Updated: May 29, 2019
I've been running my business for almost a year now and have done quite few craft and charity fairs during that time. Today I'm going to talk about my first experience at a fair, what I learnt from it and share a few tips and tricks I have picked up to help anyone else that's starting out with fairs too.
The first fair I ever held a stall at was the Okehampton summer fair on the 27th May 2018. It wasn't very big, and I wasn't placed in the greatest of spots but none the less everyone has to start somewhere, and it was an opportunity to learn.
I started out with two old, wooden fold out tables that weren't very big, a couple of table cloths and a few small wooden boxes to keep my cushions upright. At the time I thought it would look alright, however looking back, I can see the display wasn't great or impressive at all. There wasn't much structure to the layout of the stock I had, so everything looked a bit random. Also, many of the items were made in the same few fabrics which was a bit repetitive to look at.
^^^ Photos above are from the Okehampton may fair 2018. ^^^
Since that first fair, I have changed the layout of my display multiple times, and I am sure will continue to do so. Afterall, the space you get varies for each fair so the way you set up will be slightly different every time. However, I have learnt what does and doesn't work for me and my products and now have a routine for setting up each time.
Now for the tips and tricks to help you with your stalls!
^^^ Photos above from various fairs and show throughout 2018 ^^^
Tip 1: Display is everything
A buyers first impression can make or break a sale. After my first fair, I soon learnt that I needed some new tables, so made the investment and bought two 2.5 x 6 ft sturdy tables to replace the old wooden ones I had before. I also purchased a white display ladder to add the height and interest to my display. The tables I purchased are lot bigger than the wooden ones I began with, which meant that it would hold a lot more stock. The extra space is great but can be daunting as it’s a bigger blank canvas to fill. A few things you can do to break up the space are:
Categorise your item – either into the different items or in collections.
Variety – it depends on what you make but items should be available in different colours and patterns so there is more chance of something matching someone’s home or personality.
Collections – you don't want to put someone off with a jumble sale, so if you can categorise your stock into collections people can clearly see the different style or colours that you have available.
Tip 2: You can never have enough stock
However much stock you think you need, DOUBLE IT! You may think 'I have 3 of these and a few of those, that'll be enough' Wrong. You want enough to fill your stall, but you also want spares kept back so if anything sells you can replace it. Or if someone asks if you have a matching set of something its right there ready to go. You also want to think carefully about the stock that you make, I’d advise to have fewer individual products, but in more variation of colours, patterns and styles. This way if someone really likes your products, they are more likely to find a style they really like, that matches there home or personality.
Tip 3: Advertise!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to advertise your brand, you can’t assume that people know who you are, what you do or what your products are. Business cards are a MUST at a craft fair! Display them in various places on your stall so people can pick them up and remember you. You can also put them in your bags, so when someone buys something they can recall where they got it from.Furthermore, have a banner or display that largely shows who you are and gives a clear impression of your business. Branded packaging, labels and bags are also a great way of making sure people remember you. All of these things add to your brand awareness, people will remember where they got something from because the logo is on the bag or the product and they have your contact details on the business card given to them.
Tip 4: Float
A float is the change that you bring with you to a fair. If someone gives you a £10 note for something that costs £8 you have the change to give them. At my first fair I didn’t have a huge amount of float so when someone gave me a £20 note for something that was £7 I felt a little bit of panic, thinking I had no change left for future sales. Moral of the story, always have a large float with you, if a lot of your stock is to the pound make sure you have plenty of £1 coins etc.
Tip 5 – Accept Card
It would surprise you how many people go to a fair or show with no or little cash. Having a small mobile card machine is inexpensive and helps to complete sale that otherwise you couldn’t. Personally, I use a Sum Up card machine which has no monthly fees only the cost of the machine and has a small transaction fee, but it’s well worth the purchase.
Tip 6: Make A List
You don’t want to forget anything for your first fair (or any fair for that matter), so writing a list is really handy especially for remembering the little things. Also consider having two lists, one for you e.g. food, drink, extra clothing if you're outside, and one for the business e.g. notebook and pen for recording sales, scissors, spare price tags etc.
Tip 7: Prices
If a customer has to ask for a price it can be very off putting and that’s if they ask at all, some will just walk right past. To make sure this doesn’t happen, make sure there are clear price lists or price tags, preferably both just to be sure.Another point is to not under-price yourself, carefully calculate how much it the materials cost and how long it took to make an item to come up with a fair price. A lot of people don’t want to put their prices up too high but, if they like your work enough they will pay you for it.
Tip 8: Enjoy yourself
At the end of the day it’s a learning curve and a new experience. The important thing to remember is you're there to have fun, meet new people and increase your brand awareness. If you are enjoying yourself people will feed off it and enjoy themselves, which in turn will bring more people to your stall. I recommend bringing someone with you. Having someone there with you will help you to relax as there’s not so much pressure on yourself. Having someone to help out for when you go to the toilet or just so you can wonder around. Also having someone to talk to will keep you from getting bored and stops you from looking bored if it’s quiet.
Tip 9: Networking
Talk to the other stall holders around you. A lot of the time if you attend smaller fairs similar people will be there, so you can network with them and become part of another community. They may even give you a few tips of their own to help you improve.