“WHY AREN’T MY CRAFT SHOW SALES HIGHER?”
I signed up for my very first craft fair, made my stock, loaded it into the venue on event day and arranged it on a bare table.
I was exhausted, excited, nervous and a little bit sweaty, but ready for shoppers to swarm my table and to have non-stop sales.
It didn’t quite work out as I had planned. And neither did several other craft fairs that followed.
I began each craft fair with the very real fear…
What if no one buys from me?
I’d watch shoppers move around the room and try to determine which ones might purchase my products. I’d eagerly smile at people as they approached my table, hoping someone…..anyone, would stop and browse.
It wasn’t until I made my first sale that I could start relaxing. And as soon as I made enough sales to cover my table fees, I was happy.
But it was a sad day when I realized that just because event sales were high enough to cover table fees, it didn’t mean I was making money.
Once I crunched the numbers and realized I was actually losing money at most craft shows, I knew I had to start approaching them like a businesswoman, and not a crafter.
Craft fairs helped me find my best selling product and get that product into retailers, the media and the hands of thousands of consumers.
I would have never been able to grow my business to a full-time venture without the help of craft fairs.
But there was a learning curve to successfully selling at craft fairs.
From my own experience of selling at craft fairs for years, shopping at hundreds of them and my connections with event organizers, I’ve gained a LOT of craft fair knowledge.
And made a LOT of mistakes, which I believe are a great teacher. Here are a few of my biggest mistakes:
MISTAKE #1 – SIGNING UP FOR POPULAR EVENTS
Most cities have the big events that have been going on for years and have a loyal fan base. They’re often quite successful for most vendors, have long lists of applicants and handmade business owners praying they get accepted.
But just because one vendor, or one hundred vendors, raved about an event, it didn’t mean it was a good event for me.
I really had to crunch the numbers and determine if an event was likely to give me a return on investment; spending months building stock for a big show meant other areas of my business would suffer.
Cash is in the inventory, so being left with a ton of stock after a show meant my cash flow was tied up until I sold it.
I figured out a few calculations based on rough numbers to give me an idea of how much money I could make at an event, how much stock would be required and how much time would be needed to make, set up and sell that stock.
Once I crunched the numbers, then I could look at several other factors to determine if the event would attract the right crowd and create the right environment for me to make sales.
Live music and a bar? It made for a fun atmosphere but hard to talk to shoppers (most of whom were distracted by the entertainment and drinks).
Choosing the right event for your business is the first step towards success. It doesn’t matter how amazing your products, display or selling skills are; if your target market isn’t showing up and the environment isn’t a fit for your brand, it’ll be difficult to make sales.
I explain exactly how to choose the right events in MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS – CHOOSING THE RIGHT EVENTS. It answers:
- How much money can I make at craft fairs? Simple calculations to follow so you can estimate your sales before signing up for an event.
- Where can I sell my products? Six types of events you can look for in your city, how they’re different and how much they typically cost so you can choose ones that are right for your business and boost sales.
- What are some insider craft fair secrets? What you can expect and what others expect of you so you’re fully prepared, look like a pro and always get invited back.
- Which events are right for me? Not all events are created equally and you must know what to look for and how each element will affect your sales.
- What are organizers looking for? The not-so-obvious aspects craft fair organizers look at to determine if you’re a fit for the event.
- What about permits, policies and accepting payments? Everything to think about and what must be in place before you start selling at an event.
MISTAKE #2 – BRINGING THE WRONG PRODUCT & TOO MUCH OF IT
When I started at craft fairs, they were a creative outlet for me. I would dream up ideas, turn then into products, set them up on a table and hope they would sell.
I figured, the more products I offered, the more likely each shopper would find something on my table they’re interested in buying.
- Flannel pajamas and heating bags
- Sleeping masks
- Pillow covers
- A WIDE variety of handbags (from diaper bags to evening clutches)
- Zipper pouches
- Key chains
With all those products and no clear connection between them as far as materials, style, purpose, etc., I ended up with a chaotic table that lacked branding and had no clear USP (unique selling position).
It was a true “craft” table instead of a well-curated shop.
When I started to think about my space as a little store, I could see where I was going wrong.
A successful storeowner wouldn’t stock their shelves with anything and everything they could buy.
They’d first and foremost be sure a product would make them money (i.e. good profit margins).
And then they’d make sure a product was a fit for their brand, theme of the store, worked well with other products in the store, rounded out their selection for upsells and add-ons, etc.
Because the risk factor of a craft show isn’t as high as opening a brick and mortar store, the tendency is to have an ~I’ll just try it for fun and see what happens~ mentality.
