7 Tips to a Successful Arts & Crafts Show

Since this is the time of year when I attend a lot of holiday shows, I’ve decided to use that topic for a post. I’ve been selling my books at arts & craft fairs for several years now, and over that time I’ve been learning plenty of tricks and picking up on advice for what to do (and some things NOT to do) to have a successful show. Whether you’re an author selling books or a jewelry maker or other craft seller at a fair, this information will be useful for you!

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My very first craft fair setup. I’ve learned a lot since then!

 

1. ARRANGE SPACE

The good news is you have many different layout options for how to arrange your booth space. The bad news is, there’s NO one-size-fits-all layout. You’ll need to consider your location, what type of product you’re selling, and what type of person is your target customer. Do your customers prefer to walk the perimeter to view your product, or are they the kind of personalities who want to walk right into the booth? Do you have a corner booth at the end of a row or are you between two other vendors?

booth_layouts

4 basic booth layouts.
There are also many possibilities in between, as well as corner layouts.
(click to enlarge)

If you want to draw people into your booth, make sure you leave plenty of open space for them to do just that. If you only have a small door-size gap between your tables, most people will pass right by it, either because they didn’t see it or because they’re afraid of getting “trapped”. To keep your open space interesting, try some flooring that lets people easily distinguish between your space and the walkway. Rugs, vinyl flooring, and carpeting are some creative options. Just make sure whatever you choose is sturdy, suitable for travel, and not going to cause you grief if it gets a tear in it.

Sometimes I see vendors using canopies at an indoor show. This sounds like a great idea, especially if you add cool lighting inside. However, I RARELY see customers going into these booths. Most shoppers don’t want to enter a darker, enclosed area to look at a product. It feels like a trap. Now, if you’re selling home theater equipment or lights/candles or video games, a canopy might actually work really well. But for most other vendors, it won’t. Instead, you might try using the canopy bracing without putting on the canopy. This provides a sense of booth space and gives you a cool way to hang some of your products without making the space feel enclosed. Another option, and a great way to keep you from blending into the neighbor behind you, is a backdrop. You can find these at trade show suppliers or make your own.

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I like to use a backdrop to make my booth stand out and not get camouflaged in the sea of other vendors.

 

2. DRAW INTEREST

Many craft-show attendees come in with something already in mind that they want to get and are so focused on where they’re heading that they will pass right by your booth without even glancing at it. Unless you grab their attention.

Use something that will set your booth apart and make people remember to come back to it. Are you selling Halloween items? Try using a blow-up tombstone or a witch hanging above your booth. Do you sell stuffed animals? Put a giant teddy bear at the front of your space. Something large or interesting will work wonders in getting the attention of passerby. I often dress up as a character from my books—with pink hair or as an Egyptian goddess, etc. This gets people’s attention—and usually a smile—and gives them something to stop for or to remember and come back later.

Idolette

Everyone stops for pink hair!

 

3. BE ORGANIZED

Have your product set up in a way that people can easily tell what you’re selling. This includes having obvious signage for your branding. Find a unique way to display your product and attract the kinds of customers who want to buy your wares. Sometimes a simple table works, but usually you’ll want to take advantage of vertical space. Some options, depending on your product: cabinets, decorative ladders, racks, pegboards, shelving, fences, tabletop risers, coat trees, foam mannequin heads. You can get really creative with this. But whatever you do, ALWAYS secure your displays! The last thing you want is for a visitor to lift up a necklace to look at it and the whole display tips and falls over!
Places to check: craft stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, home decor shops like Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Or if you’re handy, build your own custom display.

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I’ve used a tabletop riser to lift some of my books off the low table and add vertical space to my setup.

 
vk_finnish_booth

I’ve also used bookshelves as a way to apply vertical space to my booth.

 
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vertical_space

Some other interesting ways to creatively organize.

 

4. LIGHT IT UP

Make sure your product and booth are well lit. Some venues will provide plenty of lighting, but you still might consider adding something of your own, even if it’s just string lights on your table. If you are using shelving, consider installing lights to shine on the products, ensuring that they are clearly visible. Places to check: stores like Home Depot or Lowes for larger lights, Bed, Bath, & Beyond for smaller lamps, or craft stores for strings/wires of tiny lights.

lights_vkf

I use little craft lights to brighten my setup.

 

5. EXHIBIT YOUR PRODUCT

Your product is the life of your booth, so you want it to look its best! Here are some pointers to remember when setting up your items:

  • Display your products so they are plainly visible. Since I sell middle-grade books and games, my target audience—kids—is shorter than the average adult, and I know I’ve got to make sure my products are at eye-level for them.

