Selling Sewn Products in Craft Shows /fairs : 10 secret tips to success

Craft shows may never make you a billionaire but it is a nice comfortable income for many. And those who make the cut, Do they have any secret to their success? Yeah – consistently selling their products at all the shows they attend. Bummer, that is obvious! But how do they get these sales? There are some secrets, of course, that help these very successful craft show attendees achieve super sales on craft shows. Here they are.

selling at craft shows

1 They have a craft show plan

A Craft show plan is like the business plan you make when starting a business – but on a smaller scale. If you go to a show with proper planning laid out on paper, every thing will (likely) go without a hitch.

Putting up a display in a craft show /fair or market is how many people start selling the products they make. So think of it as a preparation of what you intend to do eventually on a larger scale.

Write down what you intend to take, how you intend to take them, where you will buy things to make your products at a good price, how you will sell, and how you intend to profit from the show, whether you intend to give a special discount there and all other relevant questions you can think about.

More detailed questions include what is the Product line, ie the entire range of things you will take to the show, out of these which will be the star products, whether you have a buyer persona in mind and have you considered what it is that is unique about your products, your price point etc. Answers to these will be your craft show business plan.

2 They always try to get that front row

When you enter a show or fair as a shopper, you always have enough money for the first few shops. Then as you reach the end, you have depleted all your monies and you buy far less from the last shop than you did from that first few shops. This has been my experience as a shopper. Be the first or one of the first. Check the map of the layout of the venue for the show and get a place at least in front of your competitor selling similar things. Book in advance for this privilege.

3 They have a good product display

You have to have a clean and organised display that will lure a customer to come and visit your stall. If they stop they may shop. Otherwise, nothing.

Color is an eye catcher. Use it effectively. Red colored signs attract attention. Blue assures class. Put things on the table that attract attention and people come to check it out . Attractive table top signs, mirrors, candy jars are all things people have tried. 

Ensure that the products are laid out neatly, organised – but in an interesting way. You need to have enough space to keep all the things you have. Or else keep only what you can keep neatly. Clutter can put off customers and avoid your stall altogether or they will go at the same speed that they came in.

4 They will have prizes displayed on all items.

Most people balk at asking prizes, me included, and would rather not buy than ask “What is the cost of that” multiple times. 

5 They are in the show with a sellers mindset

If you are a maker, it is difficult to be a marketer too. There is a law somewhere that says so. Just joking, but it is difficult. A person who makes things in the isolation of a studio may not want to be the one standing in front of people who have come to buy and wax eulogies about that embroidered handkerchief. But you have to be both in your business – a maker and a marketer.

So Build a persona that can sell.

I have always wondered what makes some people make friends with complete strangers in 5 minutes and some not even make eye contact with strangers. It is personality, I guess. There are people who can talk to even rock and those who can’t. Nothing wrong with either. But for a craft show to be a success you had better be in the first category. 

Other than being comfortable with strange people you also need to have the “talk smart gene” – ie the quality that allows you to convince people to buy from you. An ability to sell ice in Iceland.

If these things do not come naturally to you, you can still build a persona around you that makes others feel welcome. A lot of people buy at craft shows because of personality of the sellers. Good, neat dressing and friendly vibes coming from you definitely helps in selling things. 

Talk to the prospective customers as if you are not there to sell them but to help them. Greet each customer courteously. Get talking to your customers even if they do not buy anything ( and if you have time and if the customer seems willing. Some may just want to look around without your help or talk); they will remember and may even recommend you to others.  Explain about the workmanship of the product , the style or any special feature it has. Always keep a tone of enthusiasm in your talk.

Get marketing knowledge – Learn all that it takes to sell. Read marketing books and attend courses. Get experience selling in small and middle-sized shows before going for big shows.

6 They are prepared and comfortable

Get a place with roofs and tables and comfortable chairs. Do not forget food and water. If you forgo nourishment in the excitement of selling, your health will suffer. You need stamina to stand the whole day.

If you are comfortable it shows – so wear comfortable clothes and shoes. This is important as you will be on your feet for the whole day ( or days) so you need to be comfortable and at ease in your shoes.

7 They make things for the market

Recognize that different items are popular in different areas.

Ensure that you have studied the market before making things for a particular market. Some things sell well in one place better than in others. This is a knowledge you get with experience and also by talking to other craft show attendees.

Locality is very important in craft shows as people from nearby areas is your customer.

Almost every craft show will have items similar to yours. How you stand out is by having unique things or giving a unique touch to usual products. 

Do your quality check before going for the show. Get the transportation and storage worked out efficiently before hand. 

8 They have their Prices right

Prizing is one of the most important aspects of a business – too high and you will not get any buyers and too low and you will never make a profit for your time and expenses. It is a very  important and very difficult factor to decide upon.

To arrive at a price you have to consider all factors including your time, cost of supplies and labor, craft show fees, transportation and any other expenses involved and also the profit margin you intend to take, employee salary if you have extra hands, taxes you will have to pay and advertising if any, rent if any, credit card fees, insurance if you have that before arriving at the prize. But all these do not concern a buyer. He or she will think only about his budget and his needs when he sees your product. So price with the customer also in mind.

If you are a novice in making things and selling, the first lesson in economics is to keep your business expenses and personal expenses separate. Book keeping can make or break your business. Record every single thing that you buy for the business in a separate book from the first day. 

Streamline your production to ensure that they take the least amount of time and with the least amount of wastage – this will lead to more profit for you. You can even hire employees and increase your production for the shows if you take care of these two things.

You can find the best prize only with some experimentation. The best thing about selling in crafts shows is that you can experiment depending on the show you are on. Not many will notice and complain unlike in a showroom. The prizing will also depend on the show and the target market. 

And if you also sell to retail shops remember that you should sell at that retail price only, other wise the shops will not be happy.

When you collect money from others as a profit you will have to pay taxes on that money in most countries. So this has to be taken into consideration even as you price your products other than all the other overheads.

9 They have taken care of all the legal stuff

Ignorance is not an excuse to not comply with law. You cannot plead ignorance and be let off if you break laws – so be careful and ensure that all the legal requirements are met before you attend that first craft fairs/show to avoid it being the last show you attend.

Some show organizers or state administrations would insist on you having a business license even before you go for your first show – it is most probably a simple enough process but it can avoid you a lot of problems later. Laws are different from state to state and  country to country. A visit to the relevant administrative office near you will clear your doubts and set you at peace of having law on your side.

Also read all the rules and regulations of the show you intend to attend. There may be things you cannot take, products you cannot sell, and things you have to definitely bring – knowing all this before hand will prevent last minute panic.

10 They already have plan for future sales

Take down every visitors’ address – offer some thing in return for the privilege of getting the contact like a giveaway entry or future discount. Even when a craft show does not bring in too many sales, it still is a good way to get your name out. So have business cards ready. Give them out to all and sundry.

Have an advance system. I mean you should be able to take advance for future jobs. Say, you do embroidery. Have a system where people can give you an advance and you do the job for them later and they will pick it up later after the work is finished at your time. Charge at least 25% of the total upfront for this at the stall itself, other wise they will never come back.

Take a stock of what was sold most at a particular show, to study and then plan accordingly for the next show. Flexibility is a nice quality to have to be a success in the marketplace.

Following all these are worth to sell the things you have made so lovingly. Don’t you think so ?

Related posts : How to sell bags; 45 Sewing businesses you can start ; How to start a tailoring business; How to start an embroidery business ; How to start a boutique .


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