But when you factor in:
- how much time it takes to create enough stock to fill a table or booth
- the hours spent packing, travelling, setting up, selling and take down for a craft show
- how much money is spent on supplies, table fees, display fixtures and props
It adds up and there’s a lot of money that can be made or lost.
As I whittled down my selection to one main product and a few supporting products, I saw what a HUGE difference it made in the quality of shopper I attracted and the quality of each sale.
I was no longer attracting a mix of shoppers finding random treasures on my table, buying one item and never buying again.
I was attracting a specific type of shopper, interested in all my products, buying higher price points and becoming a loyal repeat customer.
In MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS – DECIDING ON STOCK & HOW MUCH TO MAKE I answer common questions such as:
- How can I make my products more profitable? Looking at ALL expenses and the wage for ALL your time spent on your business, how to cover them and how to be more profitable.
- How do I make my products stand out? With more and more people starting handmade businesses each year, you must know what makes your business and products different and why someone should buy from you (being handmade is not enough).
- How can I make displaying my products easy? It’s all about building product collections (I’ll teach you how).
- How much stock should I make for a craft fair? Calculations and formulas so you don’t have to guess how much stock to bring or base numbers on how much production time you can cram in before an event.
- What can I do beforehand to be sure the event is a success for me? People who are familiar with your brand and products are more likely to purchase (and purchase those big-ticket items) so be sure you get them to the event! I share a bunch of ways to make sure they show up.
MISTAKE #3 – THINKING A GREAT DISPLAY WAS A “NICE TO HAVE” NOT A “NEED TO HAVE”
My very first craft show I brought nothing more than my products, a couple signs made on my computer using a basic font, and a wrinkly tablecloth. My idea of stepping it up for the next event was emptying a few Ikea baskets from home and using them as risers.
I thought selling at craft shows was going to be a cakewalk and shoppers who entered the doors were guaranteed to stop by my table.
But there are a lot of talented vendors at craft shows, many of whom have spent years perfecting their brand and display. And craft shows are only gaining momentum so competition is getting more and more stiff.
Honestly, my display was bush league until I stopped creating it based on how much stock I could fit in and what was easiest or most convenient and instead, designed a display using my visual presentation knowledge from college and the tricks I picked up working as a Regional Visual Merchandiser for a multi-million dollar retailer.
I thought about how stores drew me in when walking through a mall and how I could apply their powerful techniques to an 8-foot craft fair table.
There are hundreds of stores in a mall… how do you decide which ones to stop in when you’re not familiar with a brand?
A store’s window shows you what type of shopper their products are aimed towards.
- You don’t need to be in a store and picking up products to know whether they’re targeting teenagers or women in their forties; a quick glance at the store’s sign, window display and the first few feet inside the store tells you who their products are perfect for.
- You don’t need the sales associate to tell you their products have a modern, feminine feel; you pick that up from the products, their packaging, store’s lighting, display fixtures, atmosphere, the way sales associates look and act, etc.
- You don’t need to look at a price tag to get an idea of whether you’re shopping in a high-end store with high prices or a no-frills store with low prices; the details that surround the products give you an indication.
Stores can tell you what they sell and who it’s for without saying a word.
Once they get you in the store, several merchandising techniques lead you on a path to discover the right products at the right time and encourage you to buy.
Your craft show display should do the same… yes, even if you’re working with an 8-foot table or smaller.
MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS – CREATING A POWERFUL DISPLAY answers common questions such as:
- How do I brand my craft show table/booth? Branding is a LOT more than putting up a banner sign with your logo; it’s all about the details and creating an experience for shoppers.
- How do I set up my space? There must be flow and a purpose to each section of your space, even if it’s an 8-foot table. I’ll teach you how to use effective retail merchandising techniques in your display.
- How can my display catch shoppers’ attention and get them to stop? Learn show stopping display techniques I was taught in college and will have people thinking “I have to go check out that booth”.
- How do I create a display when I sell customized pieces? Tips on how to set up a craft show table when you don’t have product ready to be sold.
- How can my display encourage more sales? I share ways to get people to buy more and buy higher-ticket items.
- What type of props and display fixtures can I use? A long list of ideas so you can find a fit for your brand and budget.
MISTAKE #4 – LETTING MY PRODUCTS DO ALL THE TALKING
I started selling at craft fairs with the mentality: if someone likes my work enough to buy, great! But I’m not going to trick them into buying… I’m just not that type of sales person.
As long as you’re not using pushy tactics, you feel comfortable and your shoppers feel comfortable, no one is going to be bothered by your selling.
Selling shouldn’t be thought of as “tricking” or talking people into buying.
Selling should be thought of as helping.
