Not all of these points are red flags telling you not to sell at a particular craft show.
However, they may be signs to proceed with caution.
Craft shows can be labor intensive and come with several expenses.
So you want to be sure a craft show is the right fit for you and your business.
>> For more tips on choosing the right craft shows and making them profitable, check out: Make More Money at Craft Fairs
1 – Craft shows with no marketing plan
Your booth fee will pay for the organizer’s expenses such as venue fees, tables, and clean-up after the event, as well as the organizer’s wages.
But a big portion of vendor fees should go toward marketing the event.
If the organizer doesn’t have a plan for marketing the event and is simply relying on word of mouth or a busy location, it may be a sign that the show won’t attract many shoppers.
Conversion rates vary, but a typical brick-and-mortar store’s conversion rate is around 20% – 40% (source) (and a craft show is similar to a brick-and-mortar store).
So for each vendor to make decent sales, the event must attract hundreds of people (or more, depending on how many vendors there are).
Just because an organizer is putting together an event, does not mean people will show up.
They must have a solid marketing plan to attract the number of shoppers needed for each vendor to make sales.
2 – Craft shows with a non-shopping focus
Many big festivals will have a mix of activities, music, food, vendors, etc.
These can be successful for handmade business owners due to their large crowds.
But all those attractions can also distract people from shopping.
When shopping local vendors is just a small part of an event, vendor sales can suffer because people are busy taking in other parts of the event.
Consider the crowd the festival is attracting and if those people are a fit for your products.
Selling items that are commonly used at festivals may make for a successful event (e.g. selling hats at an outdoor festival on a sunny day. Here are more festival product ideas).
But you may find it harder to make sales if your items aren’t immediately useful to festival-goers. They don’t want to lug around or juggle shopping bags as they try to eat or take in a show.
Aside from the crowd the festival will attract, consider how the other attractions might impact your booth.
- Live music may make it difficult to talk to shoppers (if your booth is close to the music).
- Food trucks may keep people’s hands full so they’re unable to shop.
- Bouncy castles and face painters will keep kids busy, but pull parents (i.e. shoppers) away from vendor tents.
Other attractions shouldn’t work against you making sales.
3 – Venues with no foot traffic
Take the location into account when deciding on a craft show.
An organizer holding an event on the outskirts of town may charge lower booth fees (due to lower venue fees), but it may be bad for traffic.
The busiest craft shows rely on foot traffic and/or easy and free parking.
A craft show held at an obscure location that doesn’t have much foot traffic, requires a long drive, and/or is difficult to park close to may result in fewer shoppers.
4 – Craft shows on the same day as a major event
Look at your city’s event calendar and be sure there aren’t other major events happening on the same day as a craft show.
Big events happening around the city can pull shoppers away from a craft show.
This may also be the case when a craft show is scheduled over a long weekend.
Most people plan a trip out of town for long weekends. So unless you live in a city that’s a tourist hotspot, long weekends can be bad for craft show traffic.
It should also be said; if the event organizer is setting up shop next to another major event and expecting to piggyback on that event’s marketing, they may be disappointed.
I’ve been at shows where the organizer was excited about another event happening close by. They thought shoppers from the other event would wander over to the craft show. In my experience, that wasn’t the case.
People need to be in the right state of mind to shop and buy handmade goods. When people are visiting an event to eat at food trucks or buy groceries at a farmers’ market, they’re not typically prepared to shop at a craft show too.
(I actually did a craft show at a private athletic club on a Saturday. It was packed with people working out on Saturday morning, but that did not translate to craft show sales. I thought it was going to be a successful show because it was at an expensive private club, but it was one of my worst ones.)
5 – A craft show with no track record
New shows can be great. They’re often smaller and have lower fees.
But craft shows are not easy to organize and market.
So be sure to do your research before committing to a show put on by an organizer with no track record or event planning experience.
Ask how they plan to market the event, the types of vendors they’ll have, the types of shoppers they’re targeting, etc.
>> For a list of questions to ask an organizer before committing to a craft show, check out: Make More Money at Craft Fairs
6 – Craft shows full of MLM businesses
Check with the organizer to see if they’re going to allow MLM (multi-level marketing) vendors.
Vendors selling Mary Kay, Scentsy, Pampered Chef, Avon, etc. products are hard to compete with when you’re selling handmade products.
Those vendors are selling mass-produced products, which means their prices are likely lower than yours.
Not every craft show shopper is educated on handmade prices and some may not even realize an MLM’s products are not handmade. Which will really have them wondering why your prices are so much higher.
That’s not good for sales.
An event that’s mostly MLM business will also attract a different type of shopper. One that’s less interested in handmade products.
7 – Craft shows that are a flea market + handmade mix
Some larger markets will have a mix of vendors, with half the vendors reselling vintage or antique items and the other half selling handmade.
It may seem like the mix of vendors will attract more people, meaning more sales for you.
But in most cases, that mix can impede sales for handmade vendors.
It’s important to think about the type of shoppers an event’s vendors are going to attract.
People shopping for bargains are not typically the same people who buy handmade. Or they may be the same people, but they’re not in the right mindset to buy handmade.
When you’re bargain hunting…you’re bargain hunting. Meaning, it’s hard for shoppers to switch out of that mode in a matter of seconds and pay higher prices for handmade goods.
There are no guarantees when selling at craft shows (you may want to check out the 10 cons to selling at craft shows).
But you can increase your chances of having a successful craft show by choosing the right ones.
If possible, you should visit a craft show before signing up. That will give you a chance to see firsthand what type of crowd is there, who the vendors are, and even chat with a couple of vendors to see if they would recommend the event. They may even have other craft shows to recommend.
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!