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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Selling your crafts at a Fair.

Hello. Thanks to Angela for the idea for this post. She has booked a stall at a Christmas Craft Fair and as it's her first one she asked me for advice. As I had three years of doing craft fairs, agricultural shows, cat shows, and markets, I know a bit about it. There may be others who are contemplating selling their crafts, so I thought, now is the time to start preparing for the busy Christmas selling season. This is my guide.
I think I ought to begin by saying you won't make a lot of money out of it. Considering the amount of hours it takes to make something, don't expect a minimum wage, it will be less than that. My business was ticking over for three years. I didn't make anything, I bought in stock from wholesalers and trade fairs. I still spent a lot of time on the business because I went out on buying missions, sorting, storing, and pricing it when I got back. Then packing the car up and travelling anything up to 150 miles away to events. I usually went the night before to set up the stall, I slept in my car to cut costs. Sometimes I would get up at 4am and drive to the venue, sell all day, pack up, and arrive back home at 9pm. A long day.

Right, for anyone who is considering this type of selling. Choose your venue, it's location, how far away is it. How much will it cost in time and petrol to get there? Is it an established fair? How many stands will there be, how much competition. They often limit the amount of jewelry and card stands, there are too many sellers in these fields. Is the event well advertised? Posters. flyers, newspaper advertising etc.

You have decided on which fair and booked it. Small events should be about £10 - £15 a day, larger events can be anything from £50 upwards. I did a Truck show once, it was £200 for two days trading. I took £1,000. Hard work but worth doing. Now the thing is, don't get carried away by a good result, year on year, the same fair or show will bring in vastly different amounts of money. I did the truck show the following year and took less than £500. Very disappointing, I didn't do it again. The reason was that in one year the climate had changed, people no longer had spare cash to splash.

So. You arrive at the venue, there will be a plan of where to set up your stall. If you are a newby your allocated plot may not be in a good selling position, you may be shoved at the bottom of a dead end, tucked away in a corner. You can ask to be moved, but they may say you have to stick with what you have. As you do more shows and watch how people move through, you will learn the best places to stand, you want lots of passing traffic, ideally in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.

The amount of visitors passing through is no indication of how much you can expect to sell. Obviously only a handful of people will not bring lots of sales, but on the other hand, too many visitors packed like sardines who move en mass through, will not give people a chance to stop and look.

Setting up your stall. Most will provide a 6ft wide table. If the show is fully booked you will not be able to expand sideways on that, they have to leave big enough gaps between tables for safety reasons. You can't get much on a 6ft table, so you have to make the most of what you have got. You can build height into your display, as I have done on the photo. I constructed a wooden step type of  assembly covered in red velvet. It dismantled for transportation. What you can do is pack your stock into collapsible plastic crates, empty them, turn them upside down and put them at the back of your table after you have put the main cover on. If you don't have crates you can use cardboard boxes. Then cover them with smaller pieces of fabric and tuck in the loose bits. A word about drapes, use tablecloths, throws, bed sheets, or whatever you have, but they must be plain, not patterned.

To build further height into it, you need to be able to hang things. Bags and clothing are better hung. I had two long lengths of wood and fixed them upright to the back of the table with heavy duty metal clips. Then I added two bars across the width with smaller plastic clips. You need to use every bit of your 6 foot space.

If the aisles are wide enough you could take your own small fold up table and set it up at the front of your display, put a cover on it. Some may not allow this, but try it anyway. Watch what other people are doing.

It is important to try and get on with your neighbours, you have to work closely with them, sometimes squashed in together. They may try and encroach on your space, do not let them push you out. Smile and ask that they leave room for you to get out to the front.

If there is a very wide aisle in front of you, I used to take my own 6 foot table and add it to the one already there, giving me double the depth. It meant that I had to reduce my working space at the back, but the more selling space you can get the better.

Best to keep your money on you in a bum bag, or pouch around your waist. Take a float of loose change. It goes without saying not to pounce on potential customers, they won't like it. Best not to sit on a chair reading a magazine either. That shows you are not interested in selling something. I always stood up, looked as if I was busy, re arranging stuff, titivating the stock, pricing it up etc. I would look up at the person, sometimes pick up an item and say something like, 'I only got these last week, I think they are lovely'. Or if they pick something up for a closer look I tell them a little story about it, even if it is made up. I might say, 'someone's just bought one of those'. Basically it's all about chatting, smiling, and looking as if you are enjoying the experience of having a stall. Ask if they have come far, ask about the weather, if you can't see it through a window, anything.

Don't be in a rush to pack up and go home, even if you have had enough. Sometimes stragglers buy something. They may have seen it earlier and come back for it. Leave your pitch tidy and take your rubbish home with you.