You’re helping to educate consumers about why your ingredients are better than big brands, or what the latest trends are so they know something their friends don’t ;P
You’re helping consumers make informed buying decisions. I want someone to tell me why this product is better than that product. I don’t want to have to spend time researching or get a product home and realize I made the wrong choice.
Selling is also about sharing.
Sharing the unique story behind your business, product, materials, the cause you donate to, etc., which then gives customers a cool story to share…you’re basically helping to make them a more interesting person;)
Sharing your amazing products; they get to be one of the people who discovered you before millions of others.
There is a way to make selling fun…okay…maybe not everyone will find it “fun”, but definitely enjoyable and comfortable.
Once you find that comfort zone, it doesn’t feel like selling. Which is a win-win; shoppers don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to and you likely don’t enjoy feeling like you’re selling.
MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS – IMPROVING SALES & SELLING TECHNIQUES shares a ton of tips to help you be more effective and more comfortable selling and answer questions such as:
- What if I’m an introvert or painfully shy? Been there! I definitely have tips that will help if talking to people is the last thing you want to do.
- What should I say about my products to encourage someone to buy? I share five layers that help craft an effective sales pitch and explain exactly how to use it at an event so selling feels natural.
- What do I do if the craft show is a bust? There are five common scenarios that come into play when you’re having slow sales at an event, I cover what they are and a solution for each.
- How can I ensure I’m always raising the bar and improving sales at each event? There are 21 worksheets in this ebook to specifically help you analyze each event and figure out your path so craft fairs are less like a rollercoaster ride and more like a gondola ride to the top.
Not sure MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS is right for you?
Join my newsletter here and receive a free sample chapter from the ebook (downloaded by over 18,000 crafters). The free sample chapter could be an ebook on its own with all the information that’s packed inside. It really has the ability to change your business for the better, as a whole; not just pertaining to craft fair sales.
WHY I WROTE MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS
As a small business owner who’s likely wearing all the hats in your business and completing work that typically requires a team, you don’t have the time or money for trial and error.
MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS was created to be a start-to-finish, stop-searching-the-internet-for-answers, find-them-all-in-one-place, make-a-difference guide.
There’s no fluff or filler. Each chapter is full of advice that has the ability to improve your business and make selling at craft fairs more profitable.
MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS has been purchased by thousands of crafters and earned tons of praise. Not a week goes by without a handmade business owner emailing me to let me know how much they’ve enjoyed the ebook…which is music to my ears.
“I have come across so many tantalizing snippets of information about success at markets only to be disappointed and left wanting more practical information. Your book covers everything and more with real-life examples and experiences.
The level of detail, topics covered and the general overall positive tone of the book was very inspiring. Having found such a well thought out guide really helped me continue doing what I love (making and selling at markets) at a time when I was seriously considering if I should continue.”
“This book is great whether you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been around the craft fair circuit a few times. It’s pretty comprehensive and we all have areas that we could use a little more work on. When reading it, I had to stop at several times to make notes of some principles that could be applied to West Coast Leslie Designs, because no matter how much you’ve already done as a maker, there’s always room for improvement.”
“As market organizers, we found ourselves exclaiming “OMG YES!!!” (out loud) many times while reading this book, because Erin really hits it on the head when it comes to maker life. We joked that the alternate title of this book is “what market organizers wish everyone knew before applying!” We see so many of the pitfalls that the book covers from vendors who contact us, apply to our markets, or participate at our events. By applying the principles in this book, vendors are likely to be more successful at getting into the shows they want to and as a result can be more successful.”
“Regardless of which stage your business is at or what you’re selling, the sample chapter is a MUST READ! I realized, with a few small changes to my products, I could be making my job a lot easier when it came to displaying, selling and making a profit.” ~Mel (Roam Vintage Home)
“This ebook was one of my best purchases for my business. Thank you for creating it. Well worth the money.” ~Laura (Squish Play)
“I received my book last week, and can’t stop reading it!! It is by far the absolute best information out there for Crafters! This book needs to be in the hands of everyone who crafts and sells. This is our holy grail!! Thank you so much!!” ~Lois
“Hi there, I am SOOOOOOOO GLad I came across your ebook!! Wow I was ready to quit craft fairs, I am so glad I was willing to give it one last go by doing my research this time. I am half way through the book in one hour already. It’s amazing and I havn’t even finished it yet.” ~Katherine (Coconut Dreams Australia)
“Erin, I love your book. I’ve got to go back and read it again, as my idea develops for getting more into the crafts.” ~Jacki (Blue Fox Farm)
“I learned some good tips for displaying my art and interacting with customers. I’m so glad I bought it!” ~Val
“Read your book and LOVED it and referred it to some of my crafty friends.” ~Jackie (The Willow Crossing)
WHO AM I?
