Friday, December 11, 2009

Reflections on Fairs

This will be my first fully free weekend in three weeks! (very excited)

I've finished my last two craft fairs of the year and am now ready to start thinking about the Christmas season.

Julia Moore has asked what my thoughts are on craft fairs so here goes...

First let me be clear I am no expert. Its not how I make a living, more of a hobby/sporadic second job. I've been doing it for about 5 years now. In the last year I chose to scale it back to a grand total of 5 fairs. This choice was more about personal ambivilance than the recent economic woes.
There are some terrific articles out there on the web regarding selling strategies at fairs.
From my personal experience the basics are:

Have various priced items
some cheaper items are a good idea, a two dollar sale is still a sale and it establishes a connection with your customer

Connect with your customers
include a business card or flyer with each sale so they can find you again

Find a sales style you are comfortable with
I am deeply uncomfortable with hard sell tactics, like cringe uncomfortable, and it doesn't matter which side of the transaction I'm on, I don't like it.
I choose to say hi to the shoppers and let them know I'm available if there are questions, if they look really interested I might talk about how things are made or what inspired an idea. I've found that many people who buy handmade are intrigued by those things.

Presentation counts
Make it look like candy and people will stop to look, maybe buy. Having products on different levels is nicer to look at than flat on a table. Some vendors are terrific at this, observe and learn.

Know your market
Two factors come into play here. Finding your customers and figuring out your prices.
Finding fairs that have your customers can be tricky, I've learned through trial and error and by quizzing my more experienced vendor neighbors.
Be realistic with your prices and try to find a place where people are comfortable with them. If everywhere you go people are complaining about your prices then your product either doesn't belong at a fair it belongs in a gallery or your prices are too high. Its up to you to figure out which it is.

Thats all the advice I've got.

The best stuff I've gained from doing fairs are the networking opportunities and the way its expanded my confidence (OK money too)
I love meeting other vendors and seeing their work.
Being at a fair behind the table has given me the opportunity to meet people face to face and to learn to talk more easily about my creative process, increasing my confidence in me and my work.

The stuff I don't love: weather woes, giving up big chunks of my free time especially when its slow, Being tied to a table for many hours (I work these things mostly alone) and the occasional "no sales at all" days

Chances are good I will do a few select fairs again next year too. Its a good way to keep busy as I refine and explore new directions


Julia Moore said...

Thank you for your tips! I liked seeing your set up photo too. Looks like you had a pretty big booth, or space. I am going to print out your tips list and keep it to reflect on. I really missed not doing any shows this fall and winter. It is fun once in awhile and the networking is really excellent. I have to come up with some inexpensive items I enjoy making to go with my high end scarves and wall hangings, that is the thing you said that I think is my main problem.

jude said...

thanks on the hands-on tips.

tiedyejudy said...

I totally agree with you about hard sell tactics... I hate it, and do much as you do with customers... hi, I'm here, let me know if I can help... then I leave them to browse.