You’re wright about “variety” as well, too much of it can only lead to confusion although the more options the better 🙂
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I’ve been selling hand-painted canvases and chalkboards at craft shows for the past few years but I don’t have a branded business. Should I still hand out business cards? -Henri, St. Louis MO
I think it’s important to start branding your business. It’s not just about a logo. A brand creates an experience for your customers so they know what to expect from your business, why to choose you over another and to keep them thinking of you and purchasing in the future. Good branding may seem like a “nice to have” but it will help you sell more.
Even if you don’t have a strong brand established yet, it’s important to let shoppers know where to find you after a craft fair. Most people don’t purchase on the first encounter so if they can’t find you when they think of your products a few days later or next month when they need a gift, you’re losing sales.
A business card can still be used to hand out your email address, website or social media pages.
Hope that helps!
I am about to venture into doing my first craft show, I found find your focal point very intriguing. Keep it simple was awesome, would have went to far to the elaborate side. This article was very inspiring thanks.
Glad you enjoyed it Jewel!
Trying to offer something for everyone who stops by your table is a very common mistake and so easy to do.
I’m definitely guilty of going overboard at my first craft fair. I split a table with a friend who sold photography and also wanted me to help him with an idea he had for pillow cases using vintage t-shirts. I made flannel pyjama bottoms with matching heating bags so our table had: photography, pillows and pillow cases, pyjamas, rice heating bags and a few other knick-knacks. Talk about a mixed bag 😉
Keeping it simple and having a strong, clear message is key 🙂
Good article . . . however, I must disagree with #1. You CAN offer a lot of different type items if you set your booth up correctly. Have sections, each featuring like items. You may need more than one booth space to accomplish this. I normally get two spaces, and at a few shows . . three.
I sell a LOT of different items . . . from Christmas ornaments to jewelry to Pebble Art to Halloween decor, to t-shirts (and a bunch of other stuff, in between). My booth is ALWAYS busy. I attribute that to the fact that I sell a wide variety of products, therefore attracting a wider variety of buyers than those that sell a single type of item.
So, I don’t think having the capability to make and display a lot of types of crafts should be viewed as a “mistake”.
Thanks for reading Deb!
If selling and displaying a wide variety of products works for you, then keep up the good work.
I stand behind my advice for handmade businesses to narrow their selection. I started with a craft show table full of everything from pj’s and rice heating bags to aprons, mittens and purses.
When I realized the majority of my sales were coming from a few select products, I focused on those, cut back my selection and saw my profits, sales, sales per transaction, repeat customers, productivity, etc. increase.
It was the best thing I did for my business and cut out a lot of work creating product I only sold a couple of and had to mark down at the end of a season.
I’m extremely nervous but excited about my first craft show. I think your article is just what I needed to help put me at ease so that I can focus on what I should do to have a successful show. Thank you so much. I signed up for the 5 day challenge so that I can prepare myself for the best show I can possibly do.
Thank you for the great advice and information! Much appreciated!
I am just about to do my 3rd market and I am still learning and trying new things!
I have tried to be as unique and possible, selling products/items that have no or little competition with other vendors… Just have to find it and sample it to the customer…. engage your demographic targets..
Really appreciate this article from you! Been doing crafts for over 20 years! Can always learn something new!
I think key is that you don’t have items out in a way that can easily be stolen. I had this happen as a rookie and it really cuts into profits a lot. I had put out too much and it was a busy sale (despite a few of us working the table we were swarmed by a group of people working together on distraction techniques to steal from the vendors). It is unfortunate that we have to take this into account so much.
While I’ve been taking cards for a few years, I’ve found that the amount of people who still pay with cash varies from show to show (sometimes it seems they all pay with cash! LOL!). So one of the best things I changed was instead of a cash box, I used a hardware apron with 2 pockets to hold my money which made it way easier to walk around and interact with people and faster to do transactions. Many people already had bags to put items in and so didn’t want another one – they just want to pay and move on! I also made a sign with my Venmo QR code on it and many people will scan and pay by the time I have their items bagged up and off they go! Because I sell custom items, I also will give people an order sheet instead of a business card (it has prices and contact info on it) if they ask about ordering – I’ve had good success with this and a sheet of paper is harder to loose.
Hello! I have my first ever craft fayre tomorrow…looking forward to it, and nervous..will be freindly…i was going to paint while there, as i persobally hate being pounced on when im browsing…but i wont now…also, im on my own…and the big thing i am really worried about is adding amounts in my head…i have a portable card machine and i will get some change for cash..but i have a real phobia with maths! I sell my paintings and have done really well…sold nearly a i make, plus commisions…i now paint stones too and have my art made into cards and prints xx @southend_beach_and_sea_art. Thank you for your very interesting article :))) bit late now…but will use it next time x
I think you can great people to engage without “pouncing”. Just a simple “hello” is often enough and then go from there. If you are using an app like Square to do credit cards you can pre-set your prices and have categories you enter prices if they very too much. It’ll to the math for you. Square also let’s you indicate if the are paying in cash or check, how much change etc so you don’t have to worry about math. Bonus is it will keep track of sales so you know what sells well. I’m sure there are other apps that can do the same. Good luck!
Thank you so much…i have the sum up machine…it was quite a success…didnt sell much, but i did sell a painting, some cards and a print :)) covered the cost of the table plus some of an order of cards i purchased. Loved it! Lookimg forward to my next one in june
Well done,a ton of very important points for anyone in selling.Everyone should read and revised your books as it so easy to loose the plot along the way. With early good plans and ideas forgotten loosing that freshness you started with. I firmly believe that it’s good practice to revisit your shop or stall and focus on what the customer ..
I have a question about seasons. I knit unique and colorful baby sweaters. Generally, the spring and summer season is not when mothers, grandmothers, family and friends purchase sweaters. How can I entice sales? Moreover, baby sweaters are not impulse purchases like jewelry, soap and scarves. No need to buy for a baby if there isn’t a baby in the horizon. Any thoughts? Thank you for your advice