We had a wonderful second craft fair season these past holidays and want to say a giant THANK YOU to everybody who stopped by to support Maine makers. While Arthlin's presence is mostly online, it's invaluable to get out of the studio and connect with the local community a few times each year (not to mention loads of fun!).
Although the average fair table is only 6' to 8' long, a lot of planning goes into setting up and making the most of that space. After trying out different setups and improving a little with each event, I've learned some lessons that I'd like to share with anyone looking to start selling at fairs or revamping their displays for the next fairs season. This isn't a full guide by any means but some information to keep in mind when planning for a fair. Do you have some tips you'd like to share as well? Please leave them in the comments section below for everyone to see.
Having a beautiful booth will naturally catch people's interest and make them want to learn more about your products. Fitted tablecloths gives an instant polished look to a craft table and serves as the products' background. They also allow to hide extra inventory, carrying cases and personal items under the table during the event. Choose a color that makes your items stand out and that compliments your branding. I personally like spandex tablecovers. They looks neat, are affordable (around $16) and don't need to be ironed between uses. This year, we used this one and covered the top with burlap *:
A fun touch would be adding a table topper that features your logo at the front of the table. Here's an example:
Table Topper on Etsy
I have heard again and again the (great) advice of planning for a vertical display as much as possible, as opposed to everything displayed flat on the table. It's true! It makes a world of a difference. Customers can see your items from far away, even if your booth gets crowded. There are several options to add some height to your display, from portable shelving to fully custom walls and panels (DIY or found on Etsy). Personally, on a typical fair day I have to fit all of my displays, products and child in a small car which gives me limited options. Most grids and panels wouldn't fit. I ended up using this folding shelf and some hooks. I love how it looked to display earrings!
How this shelf was used for Arthlin Earrings:
Crates and wood blocks are useful to lift displays and add a natural touch to an artisan's table.
If your merchandise is small and can be hung, general retail displays will look professional. Here are two websites that I like to use:
Branding / labels / signs
Avoid losing a sale while you're busy speaking with another customer by displaying useful information on products labels and signs. That way, the most frequently asked questions can be answered by taking a quick look at your display. Some ideas:
- Prices displayed on a felt letter board or a chalkboard (This is a good idea when items can be grouped in prices categories. Otherwise, having individual items clearly labeled is the way to go.)
- A custom stamp to brand your items tags Displaying framed pictures or posters of your process with caption
- Custom stickers or a stamp to brand Kraft bags (to wrap purchases).
This year, one of our signage improvement was engraving the material information for each category of designs on the earrings card:
Have business cards or postcards available on your table for people to pick up. Some customers will be interested in your work but not ready to purchase that day. Whenever we distribute marketing materials, we have an uptick in local online sales the following weeks.
A fair is also a great opportunity to grow your email list. Having a sign-up sheet or hosting a giveaway with email entry (making sure it's clearly indicated that the entry will sign them up to your newsletter) will allow to market directly to people already interested and aware of your products later on.
Using battery-powered lighting like soft white string lights or white light-up box signs make a booth extra welcoming. (I wouldn't go crazy with colored / flashing lights, though!). Using light to put spotlights on products is also a good strategy.
Light Box Example:
Credit Card Readers
About 50% of Arthlin's total craft fairs revenue was processed by credit card in 2018. Yes, 50%! That means we could have potentially lost half of our sales had we not been ready to accept cards payments. I've realized many customers now expect most crafts sellers to accept payments that way and don't carry cash anymore. I've been guilty of this while shopping the Farmers' market in the summer. On days that I don't have cash on hand, I shop exclusively at the booths that accepts cards payments. There are many payment processing services available, many offering the reader at no cost upon signing up:
- Shopify Point of Service (my preferred method because it's connected to our webstore)
- Paypal Here
For longer fairs with no access to electricity, it gives peace of mind to have a power bank to charge the phone / tablet / card reader throughout the day.
Picking Which Fair to Attend
I recommend joining a Craft fair group on Facebook in your state/local area. You'll be in the know when it's time to sign up for fairs (the sign up period has already begun for some fall shows!). Another big plus is being able to ask real-life feedback on the fairs to other makers in the group. No one likes working hard at crafting goods and setting up shop just to end up waiting all day for people to show up at a poorly advertised fair. It's totally worth researching each venue.
This year, I found out that Arthlin was far more successful at juried handmade shows versus general craft fairs (which includes direct sales consultants). The table fee was more important on the juried shows but the sales far exceeded the other fairs which made our time and investment absolutely worth it. Here's a short guide to differentiate juried and non juried fairs:
Fairs, a Market Research Opportunity
Unlike online retail, craft fairs allow to hear people's first impressions. It's a great opportunity to do some market research on new design ideas to see the response before their online launch. For example, we brought two version of the new leather wrapped hoops at the last fair. One version had a single hammered steel hoop, while the other version had two of the same hoops. The single ring version received far more interest and sold out that day. It was clear that it was the best design version to launch online.
It's a small detail but an apron is a convenient way to keep essentials handy. I carry a cash wallet, a calculator, a receipts pad and pens in mine. I picked it in purple to match Arthlin's branding.
A Special Thanks
I'd like to give a shout out to Joe from FortHouse illustrations.
Arthlin's last fair of the year was Confetti in downtown Biddeford. There was quite a bit to walk from the second story of the building where we set up to the streets' parking area. At the end of the day, when we were all exhausted and starving, Joe offered to load all of my remaining displays on his hand truck (one last lesson learned – having some kind of cart to carry stuff makes life SO much easier.), which saved me about 5 back and forth trips. His kindness made my day and I'll share his Etsy shop here for you to check out and give him a like: https://www.etsy.com/shop/joerosshirt
Please consider his beautiful work the next time you need greeting cards and unique prints!
I'll end this post by wishing you your most successful year yet and most of all... Have fun!
*Disclosure: Links with the * symbol are affiliate links, meaning Arthlin will receive a small % of sales (at no additional cost to you) if you decide to make a purchase. We only promote products we've tried in person and love.