Post RDS, a few thoughts about successfully setting up and surviving a big craft fair!

I had a fantastic time at the National Crafts & Design Fair last week, made new friends and came home almost voiceless but thrilled with the sales and response to my work that I achieved over the course of the five days. It was a very intense experience, setting up my stand took me just over ten hours but at the end of the day all the hard work definitely paid off. Several of you have been asking via FB comments and emails would I be happy to share some tips about selling events, for what it’s worth here are some of my thoughts! In no particular order…….

  • Be courteous and polite to the organisers, security and parking attendants at all times, you never know when you might need a favour!
  • Make friends with your neighbours
  • Plan your stand or booth at home but don’t be afraid to make adjustments and major changes once you start to set up, sometimes your position at a fair will make this necessary
  • Make sure you utilise all areas of your space when possible (walls, floor, tables etc.) to create a visually pleasing stand, less is more
  • Cough up for additional lighting for your stand if this is an option, it pays off!!! Consider an electrical socket too
  • I used bed risers to raise my main table and make it more accessible. This also means that for some shows (the Glucksman Gallery being an example) I have space enough for a second table at a lower level protruding out from under the higher, it’s always a good idea to have different heights. In the US you can source bed risers from Wallmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond or similar stores, in Ireland or the UK you can order them from Amazon or even use pieces of pvc pipes which you can cut to height yourself
  • Make sure to have clear signage with your name visible from different angles, it’s important for people to be able to find you easily
  • Have enough business cards and promotional literature available at the front of your stand to make it easy for visitors to take away and digest later, keep stocking up
  • Don’t be tempted to make a whole lot of cheaper priced items just for the show, stick with what you make best and be confident that it will sell, it will if your products are of good quality and priced correctly!
  • Have everything priced and keep a record of what you sell
  • Don’t be afraid to position a more expensive item to the front of your stand, it won’t put the customers you are looking for off. Remember that there is only a limited market for any individual item and you just need a good through put of visitors to make those sales, don’t blame yourself if there are not enough visitors……..
  • …………….. unless you don’t give out any invitations! Do please, please give out all the invitations you are given by the organisers, if you don’t how can you expect other stand holders to do so either??? Remember, you might invite a friend who won’t buy from you but someone else might invite one of their friends and they will be your customer! Think of it as a numbers game, the higher the number of total attendees the better your chance of sales
  • Wear smart but comfortable clothes, some fairs can be super hot while others are like an ice box. Think layers and think natural fabrics coupled with flat shoes or boots. By the beginning of the third day at the RDS I was shoe less but wearing a smart top, silk scarf, black trousers and black socks, none of my customers appeared to notice the lack of footwear as the only thing they were looking at was my display!
  • Don’t eat or drink on your stand but if you are manning it by yourself all day make sure that you have a supply of easy to eat protein and juice or bottled water that you can snaffle during any quiet moment. Step out of your space at regular intervals to do this and revive yourself with items like dried fruit, nuts, hummus, veg, fruit and good quality chocolate, not eating at all is not a good idea and you’ll only end up exhausting yourself. If you’re lucky enough to have neighbours like my buddies Ariane and John you might even get a couple of cups of coffee brought to you throughout the day, thanks guys!!!
  • Sign up for a credit/debit card system (to use with a smart phone) such as Square in the US or SumUp in Ireland, they are worth their weight in gold. As a single female working by myself it was much less stressful walking around at night knowing that I wasn’t lugging large quantities of cash around
  • Do make sure that you have enough change at the start of each day. My pricing structure means that my cheapest scarf is €65 and everything is in multiples of 5, as a result I only need 5s, 10s and 20s for my change
  • Consider taking names and addresses of every purchaser (ask them first) to add to your event invitation data base, if you don’t already have one start one!
  • Consider a sign up sheet for workshops or a newsletter
  • Personally I do not like to see anyone sitting in or on their stand. I know that sometimes it’s necessary to have a chair or stool but where possible have this outside the selling space but near enough to be on hand
  • Be polite to all the people who visit your stand, don’t prejudge
  • Don’t spend all your time socialising or on your phone. Remember that a fair may be one of the only dedicated events during the year with the potential to make a LOT of PROFIT in a short space of time, don’t waste your time missing this opportunity
  • Have fun!

I hope this list helps some of you, please remember that they are only my personal thoughts and not to be taken as the absolute gospel. If there was one acronym that sums up my approach it would be KISS, it may be overused but ‘keep it simple stupid’ really does seem to work for me!

Finally for today, I’ve been working like mad on my new website content as part of ongoing Creative Island preparations for Showcase 2015 and yesterday I was printing on a sample of lambs wool.

Oak leaf on lambs wool, the back of the leaf

Oak leaf on lambs wool, the front of the leaf

Tomorrow morning I’ll be participating at Borris Food & Craft Market as per usual, from Christmas however I’ll not be there on such a regular basis. The way my business plan is progressing unfortunately I won’t be able to manage each Friday but the good thing is that my new online shop will be up and running from mid January and the new collection should be available at selected retailers from February onwards!

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7 thoughts on “Post RDS, a few thoughts about successfully setting up and surviving a big craft fair!

  1. Ah, you are always an inspiration Nicola!

    Very helpful tips – especially about the not eating in booth.We wouldn’t appreciate it from visitors handling our textiles. And the bed risers-clever!

    About sitting: how about perching on high bar stools? Then a seller appears more engaged?

  2. I did big shows like this in the US for 30 years and the only thing I can add, which I totally agree with everything you said…and this you already do but did not list…..have attractive packaging for the items customers buy. They will remember this and a good way to advertise with your label on the wrapped parcel.

Please comment if you feel like it, I love the interactive nature of my blog!

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