That's all I can think of at the moment, any questions please ask. Thanks for popping in, we'll catch up soon.
Toodle pip


  1. I agree with you Ilona. You really do not make a lot of money doing craft fairs. I did a few and although I enjoyed all of the making and actually doing the fair, in the end I gave up as it was sometimes costing me money instead of making it.
    Down here in the South the cost of hiring a stall is so, so expensive that you are almost at a loss before you begin.
    Saying that,Angela may do okay if its a Christmas Fair, she'll have to test the waters.

    1. I think it's better to go with the attitude of having fun, rather than hoping to sell lots.

  2. I agree, trying to sell your crafts is not for the faint hearted, been there and done that.
    However, there is one thing you forgot to mention - insurance. Most (if not all) craft organisers now insist that you have your own insurance in place and the cheapest I know at the moment is £78 per year. The exceptions are small local craft fairs (which probably aren't worth the effort anyway) i.e. church halls, village halls who just want to raise funds and they aren't worried about the legalities.

  3. I couldn't do something like this but admire the folks that do. Looking forward to tomorrow's posting - if your doing one !!

    1. Hopefully, though it might be a bit late.

  4. I have that same tee shirt, got it in St Ives. Good taste Ilona. I still love mine and still wear it on holiday. Jean.

    1. My tee shirt fell into holes, so I cut the face out and stitched it onto a bag.

    2. I've done that before too, some smaller ones onto my sleeping bag draw string bag, along with the badges of places I've visited. Shame to waste pretty decorative pieces just because the shirt has had it. Jean.

  5. Very good advice and the best photo I've ever seen of you!!!

  6. I too did a lot of craft shows over the years...your ideas are all good...also make sure all your items are priced...I'd recommend pricing them as you create them, you'll be glad the night before the show! I found my smaller/lower priced items sold quite well...someone buying a $35 doll would add a couple of $2-3 ornaments to their purchase, others would buy a few small items, if you make multiples of an item keep some back under the table...check on eBay for your types of crafts..what is actually selling vs what's on offer...good luck!

  7. Very sound advice Ilona.It can sometimes end up costing you money aswell by the time you have took your stall money out,petrol and all the cost of your crafts.And someone mentioned there is alot of things to consider.I know alot of schools have Christmas fetes in most towns and i dont think that it would be very expensive to stand at these.It might be worth ringing around every school in your town to see what it would sure not as much as a craft fare and there wont be as much compition.These places always get packed..i know ive been to loads over the years with the grandkids when they were small.Cause also Mams,Dads,Aunties,Nanas and there friends go along to support their kids school.Might be worth a thought?,Good Luck!,Debi,Leic,x

  8. Great post. I love the photo of you. I haven't sold at craft fairs, but I do sell out of my cottage and on Etsy. I love it. That way I get the money up front, and can knit or crochet the items made to order. The soaps keep for a long time, so I make lots of those. Love your blog.

  9. In the US most booths are 8 ft or 10 ft wide. You mostly bring your own tables and if you want to get in and out of your booth, you leave that space out of your booth space. Of course, the way the tables and spaces are marked makes for a lot of different ways to arrange things. You are so right about not pouncing, lounging with a book, or packing up too early.

  10. Hi Ilona, Thanks for a great post. My husband and I sold at "antique" fairs for years. All what you have said is very sound advice, especially the bit about getting on with one's neighbours. We always enjoyed the fairs and totally agree that one time a fair would be very lucrative and another not worth the pitch money, but hey swings and roundabouts. Over all our period of selling bric-a-brac came out in the black and we made some profit and we met a lot of friendly people, fellow stall holders and the general public, it never made us rich but we were in it mostly as a social hobby. I liked searching out things to buy the best and my husband liked the selling and meeting new people so it was a good hobby with benefits for us both. In the end petrol became so expensive and with the "vintage" thing we found it harder and harder to find anything to sell on at a reasonable price, we were never greedy and tried to find things reasonably priced and only mark them up a little so that we covered our costs of petrol, pitch fee and as long as we made a small profit we were happy, but in the end found we were losing money so decided to stop doing it. Regards Sue H

  11. I've sold my photography in fairs some years ago. Time consuming, not alot money made. But it gets bought by people who like it and that's a good thing. Always have time for the customer....sitting down ok but not paying attention to a customer isn't a good option. I will walk past a table most likely, if the vendor doesn't acknowledge me. I've not done it in awhile for various reasons but did enjoy it when I did. Your tips are right on, Ilona! I like the photo of you in your booth! Nice cat items! Happy weekend, Becky


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