Seeing as it’s now well and truly craft fair season, I thought I’d share my top tips for getting prepared for market with you. I’ve been going to markets and craft fairs as a stall-holder now for almost 5 years and have learned a lot along the way. I hope these tips will be useful, especially if you’re taking the plunge for the first time this year!
NB I posted this last year, but this is a new and updated version!
Bring a piece of material to cover your table!
This could be a plain table cloth, or even an old curtain that is big enough to cover the table at the fair. Remember that some of the tables supplied by venues are older than you are and have served more craft fairs than you’ve had hot dinners, so it’s best to cover them up!
You can also use your table covering to show off your wares too – e.g. if you have silver jewellery, a dark table covering would show off your lighter items. You can store all your junk, boxes, packaging, lunch, etc under the table, and use your covering to drape over the front to hide your stuff - clever, eh?
It’s amazing how useful Sellotape is! You can use it to stick stuff to walls, fasten bags closed, tape stuff to your table … bring some and keep it handy, you’ll never know when you might need it. You might also want to keep some blu-tak and/or white-tak handy for fussier venues. Always check with the organiser before sticking something to the wall!
Other useful things to have handy are mulitple pens (you WILL lose one), scissors and a notepad.
Bring a project!
Bring along a craft project you are working on to keep you busy during the day. Nothing too elaborate, but, for example, if you’re a knitter, then bring your needles! Your potential customers will love to see you working on something – let them see how the magic happens!
If the worst happens and it’s a day for poor attendance, then you will have something to keep you occupied, but don’t bank on getting your project finished – hopefully you’ll be too busy raking in the cash!
Bring carrier bags!
It’s often overlooked in the excitement of seeing your stock ready to go, but make sure you bring something for your customers to take their purchases home in. This could either be shop bought bags or even recycle your own stack of carriers (I know you’ve got loads under your sink). At Miso Funky, I like to keep any interesting bags from trips overseas to use for my wares. I also use new recycleable paper bags to cut down on the old landfill.
Smile And Get Chatting!
It sounds daft, but people are more inclined to buy stuff if you smile! I’ve been to events before where people sit with their arms crossed behind their tables looking surly and really, it just puts people off. If you’re shy, bring along a chatty friend to help – they can do the sales pitch, whilst you beam with pride in the background and wrap the goods!
The organisers of the events do the hard bit in getting people in the door – you do the easy bit, working your charm and showing off your fabulous stuff! After all, no-one knows your stock better than you. Don’t be too pushy though - friendly, polite and helpful is the order of the day.
Chat to your fellow stallholders - you’ll find them to be a mine of information about other events, their experiences of markets, packaging suppliers, where’s best to get lunch nearby… You’ll also hopefully make some new friends and get involved in your local crafting community.
Have a price list!
Again, it can be overlooked, but make sure you think about how much you want to charge for your stuff. Remember to factor your time in when you are coming up with prices, as well as materials. It’s a good idea to have at least a mental idea of what you want to charge for things – you can always haggle with your customers on the day!
For new products, I often print up two lots of price cards - a maximum price and a lower price that I’d still accept for my product. That way, I can experiment with pieces I’m not sure what to charge for and see what the customers think.
If you need inspiration, check out the prices of similar crafts or products or ask other vendors for the honest opinion. It's important to charge a fair price for your work – it's possible to undercharge as well as overcharge, so it give it some serious thought!
Bring your card!
If you have them, bring a stack of them to hand out to everyone, customers and fellow exhibitors alike. If you don’t have a card, then make sure you’ve got something with your website address or email address on it, a flyer, or even handwritten cards. That way, everyone will be able to find out where to go to buy more of your stuff!
There’s no excuse not to have a card in this day and age! It’s your cheapest and most effective way of getting your name out there for little effort. I get mine printed at Vistaprint and designed by Asking For Trouble, both for extremely reasonable prices.
Leave a stack on your table for browsers to take - they may not buy anything today, but more than likely they’ll take your card, visit your website, tell a friend or just remember you til next time.
Be able to make change!
Remember to bring some loose change, especially one pence pieces, if you have x.99 prices. Better still, eliminate the need for change by charging whole number prices. Obviously you’ll still need change, but only then a couple of fivers and some pound coins. It’s better to be able to give change than someone not buying something because they only have a tenner.
Make sure you keep your takings secure, especially if you’re at an outdoors market. Don’t turn your back on it for a second! Invest in a market traders’ apron and keep it close to you - it’s handier as well as more secure. Just don’t compromise and use a bum bag!
Remember to keep a note of what you sell for your accounting records and also to help you evaluate what sells best and what’s not-so-popular later.
Pack your stuff well!
You don’t want to worry about humffing your stuff around in carrier bags – so pack a suitcase! One with wheels is a great idea, so you can roll it along behind you. It looks more professional too to have one well-organised bag than lots of carriers.
If it’s a hard-bodied case, you can also stand things on top of it, or lean things against it. If you’re not using it, then you can close it over, and stick it under your table out of the way. You could even keep bags and change in it out of the way, to give more room on your table for your wares.
Also, of course, a well-packed bag means your stock will be in tip-top condition when you arrive to set up. Remember to repack it well at the end of the day to make life much easier next time!
When you're packing, make a list and check it twice - Santa had the right idea! Also, if you're at an outdoor show, check that chairs are included at the venue - if not, take along a deckchair or stool to give you a break or you'll be knackered!
Practice makes perfect!
Take the time to think about how you want to set out your table. If you have a lot of stuff, decide what will be best to go at the front to catch the customers’ eyes. Consider leaving some stuff off the table if you have loads - you can always restock later in the day, or swap less popular items over.
Common sense applies here – if you have tall items, put them at the back so they don’t hide any smaller items and put light objects against a dark background and vice versa.
Get a few friends to have a look and give their opinions – you can always tweak it as your stock dwindles through sales over the course of the day! Practice at home on the dining table, kitchen counter or even on the ironing board.
Preparation before the event is just as important as getting ready on the day itself. Check with the events organiser if they have a poster or flyer for the event and circulate it to everyone you can think of.
If there's an e-flyer or poster, post it up on your blog, on your website, Flickr, etc. Make sure you post the event details on your Facebook, Twitter, etc and generally let as many people know as possible where and when you'll be there.
Some events will have goodie bags for the first 100 visitors, etc and the organisers will appeal for small gifts or even postcards, etc for inclusion in these. This is a great way of making sure those people take your information home, so it's well worth donating a few items or cards for these.
More and more venues have wi-fi these days, so why not take your laptop along, use the wi-fi connection and take card payments online using Paypal? It's especially useful if there's no cash machine nearby (if there is a cash machine nearby, make sure you can direct customers to it!).
Or, if you have a fancy phone, like an iPhone, you can take Paypal payments on the iPhone app. Check it out and consider it as an additional payment option.
I’m not saying you should follow this to the letter, but these things are all points I’ve picked up on through my own experiences and I hope they will help you too.
One last tip – HAVE FUN! Remember why you’re doing this, and have a great day. Good luck!