Updated: Dec 2, 2021
As promised on my previous post, I’m going to be touching on a series of subjects I wish I had known more about when I started Florrie, and for me one of the biggest is “How to navigate your first craft fair?”.
I’ve noticed on the Facebook groups that I’m part of that this subject is also on others mind so feel free to share as you see appropriately.
For ease, I’ve split this into four main sections;
Reflecting after the market
Let’s get started!
**Disclaimer, This post contain affiliated links to products either I know and use, or have been recommended to me by fellow makers. Purchases using these links will mean I receive a small cash back referral but you will not be charged. Thank you if you chose to purchase any items via these links!**
How to find and select a craft fair.
Not only am I seeing lots of businesses looking for advice on events but I’m also seeing the ‘call outs’ for fairs. This is when the organisers first publish details of their markets and invite crafters, makers, and artists to apply. If you’re looking for a local festive fair, these will start to pop up anytime from August for Christmas markets. If you’ve not seen any yet, fear not, there are some that advertise just a few weeks before.
To find markets, check on Facebook for local events or on websites of larger curated events. Ahead of the festive period, sign up for newsletters so you don’t miss the call out dates. Word of mouth amongst other makers is also a great way to find out more about markets, so it’s time to chat to your creative business friends.
When selecting which market to do there’s a number of factors and these will largely depend on your own business which are most relavant. I’ve tried to cover a few:
Craft markets can range from £10/day (usually local community markets) to £100+ (usually design/curated markets). Do more expensive markets mean that you are more likely to yield more? In my experience, unfortunately no. So it’s time to do a bit of research, will your products will be a good fit for the event that you are applying for?
Is this a market that you know? Have you attended in the past? Do you know anyone that has? Most makers are friendly. If you’ve spotted a market that you fancy, reach out to a maker that has attended and get their opinion. Its always good to know if the organisers had it well publicised before the event and if it was well attended.
Will this require overnight travel with all your items? I have two young children so currently I prefer to stay local to my area for markets, but it may be that you feel your customers are based in a larger city so it's worth using social media to check out markets further afield.
I’ve found that no application to a market has ever been the same! Some will just require a few details by email whereas others will be more formal and require a full application form. All will likely want to see photographs of your work. Have a few stock photographs to hand so you can apply quickly if deadlines are looming, or have a gallery of your work on a website or social media, so you can refer the organiser there.
Have some clear stock photographs to hand. These may also be used by the organisers to advertise the event.
Application responses also vary for each market, some will reply quickly with more details, and some will reject your application with no feedback. It can be disappointing but try not to take this personally, it may be that they have makers that produce similar items to yours or they just don’t think that you are the right fit for their event. This is actually a good thing as there is nothing worse than being pitched up beside someone who is selling the same items as you or trying to sell your wares to the wrong crowd!
Preparing for the market.
Ok, so your date is set and now you’ve got the prep work to do. There are a lot of things to think about and to have ready before the event.
Some events will insist that you have public liability insurance. If you are a maker (making all your own items) then ‘an artist (here)’ do insurance for £38 year (**disclaimer - please check the terms and conditions to see if you are eligible for this insurance.**)
Table - most venues will provide this - but check what the dimensions are. This will let you plan and also ensure that you have a properly fitting table cloth (a large piece of fabric will also work well). I recommend a table cloth that goes all the way to the floor as you can hide the boxes that you carried your stock to the event in. Boxes are good as if its raining/snowing, your items won’t get damaged during the transport, especially from parking space to stall. I use ‘really useful boxes’ and they are great - find them in lots of sizes here.
Props. How will you display your items? You’ve likely spent months making your gorgeously handcrafted items so you want to showcase these the best that you can. Check out Pinterest for ideas or if you can, attend a few markets in the run up to see how other makers are using their space. One word of warning - use this as inspiration to add your own twist to it. I highly recommend having a test run at home and asking your friends and family for honest feedback. A rule of thumb is that you want to add height to your stall as this makes it easier for someone across the room to see what you have a on offer. Small book cases, card stands, desk top plant stands, and tiered systems all work well.
Adding height to a stall can help it be seen across a busy market space.
Banner/banding sign. Perhaps not an item for your first stall, as they can be costly, but a printed sign with your companies name on it can make your stall stand out in a busy hall. A smaller frame with your logo in it can be effective too.
Final note on logistics, how will you move your items from car to your spot? I have a folding trolley that fits under my table but folding festival trolleys are also very handy. Especially if, like me, you sell heavy handbound books!
