This time of year is the most popular for craft fairs, probably because handmade items make such wonderful gifts. Craft fairs provide additional selling opportunities for crafters but they are not without their own set of challenges as well.
The main concern with participating in craft shows, especially if considering your first, is the amount of time, and potentially money, that will be required to get prepared. For a seller who has only ever sold online there is the issue of building up stock ready for the fair. Then there is the all-important display. Some shows will provide tables, many won’t even provide a roof, either way you still need to buy or make ways to decorate your space and display your items to their best advantage. On the other hand, designing, making and setting up the display yourself does allow you to present your work exactly as you want, and express your brand completely undiluted.
The other financial considerations are the upfront cost of your table/booth (and some shows have a non-refundable application fee) and the cost of transport (including all your inventory and display items) and possibly even overnight accommodation if the fair is far from home.
On the flip side, craft fairs provide great opportunities for handmade artists to get their work in front of a new audience and meet some of their local customers. Craft fairs provide a unique opportunity to meet customers face-to-face, which in turn allows sellers to learn so much more about their likes, dislikes, habits etc. and the chance to build up a longer lasting relationship with the potential for future sales. Of course, this approach does mean sellers need to be competent in face-to-face selling skills – a very different animal to selling online.
The right kind of craft fair will provide a captive audience of buyers who appreciate and support handmade and are already in the buying mindset. Unless you run your own retail store, a craft fair is also the only physical location at which you can sell your items for retail price, unlike selling in a shop where you usually only get around 50% of that.
Craft fairs can be great fun but also very stressful. They can leave you feeling depressed or with a great sense of accomplishment, depending on how the sales go. Either way they are a very useful learning experience and I highly recommend trying one or two before deciding whether or not to continue.
Join me next month for my next topic – all about doing custom work. In the meantime, share your experiences of craft fairs with us in the comments.