Monday, October 7, 2013

In My Studio: Craft Fair Preparations

Hudson Valley Etsy Team Holiday Craft Fair in 2012

This time last year I was frantically trying to get products together to participate in my first ever holiday craft fair with my business So Handmade. The plethora of holiday fairs start as early as October and happen almost every weekend until Christmas. These holiday fairs can be the most lucrative time of year for selling and can also provide a great opportunity to network and market your business. I learned some valuable lessons starting out on this circuit last year so want to share some of challenges and tips for any new sellers out there:

  1. Which Holiday Fairs: Choosing the holiday fairs to participate in is the first challenge. Balancing the sometimes high cost of a spot with the potential for earnings. Wondering if doing the local church/ school fair would be beneficial or a waste of time. As a newbie to this scene I don't have any great advice for choosing your fairs but have found that talking to fellow vendors is a great way to gauge which fairs are good and which to avoid. Don't overstretch yourself by applying for one every weekend between now and Christmas, pace yourself. On the weekends in between go and visit local fairs to see if doing them the following year might be worthwhile. Look at the other potential costs involved of doing the fairs such as the distance away from home, hotel costs if it's a two day affair etc.
  2. Plan your space. Once you have decided which fairs to do look at the size and shape of the booth you have been allocated, mark it out on the floor of your house with masking tape. Arrange your booth furniture in the space allocated making sure that you are aware of where the flow of people will come in and out making your space easy to negotiate. A booth that's too cluttered will put people off from entering, make sure it's open enough to entice customers. Does your set up require an electrical outlet and where will it be?
    Remember to give yourself a designated space and a chair to sit, the fairs can stretch on and on and on and being comfortable is important. Take photos of your mock up so you can easily replicate it on the day. Finally make sure all the booth furniture is manageable and will fit into your car, doing extra trips costs more and wastes precious set up time.

  3. Tablecloths: Make sure you have tablecloths that cover the front and any visible sides of your tables all the way to the ground. This makes your space look more professional and also gives a great storage space for things you don't want to be on view. Choose the color wisely to best show off your products.

  4. Presentation: Work our beforehand where your products are going to go and if you need special stands/ baskets for them. Play around with the layout and once you are happy take photos so you can remember. Keep your products clean, ironed  and stored carefully, presenting dusty, creased products at the fair will not help your sales.

  5. Branding: Label your stand with your business name as visible as possible. Banners are a great way of doing this, Staples and other stationary stores are often giving good deals on printing them. Keep business cards easily accessible to visitors and put one in every customers bag. Donating an item to the obligatory raffle  is also a good way of getting visibility for you business. Remember to have a visitors book for e-mail addresses so you can start to build up a mailing list.

    Banner for Rockerbox Garlic
  6. Price your products with labels that are easily visible, do this before the show to save time but also remember extra labels for any products you missed or for any changes/ discounts you want to make on the day.

  7. Payment Options: Remember to bring with you a cash box with as much petty cash as possible, at least $50-$100 in a variety of different denominations and change. Look into ways that you can accept non-cash payments, this might be on a smart phone or ipad with a square register or similar but be aware of the additional costs. Remember to add the states sales tax to every purchase made, bring a calculator to easily work this out. Register online to file these payments.

  8. Be your own advertisement: If possible wear one of your products (if it's jewelry or apparel) and remember to tell people that its available. 

    Me wearing one of my half aprons at a holiday craft fair

  9. Don't Forget:
  • Plastic or paper bags for customers purchases and packaging such as bubble wrap or tissue paper if needed
  • Business cards, banners and other branding items 
  • Calculator, receipt book and notebook to keep track of sale
  • Pens, pins, safety pins, scissors, string, tape, small sewing kit 
  • Food and drink to keep you going and a book for slow times 
  • Extension lead for electrical supply if needed

10. Network: Lastly don't forget to tell people where you will be at the weekend, make sure all your family and friends are going to visit the holiday fair and especially your booth. Post details of your schedule online and encourage visitors with promises of cookies!

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
Alexander Graham Bell

Good Luck and Good Making!

Sarah Omura
So Handmade


  1. It's gonna be a busy one for me this year. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  2. Thanks for the notes. It is a busy season and the toughest for me is always this: choosing the right venue!

    Good luck and great sales!