Craft Shows are a great way to connect with your local customers, get some feed back on your products and earn some money. However, it’s important to research each and every craft show that you plan on attending. Each one has a different audience and price point. Knowing what to expect at each one will give you a basis for crunching potential sales and profits.
Types of Craft Shows:
- Church and School Events. Usually the attendees are members of the church or school. The fees are usually smaller as well as the attendance. They are usually inside and provide a table that you set up at. They have usually been around for a decade or more.
- Vendor Show: These are usually attended by MLM vendors. There may be as much as 50% handmade crafters attending. A lot of crafters report lower sales at these event types. However, I’ve had good luck at some of them. It’s difficult to sell $$$ jewelry when the table next to you is selling mass produced jewelry for under $10.00
- Handmade crafted show: Only handmade vendors. Usually juried. That doesn’t always guarantee higher sales.
- Juried Show: A show where potential vendors send in an application that is reviewed by the organizers. They then pick the vendors. Just because it’s juried, does not mean there will say 50% jewelry. I once attended a juried handmade show and when I was there, there were three different people with the same MLM company.
- Non-Juried show: The organizer takes vendors on a first come first served basis. They still try to limit one MLM company per show.
- Premium Craft Show: There are multi day events run by Urban Craft Uprising, Renegade Craft, and others where the event is run by a professional event planner. Typically, the booths are more expensive, there is actual advertising, and it is difficult to be approved as a vendor.
- Farmers Market: Typically lower fees, at least once a week and the audience is not looking for handmade crafts or art.
- Comic Cons: Usually juried, high traffic, and your handmade craft needs to be pop culture inspired. Note that some comic cons have an, Artist Alley, Vendor, and Craft Sections. The fees vary wildly for each section. I’d attend one before applying for these expensive buy profitable shows.
- Holiday Shows: Holiday shows are annual shows in late November and December. They are thrown by a variety of organizations.
- Annual festivals and community events. Often a large portion of the community attends each year. If you have a handmade product that sells well at festivals, it can be great. (T Shirts, for example) If you have niche product like pogo sticks, you can do less well. Do some test markets to see how people react before committing to a three day community festival. Three days without significant sales can be an emotional long haul.
Typically an event will have a standard tent size. 10 by 10 tent or 8 by 8 tent. The tents are usually popup canopy tents. Inexpensive ones can be purchased at Walmart, Target, or sporting goods store. The inexpensive ones are often flimsy and easily break. The expensive ones are well worth the extra money if you end up doing a lot of outside craft shows. Painters often invest in the sturdy ones.
Tent weights: Yes. Always use tent weights on popup canopy tents. The tents are giant kites waiting to be airborne. It doesn’t take that much wind for them be airloft. And remember the metal legs? Ouch if they land on you.
Tables and displays. Once you know the tent size, you can plan your display. Make sure you plan to either have room for people to walk into the booth or have a table against the ‘frontage’ edge. Have both a sun plan and a rain plan. Note that the tents will let in rain especially if it rains. I put up tent walls as necessary.
The Tents will usually be lined up in rows. Most craft fairs suggest that you tie tent legs together with your neighbor’s tent. Always ask before doing this. Your frontage will be 10 feet. If you are on a corner, you might have an ‘endcap’ or a ‘corner’ frontage.
Do you need tent walls? If it rains, probably. If you want to create a brick and mortor experience, yes. You can use sheets, tarps, or curtains to create walls. If its raining, I suggest tent walls and then use curtains at least two inches from the tent walls to decorate. Note that you can use bungie cords along the inside for places for curtains to hang.
Why would you install tent walls if it’s sunny? Remember that when you don’t have tent walls, the customers can look right into your neighbor’s booth. And poof! Your customer is gone! I had that happen at an early craft fair. My neighbor had a large loud knitting machine that they rode a bicycle to power. All day, my booth was filled with lookie loos trying to get a better angle on the machine operation.
If it’s sunny, as it is in many parts of the United States, you might need the tent as a sun shade. In that case there are lighter weight tents that might work better for you.
- Usually six or eight feet long. Table widths vary and maybe 18 inches to 3 feet. Make sure you find out what it is.
- If you buy a table I suggest a six foot folding table that is 2 and half feet wide.
- I suggest doing a dry run of your craft display before going to a live event. It will be easier to quickly set up and you will bring less items.
Where was I? Research!
- Organization: Make sure you find out who you are sending money to for booth fees. Unfortunately, there have been a number of frauds and cons where crafters and artists have been sold fake booths. See if their LLC is registered. Look at their website, does it look like someone has spent years making it? Or is it thrown together? Do they have references? How far back do their social media posts go?
- Location: Verify with the location that it’s actually going to be there. There have been a number of craft show organizers and comic con organizers who have listed a venue they have not made an appointment for the show. Sometimes it falls into the category of running out of money vs fraud. However, if someone runs out of money, it’s difficult to get the money back.
- How do they want to get paid? Options such as paypal’s friends and family, do not allow for refunds. A request to send friends and family might be a red flag. I suggest always using a credit card if possible.
- What do their terms and conditions say about refunds? One organizer after they switched the venue to a different month and 40 miles away from the prime holiday show location, denied anyone a refund.
- What do prior vendors say or think about the show?
- Look at the prior social media posts. Are they full of shoppers? Or rather empty?
- Search on social media outside of the organizers official channels.
- How many potential attendees do the organizers think will attend?
- How many shoppers will potentially fit into the space? Does the parking accommodate the numbers?
- Note that for multiday events, such as conferences or comic cons, some organizers count each time a person enters the event. ie. Three day event, three people attended the event.
- If it is a large event, is the vendor or craft room easily entered from the main event? There was a comic con that recently had the artist alley a mile away from the event. They did provide a shuttle between locations, however.
Who attends craft fairs?
- Other craft vendors. Some of your sales will probably come from other vendors.
- Farmers Markets often have regulars attending. They will often stop by in family groups.
- Comic Con attendees. They will often be traveling from out of town and will only see your booth or table once or twice a year. They will often request a business card.
- Supporters of the arts. They will often be shopping for everyday crafts and gifts.
- Gift Shoppers. Usually only attending holiday craft shows or art shows.
- Window Shoppers. They might be there for lunch or to be entertained.
Hopefully, that provides a bit more information on how to research craft fairs. It is essential to:
- Understand what type of craft fair it is. It lets you decide if the booth fees are reasonable, you will have enough space, and the typical customer who attends them.
- Research the Event Space. Is it in a place that people will attend?
- Research the organizer. Organizers go out of business all the time. Even good organizers have issues with spaces cancelling on them or unexpected things happen at them.
- Plan for what your display is going to look like and product types. I will write more on this later.
- Plan for what foundation items like tents and tables that you will need to provide.
- Plan for product unloading from your vehicle