There are lots of different holiday shows, craft fairs, bazaars…..where you could sell your handmade items in real life. But with all the options out there the question becomes “Which one should I choose?”
There is nothing more disappointing than spending weeks and weeks preparing products for a show, prepping your setup and then getting there only to have it be a complete flop where you barely make the entrance fee back and break even. Or even worse, lose money. It is devastating and a is a low blow for any small business owner.
If you’re like me you are busy with your business, busy with kids and a family, just busy in general. Because of that, you want to spend your time on the activities that are most effective for your business. This includes deciding which craft shows to do out of all the choices you have. (click here for ideas of where to find craft shows in your area)
Here are some things to think about when deciding which shows to participate in:
This is key. You need to know who your items appeal to and make sure you choose a show that is where they would shop. For example if you make high end, expensive jewelry you wouldn’t want to participate in a show that is at an elementary school but that might be the perfect place if you sell kids toys. Know your customers and participate in the shows they would attend.
Make sure there is some sort of vetting process
I’m going to be honest because I’ve been there. For me, the absolute worst shows I’ve done accepted anyone and everyone that had the money to pay the table or booth fee. I have since found that this tells me that the shows main priority is them making as much money as possible. Now I’m not saying fundraisers and them making a profit is a bad thing, I know it takes a ton of work on their part and they should be compensated for that.
What I am saying is that when everyone is accepted there is often a lot of overlap so much so that many times no one does well. (check out my story below)
True Story: Several years ago I did a new bazaar that I heard about from a friend. I was still new to selling at shows but decided to do it. It was at a local high school where they were doing it as some sort of fundraiser. When I got there I saw there was a ton of space, a lot of people and a lot of vendors. It was exciting to see the buzz and I was anxious to see how it would turn out. I set up my table and after a while, I started to notice I wasn’t doing nearly as well as I normally had at the few shows I’d done previously. I had my neighbor friend watch the table and I left to go look around because I had been very focused on setup so I didn’t get to see everything outside of my area.
What I noticed shocked me. Almost 1/2 of the vendors made jewelry. One-half. This was pretty much every other table. I know that a lot of people make jewelry and a lot of people like jewelry but people can only spend so much money on necklaces and earrings. When I talked to some of the other jewelry vendors they expressed their frustrations as well. We all got some sales but not much. The reason why this happened is that while people ended up buying a lot of jewelry, they can only buy so much and that had to be spread over tons of vendors.
Moral of the story: When there’s some sort of vetting process or curation of vendors it helps prevent overlap as well as curating specific styles that will really draw in a specific target market.
Know your show
You need to do your research and really know about the show you’re doing. Taking even a 10 minutes of research can save you a lot of time and frustration. How long has the show been going on? From what I’ve seen personally, shows that have been around longer have a history of selling better than newer ones because they know their market, they have a lot of experience and have a customer base set up with people who have attended in the past and who they can advertise to.
This doesn’t mean newer shows can’t do really well but for me, the history is always a factor in my decision.
Research and ask a lot of questions
- How many years have they been doing this show for?
- What other businesses have done shows with them? (You can ask for references and contact other sellers to see how it went which is very helpful)
- What is there foot traffic like?
- How many other vendors will be there?
- Is there any sort of selection process or limitations with sellers?
- Are they allowing direct sellers?*
- What type of people are they targeting?
- How are they advertising?
- What do their social media sites or websites look like?
- Are they organized making sure vendors have all the information they need in plenty of time? (start times, parking, spots..) It’s important it is an organized and not thrown together event
- Are they looking for people 1-2 weeks before the show? The best shows fill up 3-6 months in advance and good shows will fill up 6 weeks in advance. If it’s the week before there’s a reason they’re still looking for people to fill spots, and often it’s because the show has earned a bad reputation, are totally disorganized or are poorly advertised.
*Direct sellers – These are businesses like Pampered Chef, Younique, Mary Kay, Scentsy…..Now I love a lot of these businesses but having direct sellers, especially a lot of them at a show makes for a completely different feel than a more handmade show. I’ve found when there are no direct sellers or a very very limited number of them, I tend to do better, again, because it is a different feel and atmosphere. That is why curated and juried shows tend to do better, it feels more like a boutique or high-end store.
Know your costs
Obviously, this means knowing how much a table or booth fee is and if there is any commission that needs to be given. You need to know exactly how many items need to be sold to make your money back and start making a profit. Along with that, think about the costs of your time. Think about the time to prep items, to prep your space and then the day of the event. You can estimate the number of hours it would take you to do everything then calculate how much you would need to sell to make it worth the time factoring in your cost to do the show.
True Story: I am in a number of handmade groups so the topic of shows is discussed a lot. I was shocked to see someone who was just starting out with her business talking about how she was a week from a show, her first show, where she had a table fee of over $350. I was so nervous for her because it takes more than a week of prep to be ready for a show, especially a $350 show where she could potentially lose a lot of money if she doesn’t sell a lot.
Moral of the story: Honestly $350 is just too high for a first-time show for most people. Go with something smaller to get an idea of what it’s like to sell at a show and don’t wait until 1 week before to begin prepping. If you know you are going to be too busy with other things until right before decide if it’s really the right thing for your business because you could just be wasting your time and money.
Are there any other factors you’ve found help you decide what show to do or not? Leave a comment and let us know!