  • I can’t stress this one enough: Keep your shelves stocked. This doesn’t mean you should cover every inch of your space in product so that shoppers feel dizzy or lost when they look at your booth. However, if you only have a few items out, shoppers are likely to think you are almost sold out or that you don’t have any variety for them to look through, and they’ll keep walking. People hardly EVER think, “Wow, that vendor barely has anything left—they must be awesome, and I should stop there.” Find a good balance where you look stocked but not overcrowded and too busy. When you sell something, replace it with another item from your backup. If you are fortunate enough to sell out, replace the empty space with a decoration or spread the items out so they fill some of the void.

    varied_items

  • Vary your product & pricing. Arts & crafts fairs attract all kinds of people, and they all have different tastes. Your items for sale should reflect that. Include variety in your inventory, whether it’s varied colors and sizes or different styles or textures. Not only will this appeal to a broader customer range, but it’ll also give your booth extra character, making it more interesting. Also keep in mind that not all shoppers have the same budget. If you only sell items for $100, you’re going to lose out on a whole group of buyers who are willing to purchase—but not for that much. So be sure to vary your inventory to include items of different price brackets. For example, I bring my books in the high-quality hardcover format, but also in the paperback version for those who prefer a cheaper option.

  • Please DON’T sell your marketing material. I keep a stack of bookmarks on my table for people to take, and I hand them out to shoppers and include them in the bag for customers. I do NOT sell them. Nobody wants to buy your branded pen or bookmark. Those types of things are for you to give away, to make shoppers happy, give people something to take home and remember you. Do NOT try getting shoppers to buy them.

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    6. PRICE IT OUT

    I don’t like searching items for a price tag or having to ask the vendor how much something is. Some people don’t mind this—in fact, they’ll ask you even if your price is right in front of them! But it’s a good idea to let the shopper decide if they want to ask. Make sure prices are clearly marked, whether it’s on the item or on a price sheet or on individual stands.

    Another great piece of advice is: Offer discounts for multiple items. Customers want to feel like they’re getting a deal. Letting them know that they get a discount if they purchase more than one item will give them that sense of a good deal, plus you might be able to sell two items instead of just one!

    buy-one-get-one
     

    7. SELL YOUR STUFF

    If you’ve got all the other topics covered and have an attractive, interesting, welcoming booth, you’re halfway there. Now you’ve got to pay attention to the seller: you. Remember, as a seller YOU are the biggest marketing factor at your booth. For some people, this can be the scariest part. Here are some tips I’ve learned on what you can do for a better sales experience:

  • Smile. You might think someone isn’t looking at you, but it’s amazing what we can see from the corner of our eyes. When you smile, people notice, and they’re more likely to stop, or at least slow down.

  • Connect. Most of us like to experience a pleasant connection with other humans. We can do that in simple ways, like with a greeting or a sense of common style. A cheerful, “Good morning!” or “Hello!” often gets a passerby to look up at you. You might even throw out an occasional “I love your shoes!” or “Those are awesome glasses!” (Of course, only say that if you actually mean it!) But just like that, you got that person’s attention—you made a connection! Then you can offer that smile and turn the attention to your product.

  • Be visible AND available. Sometimes I see vendors huddled at the back of their booth. Maybe they’re staring off or talking to each other or on their phones. Guess how many visitors they have at their booth? Zero. Shoppers don’t want to feel like an intruder when they come to your booth. Instead of interrupting you or waiting for you, they will leave. Even if you’re not preoccupied, hanging at the back of the booth gives customers the impression that you don’t actually care about selling your product to them.

  • Don’t accost. Part of shopping at an art or crafts show is the country-time, easy-pace experience. Very few shoppers will react positively if you walk in front of them to get their attention, try to hand them something, or try to shepherd them into your booth. Generally, it’s best to avoid that type of aggressive sales tactic. A good rule of thumb is: get attention by making a connection, but let the shoppers decide if they want to stop.

  • Have information. It’s always a good idea to leave out a stack of business or information cards. This gives shoppers something to take away with them and remember you by, whether they purchase something now or not. A buyer might be able to earn you additional buyers if they can recommend you to their friends, but they can’t do that if they don’t remember your brand name. Also, when they go to a show next year and want to get another one of your products, your card will help them remember exactly which vendor to go visit again.

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    There are plenty of other tips out there on how to have a successful arts & crafts show, but these will definitely start you on your way!

     
     

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