Friday, April 20, 2012

Craft Shows/Markets 101- A lesson in Craft Show Warfare

Craft Shows/Markets 101
I’ve been working at craft shows and going to them for over 30 years a long time. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned.
1.       Tents:
Tents are great and all but be mindful of winds. Did you ever have an umbrella get caught in a gust? Well try a giant umbrella that can pull you off your feet! I’ve seen winds flip tents not only destroying the artists goods but the poor person next to them. Once the wind was so strong when I was holding the tent down it bent and snapped one of my tent legs off!
Weights are great and all but lines snap, customers trip on them, and sometimes they just aren’t heavy enough.
Make sure you have nothing attached to your tent and keep your displays and tables completely on the inside of the tent. That way you can drag the tent into the walkway area and drop it down ASAP. I’ve done this quite a few times, by myself and with help.
2.       Setting up your displays and tables:
Try and keep your smaller “Pocketable” items out of immediate reach. If a person has to visibly stretch a little to get them they are less likely to swipe them. I had this happen with a child and a ring, the ring display was at the edge of the table and she grabbed it and pocketed it. Luckily her brother got it back from her and gave it to me.
You also want to be able to keep an eye on what’s going on around your table so don’t use any tall displays that can block your view.
3.       Beware of children:
Sometimes parents let their children run free at markets and shows. Did you ever see those “You Break It You Buy It” or “Please watch your children around my hard work” signs?
Make one!
Chances are the parent will deny that little Timmy broke the dragon wing off the jewelry box(Can you tell this happened to me?) but they are sometime shamed by their child’s actions enough to pay for the item. I’m not saying to yell at the parent but a slightly raised voice that gets attention from the surrounding crowd helps.
Hey you worked hard on your wares. If you can’t easily repair it, get compensated.
4.       Pricing:
You might think it’s fun to have things listed on the off dollar. Like $1.75 or $3.50  or $9.99. Just remember you have to carry the change for those items. That means having enough pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. It’s a pain and it requires more in depth adding. I’ve been so caught up and excited about a big multiple item sale that I had to add the items up 2 or 3 times to make sure I got it right! Just leave things on the even dollar $1, $4, or $10. You don’t need coin change, adding goes faster, and you can get to the next customer faster.
Also try and do a “Deal”. “Buy three potholders get the 4th one free” price your items so you’re not losing any money and everybody is happy! I also knock a dollar or two of a big multiple item sale… Customer is happy and they usually spread the word.
Also have a “Clearance” or “Bargain” rack or basket and have it marked with a big sign. It’ll help bring people into your booth. Hey everybody likes a bargain!
5.       Change:
My biggest pet peeve. Why? Because I make sure that I have enough change for me(Normally) not the entire market. I don’t like asking for change from other vendors and I really don’t like breaking big bills for other vendors either. I’m not greedy but I don’t want to have to ask somebody else for change because I gave change to another vendor. It’s a vicious cycle.
So how much do I bring?
$60.  $20 in 1’s and $40 in 5’s…. no need for coin change. Uh huh, you get what I did there?
6.       Money Box or Cash Apron?
Cash Apron! Why? Because you always have your money on your body and you don’t have to worry about your cash box being looted or stolen.
7.       Signage and price marking:
Make sure everything has some sort of a price on it. Sometimes people won’t ask because they are either shy, they think it’s too expensive, or they don’t want to wait till you are done helping somebody else. If you’re running a regular craft business spend some time and make all your signs look professional.
I, for one, have the worst handwriting ever. So I print out all my signs on the computer. Looks professional and people can actually read it!
Hey face it signs bring people in! I have a clack board sign (Like outside restaurants) I made with plywood, hinges, paint, and chalkboard paint. I can write any deals on the board and bring more customers to my booth.
Also business cards are great, but flyers are better and cheaper! I put business cards in the bags with my sales but this year I’m going to have flyers made up with my Etsy, My blog, My FB Fanpage, and My YouTube on it. People will ask for your cards left and right and they might never ever go to your page. But a flyer with all your info on it and maybe a pic or two of some of your items is more eye appealing.
