My Etsy Shop

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Craft Fair Virgins, Unite!

As Autumn lengthens into Winter, the time is quickly approaching for Christmas or "holiday" fairs...and I am selling at three so far, two in November and one in December.
For anyone contemplating this for the first time, it can be quite intimidating to try and figure out what to do, and if the Fair's organisers aren't (organised), you can find yourself with more questions than answers...
What to bring, how much to bring, what about a float, (what's a float?), how do I price things, how do I display my work, what about credit cards? What about someone to show up and take over when I need to pee?
Okay, that last one is probably the most important, because you will probably need to at least once during a one-day fair, which can be between 4 and 9 hours long...
Here are some answers, and if anyone thinks of any other questions, please comment and I'll try to answer next time. And remember, there is no wrong or stupid question, except the ones left unasked...
To begin, I am assuming that holiday fairs at this time of year will mostly be indoors, so the following suggestions are for indoor fairs.
First, bring whatever isn't being provided as part of the fee: are chairs provided, tables, table coverings, lights? You may or may not need all or any of these just for setting up. Normally, tables are provided as well as standard folding chairs, but if it's a good fair you shouldn't be sitting down much anyway.
Invest in a beautiful piece of material to cover your table and drape to the foor, hiding the ugly legs and what will inevitably be your storage area. Second hand stores are a great inexpensive way to accomplish this; if you live in a fairly large city, fabric outlet stores have great deals on velvets, panne, etc. For $10-$20 you can make your table look luxurious and inviting.
Use layers or tiers...what this means is, don't have all your items at just flat table level-lend some interest to your display by having tiers or shelves to display work. Also doing this increases the amount of space available for display. If you don't have anything but the containers you brought your stuff in with, stick them under the pretty cloth on top of your table to disguise them, or have a complementary piece of fabric that goes on top of your other, larger piece to make your display more attractive to the eye.
This is all dependent on what you make and sell, of course.
If you can possibly get to the place beforehand, and see what the lighting is like, bravo...if not, most halls are poorly lit for things like jewelry, so you might want to request a table along the wall with use of an outlet. Bring your own lamp-and try to bring something that either complements your display or is unobtrusive-an ugly plastic lamp can ruin a good display.
If you sell anything at all that can be enhanced by your customers gazing admiringly at themselves in a mirror, wearing your creation or holding up earrings to see "how they look", please remember to bring your own mirror. It's really bad form to send potential customers to another booth with a mirror to look at your creations-and they may well be distracted by that seller's stuff and not buy from you at all.
A float- please have enough small change and bills to cover any possibility-do you charge tax? Bring lots of coins, and don't forget a double receipt book, one copy for you and one for the customer. It is also considered bad form to depend on your fellow craftspeople for change, especially early on ...if you take three twenties for 3 five dollar puchases, you will be soon out of small bills and out of luck..try to gently encourage your prospective buyers to get change themselves. I price my stuff so that a minimum amount of small change is necessary-everything ends in 0, 5 or 8-and luckily, Canadians have one and two dollar coins, which means I only need to have fives, a ten or two, and a couple of two dollar coins. Makes life easier-if you can price with this kind of formula, try it...
If someone wants to use a credit card and you aren't set up for that, apologize, and ask them politely to go to the nearest ATM (which, clever you, you have managed to locate ahead of time). I have never lost a sale because I wouldn't take credit cards-most people who attend craft fairs know how it works, and have smaller bills and don't try and use what you cannot redeem. If you feel comfortable doing so, and the sale is big enough, you can promise to deliver IF they live locally in exchange for a deposit now and the balance on delivery, or what ever combination of ideas works for you. Because I do a lot of custom work, I ask for half in advance, forfeit to me if the rest isn't forthcoming or any problem arises, and the balance on delivery. Again, if you take a deposit for items other than those that have an expiration date, you are protected, and they are motivated to return...
The rest of what I have to say seems commonsensical, but I'm gonna say it anyway...try to engage buyers without being overbearing, be polite, wish them a good afternoon etc, but don't ask if they need help unless they look as if they need it-I make hats, and after a greeting, I wait about 30-45 seconds to see if they are just glancing in or seem to want to stay, and I tell them to go ahead and try things on, if they'd like people permission is different than pressuring them, and you'd be surprised how relieved some people look that I offered, and they didn't have to ask...also, it encourages people to interact with my stuff, and in my case, touching my soft, bright-coloured hats is a positve experience, and encourages people to find "their" hat.
Keep smiling, but don't take any crap...there is usually one a polite but firm and they will leave...
I would say don't sit and read, be sure you are available to the potential buyer, but the woman selling next to me did just that for the entire fair, wasn't terribly forthcoming (shy? perhaps...) and sold like crazy-because she had some of the most beautiful pottery I've seen, and people were so delighted with her work that they just wanted to buy it...we can't all be that lucky, but I presented that scenario to show you that being flexible is more important than a rigid following of any set of rules.
Lastly, whatever happens, enjoy yourself! Even on the days when the sales aren't necessarily there, I have a great time talking to the people strolling by, and the other vendors.

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