Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Craft Fairs Through The Ages - A learning curve with occasional donkeys.

Warning - Going to combine two things with one post! Multi-tasking :)

Recently when I was applying to have a stall at a new Craft Fair they asked for some pictures of my work/stall. I realised I could do with one post/folder I could direct people to so they could get a quick view of my stall and my products.

I also thought it would be nice to collect up some of my stall pictures from the last 6 years and remember what key things I learned from that event, things that have gone on to shape how I feel about, and how I prepare for, future events.

So here goes. I think I had my first stall in 2009 and there aren't any pictures easily accessible of it. If I find one I shall insert it right here. It was my first attempt. What I learned was that I had a lot to learn!

For a while there was a regular craft event at Shifnal Village Hall that we attended. Here is a photo of one of them.(September 2010)

I had a double stall with my cat themed items on one table and my pictures and tiles on the other.
From this event I learnt that people buy random impulse purchases for themselves and presents for other people and there are never going to be many customers who will make a £150 impulse purchase on the day.
I also learnt just because one person thinks £3.50 for a tea cosy is too expensive doesn't mean you have to drop your price. There will be a buyer another day.

This is the stall a year later (April 2011), still in the village hall and I think it was the time I was running two stalls by myself. It was mental!

I learnt on this occasion that you should never sit down behind your stall whilst customers are about. Half way through the day I scanned the hall and realised that every other stall holder was sat down and looking pretty grumpy. You are never going to make sales looking like you don't care and you've given up!

Still in Shifnal but this time in the back hall of the Methodist Church. (October 2012) This is just the one end of my table and the first time I concentrated on pictures to sell.

I'd like to be polite but in all honesty this was an awful fair! There were no decent signs at the front of the church letting people know we were at the back. I think the footfall for the whole day was about 30 people! Learnt that you can never have enough large clear signage.

After the fairs at Shifnal dried up we tried one at the Heart of the Country Shopping Village in Swinfen. We did several fairs at this location but I'm using this picture as a representative offering! (March 2013) There were a number of tables already there, so when there were only a few of us, we spread our stalls out over several tables.

I learnt from all the fairs at Swinfen that outdoor stalls are at the mercy of the weather. That the wind is your worst enemy. That pop-up marquees are not necessarily waterproof and that having a stall next to the Christmas donkeys can be good for business.

My first lone event was at Hodnet Hall Gardens ( Not counting the one in Shifnal which was by accident a lone event) and run by a very professional organiser and there were some lovely stalls selling fantastic products. This is the nicest stall photo I have! (July 2013)

The Hodnet fair was the most expensive I have attended. Although I made a reasonable amount of money, my items are not very expensive, and I had to sell a lot of my products just to make back the price of the stall. Add in the petrol ( Hodnet is a 30 miles away) and the cost of actually making the items that covered my stall fee.... there was not a lot of profit in that event. The adjoining stall sold items made from spoons and they attracted a lot of male shoppers who enjoyed watching the process of them working. So two things learnt -  Male shoppers like a demo and don't pay out more in stall fees than you can make if you sell all your goods!

Sometimes we ignore what we have learnt and plough on regardless. The event at Wolverhampton Civic Hall (Sept 2013) was a similar price to Hodnet but had a massive guaranteed footfall. So I took the risk. It is the biggest event I have attended.

What did I learn at this one? There is no such thing as guaranteed footfall. That if you make expensive items it only takes one sale for the day to be worth it. That people will haggle over an item you are only charging a pound for. Omg.

In February  2014 I did a stall at Shifnal Methodist Church with 10% going to charity. I've done these a few times and 10% of sales doesn't make too much of a dent in your takings. You may even feel a little bit charitable!

At this point in time we had set up a craft club and workshop business and the stall was quite a good way to drum up some trade and attendees. Though in hindsight, not everyone who says they are interested actually turns up to the event or answers your emails. And indoor craft events are far, far easier than outdoor ones. 

I had an offer later in the year (March 2014) to do a pop up stall in a canteen of a large business I used to work for. It's a pretty new idea they have had to support local small businesses. It was extremely nice to catch up with some of the people I used to work with. As I was promoting our workshops I set up a small adjoining table with a mini workshop space so people could make and take some earrings.

Yep, photo of me! Unheard of! I learnt lots about the pitfalls of brand new ideas and being the only stall without comrades.

Finally last fair I did at St.Leonard's Church in Bridgnorth. (December 2014) This has become a regular event for me and this is the 5th year I have done it. 

I have a massive stall and I fill it! On the downside it's in the furthest spot from the entrance but on the upside I now have regular customers. I have learnt so much from attending this fair and a lot is specific to this venue but some are applicable to fairs as a whole, mainly - you make better money at Christmas Fairs than any others. Also you can make your biggest sales in the last five minutes of a fair, so don't pack up early. And just because something one year is a sell out doesn't mean it will be the next. Very importantly for me... make double the amount of catnip toys you think will be enough! :)

I hope you have found that interesting? I enjoyed making this post. I would like to create an ebook with some top craft fair tips in later this year. Leave me a comment if you would be interested in a copy as it might motivate me to edit it and get it live :)

I haven't mentioned my friends who came with me to the fairs, or set up their own stalls to keep me company. I'm worried they might not want to be included in something public, but even if they shall remain anonymous, I want to say a big thank you for all their help and support.x

1 comment:

  1. Great post, what a crafty stall journey!! Things have moved on so much and your stalls have got better and better xxx