8.        “Don’t Yell At Me!”:
I don’t do this but I’ve seen… or shall I say Heard it done. Vendors yelling to the crowds about sales in their booth. There is one word for it: ANNOYING! This isn’t “Games of Chance” at a fair. It’s a craft show! I don’t like when they yell it to me when I’m shopping, and I REALLY don’t like it when they do it in the booth next to me. You’re having a sale? Great! Type a big sign up. But if I have to come over there and tell you to keep quiet while I talk to a customer about a special order I’m not going to be nice… Yes it’s happened.
9.        Know your venue:
If it’s a new never done before show, it might not have a big crowd. So don’t invest into big booth fees. Even if you clear your fee in sales you aren’t making any money, you’re losing it.
If it’s a show where there will be children, have some kid/toy type items. It brings the parents into the booth and keeps little Timmy from being bored and breaking off the dragon wing off your jewelry box…. Can you tell I’m still stuck on that?
10.   Break Time Friend:
If you do a show alone it’s a really good idea to have a friend or family member stop by halfway through so you can have a break. Because when nature calls and you’re all alone it doesn’t just call it SCREAMS!
If you can’t get somebody to come by to “Relieve” you make friends with your neighbor and ask them if they could keep an eye on things for a minute. The best part is by having a money apron and not a money box you can take all your cash with you and not feel weird about running through a market with a cash register or cash box.
11.   And finally don’t let the “I can do that myself” people get you down. It happens. It sucks.
I, born and raised a wise ass, have a hard time keeping quite. I’m not mean, I’m sweetly honest.
For Example:
Regarding a Star Wars Messenger bag made from a vintage sheet for $25.
Teenage Girl: “Mom can I have that?”
Mom: “Psssh. You can make that yourself”
Me(With a smile on my face): “Well those sheets are vintage from the original movie and sell for $50+ on eBay… If you can even get them. So if your daughter can make one cheaper good for you.” I was very nice and her jaw hit the ground. Then I sold the bag 2 minutes later to the women behind her.
Some people, even kids, are just rude and don’t realize how much time and effort.
12.   Be prepared for copycats:
 Here in Butte we do a Farmer’s Market every Saturday in the summer. Some booths do better than others. Some vendors get jealous of this and will start copying some of your best sellers and under cutting your price. I’ve even seen them goes as far as buying somebodies sewn item to copy the pattern! Makes you want to slap somebody. But you can’t…. or you’ll go to jail. So what can you do about it? Nothing! You can confront them, but they’ll say it was their idea too. Can you have a price war? Yes, but you want to make sure you’re still making a profit.
Has this happened to me? Yes.
Did I do or say anything? No
Why? Because it was a Non-Profit school fundraising group who did it.
I just stopped selling the item at the market and put it on my Etsy. Some battles are just not worth it.

Roll with the punches with a smile on your face, have fun, and remember that YOU ARE AWESOME!


  1. Number 11 and 12 are right on. Somebody can always make better and faster than what you did, and its so easy, is what I love to hear. Which leads into number 12.....they made it themselves and undercut your price, so nobody makes any money at what they are selling. And they paid $5 for their booth and I paid $25!! Sometimes nothing is fair in this world of crafting! @Tricia's Quilts

  2. what great info! next week i am starting at a brand spanking new flea market crafters corner and will definitely consider this advice

  3. does a money apron have deeper pockets than a normal one? do you have a pic of yours? do you mind emailing it to me if you don't want to post it ( i had never thought about it and really want to make one before next week's debut. thanks

    1. I will have to find it! Lol! But yes they have deep pockets. The one I have is a waitress apron that I picked up at Goodwill for $1 that I added a snap to. I will search for it tomorrow and take a pic for you.

    2. super awesome! i appreciate it <3

    3. I found this for you too!
      I might make one of these

    4. just wanted to letcha know i love wearing my apron and even sold 4 to other vendors <3 thanks again for all these tips. for someone starting out it is more than helpful and definitely appreciated