I’m Erin, founder and one of the creative minds behind MadeUrban.com, and that’s Josh, Made Urban’s CEO (it was dress-up day at the office;) I’ve been in the crafting industry over a decade now, with 2005 being the year of my very first craft fair. I started as the poster child for “craft fair don’ts” and grew into a successful handmade business owner selling full time through craft fairs, online and wholesale accounts. That small business led me to my current dream career of helping others with their creative businesses and working for the cuddliest boss in the world… my cat Josh.
As a Visual Communications Design graduate, past Regional Visual Merchandiser, former craft show vendor, current crafty website owner and forever and always a handmade hoarder, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. From methods taught in the classroom to techniques used by major retailers to bring in the big bucks, I’ve tested them all to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling handmade at craft fairs.
I want nothing more than to see your small business succeed and to share every bit of information I can to help you along the way. I hope you love reading my advice as much as I love sharing it. If you have any questions about the ebook, my articles, Made Urban or cats, I’d be happy to answer them!
WHY BUY YOUR EBOOK WHEN THERE’S SO MUCH INFO OUT THERE FOR FREE?
I get it. You’ve read a ton of articles and are thinking this will be just a longer version of one, full of basic advice you already know. Although “adding height”, “being unique” and “smiling” are important, I’ve got much more valuable advice to offer than that. I would strongly recommend downloading the sample chapter. Through it you’ll see the type of detail, examples and out of the box ideas I provide. And you’ll get value from it, even if you don’t plan on buying the full ebook.
HOW MUCH MORE MONEY WILL I MAKE AFTER READING YOUR EBOOK?
That’s up to you and how much of the information you apply. Am I going to make you a millionaire? No (but let me know if I do…I could be charging a lot more for my advice). I can’t make any money guarantees but I do feel confident that if you apply just a couple ideas from my ebook, you’ll get a return on your investment.
I’VE BEEN SELLING AT CRAFT FAIRS FOR A FEW YEARS; WILL THIS EBOOK STILL BE USEFUL?
I truly do believe so. The worksheets alone will help you take a closer look at your business and streamline some of your processes so you can run a leaner, meaner operation. As mentioned, I’m providing unique advice, most of which I haven’t come across in all my years of selling at events and reading craft fair related articles online. I’ve combined my education from the Visual Communications Design program with real world experience of working at craft fairs and for major retailers. These were big companies and my work had to translate into dollars, so you can trust that the techniques I share, work when applied properly.
If you feel as though there’s still room for your business and sales to grow at craft fairs, you’ll find this ebook useful. It’s not full of basic, heard-it-before, beginner information. Advanced ideas are explained in a clear, easy to follow way so that it’s useful to beginner and advanced craft show vendors.
I PARTICIPATE IN CRAFT SHOWS BUT I SELL A SERVICE, NOT A PRODUCT. WILL THIS EBOOK STILL BE USEFUL?
Although MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS speaks to business owners who sell a product, I believe a lot of the information will still be valuable to those who set up at craft fairs or trade shows to advertise their service. You still need an attractive display right? A table full of pamphlets doesn’t catch the attention of too many people or encourage them to stop. You’ll have to shift your mindset a bit to apply my advice to a service instead of a product but I think exercising your brain is always a good thing.
YOU’RE FROM CANADA… WILL YOUR ADVICE BE HELPFUL TO ME IF I LIVE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY?
Definitely. In fact, one of our testimonials is from a handmade vendor living in Australia and I have customers from all around the world. The ideas in my ebook are universal and can be applied to any display, regardless of location.
I DON’T EVEN HAVE A BUSINESS OFF THE GROUND YET…IS IT TOO EARLY TO BUY THE EBOOK?
NO! A lot of the advice in the ebook applies to more than just craft fairs and it’s going to get you thinking further ahead than two steps. In fact, reading this ebook before you start your business is ideal. You need to think beyond just your products. How are you going to brand yourself? How will your products sit on the craft fair table or shelves of a retailer? What makes your products different from your competitors? These are all areas I cover in the ebook and in my opinion, are essential to consider from the start.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE ME TO GET THROUGH
Well…the full version that includes all four topics is 287 pages and there are worksheets at the end of each chapter with questions for you to thoughtfully answer. The information is given to you all at once so you can consume it at your pace. No timeframe; you may work your way through over a couple months or get excited and finish it in a weekend (that’s my recommendation as there’s tons of great info I want you to get and us humans have a tendency to lose motivation as time goes on).
DO YOU OFFER A PRINT VERSION?
Not at this time but I may in the future. I’ve had several people print their copy of the ebook and put it into a binder so there is that option. Please let me know if you’d be interested in the print version as the more requests I get, the more likely I am to invest in print.