I know, it’s obvious that you’ll require stock for a fair! However, I see a lot of questions on the Facebook groups regarding exactly how much stock to take. There is no right or wrong answer here. My advice is to take what you have made and enough to show the range of your brand. If you have a lot of stock prepared, do not be tempted to try and cram all your stock on your stall at once. It can be a great ice breaker to say ‘I’ve other colours/sizes available, just let me know’ to a browsing customer. It also gives you a chance to refresh stock once it sells. If you have fear that you may sell out, do you have a system in place where you can take a custom order, follow up that way?
Business cards/a snap board
Not everyone will want to purchase on the day but this doesn’t mean its been a wasted venture. Make sure you have a way for potential customers to follow up with you in the future. Business cards or leaflets are great (visa print always have a sale!) but if you don’t want the cost of these for your first market, prepare a board or frame with your details and encourage people to snap a picture for later. Add in your social media, any online stores, and an email address.
Books prices on reverse and a framed price list on the stall.
Prices on your items
No one likes asking how much things are. Have a prepared frame with a full easy to read, price list or have little card tags beside your items so people can browse freely without having to awkwardly ask how much every item is.
Cash float and Card reader
Your cash float will largely depend on the cost of your items. I do not take dominations less than 50p as my items are mainly round numbers. Also think about how much cash you personally would take to an event. I hate to admit that I’m pretty reliant on my cards these days and rarely have more than £20 in cash on me at any time. If your items are priced over this then buying on the day will be harder (know where the nearest cash machine is!) if you do not have some form of electronic payment.
The good news is that there are many payment card readers, which link to your phone available for small business now. These are often about £20-£30 to buy and charge a small fee (2-3%) on card payments. There are no other monthly charges. These also allow you to log in your cash sales, which is quick for seeing how things went. I personally use Izettle, but sum up and square are also on the market. Each has different perks so find out which of these will suit you best. Make a small sign to show you take card payments.
One final note on this, if you are taking a card reader, a charging bank (like this) is also a handy addition as most will run off your phone battery and you do not want that dying half way through your market.
Notebook, Pen and other Stationery
I’m not just looking for a way to revert you back to notebooks (although I do have a lovely selection here). This will come into its own if you’ve signed up to many markets you’ll want to take note of what you’ve sold so you can restock it easily in the weeks that follow. It also is handy to have so you can take notes on what people are asking you for such as different colours/sizes/ packs etc. These little bits of feedback may just lead to your next best selling product!
I also take some tape (masking/washi and double sided) for adding price lables to my props, bull dog clips (can hold a table cloth back if tucked from under side), black sharpie, string, and scissors. All these can be used for any last minute stall adjustments I need to make on the day.
Snacks and drink
If it’s an all day event, have some food with you. Select wisely as this is not the time to share your love for pickle onion crisps! It may be that the event has food stalls or a cafe, but you may not have an opportunity to go visit. I take a refillable thermos cup with tea in it with me. Some venues will offer refreshments so can refill my own mug, and this helps them stay warm if your stall suddenly gets busy. It can be a long day on your feet so make sure that you have proper nourishment to hand.
Pre market marketing
If you have social media, let your followers know where you’re going to be. If they’ve been following you for a while, they will likely be delighted to know that you are in the area and they can finally come meet the face behind the brand they love so much!
On the day.
Set off early to give yourself plently of time to set up. This is one of my favourite parts of the day as you have a chance to chat to the makers around you. Often the stall holders do not have a chance to see each other stalls (especially if its a large venue) so this is also a time to browse before the doors open. It gives you an opportunity to photograph your stall, and share with your social media following so they know where you are and what you have with you.
Once the doors open, be friendly, smile and say hello but let people browse. Hopefully the hours will fly by and you’ll be answering all sorts of wonderful (sometimes weird) questions about your products. If the market is slow or it’s not going well, remember to keep smiling. I did a horribly slow market a few years ago, I didn’t even cover the cost of my stall and felt crushed. But I rode it out and stayed until the end. Then I had a lovely follow up sale from a lady who sent me then kindest note and it made me glad I had kept my composure and carried on. Not every market will be your market, but that’s when the next bit is important…..
After the market.
Time to take stock by asking some simple questions:
What sold well?
What feedback did you have?
What could you do better next time?
What notes did you take in your handy notebook?
By looking at all this you’ll be able to plan better for your next market so be honest with yourself.
The first market is undoubtedly the most nerve wracking but I really hope you enjoy it!
Got a question or just want to let me know how it went? Feel free to leave me a comment below!
Until next time!
Copyright Su Florence, Florrie, 2021.