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Tips for first-time craft booths

So the holiday boutique happened, and it wasn’t a TOTAL washout. But let’s just say that I took home a bunch of tips for my next fair. Yes, there will be a next fair. 

I made a total of 10 sales during the five hour fair, so business could have been a lot better. (But I also keep telling myself that business could have been a lot worse.) I found myself scanning the room to see if other booths were buzzing. Every time I did this, I’d make accidental awkward eye contact with my booth neighbor, who made two or three sales all day. At one point we confided how dead the day was for us. Crafter solidarity. 

Because it was a church fair, I wondered if church members were mostly buying from faces they recognized, you know, their friends and partners in ministry. I’d watch people enter the building, scan the room and make a beeline for their buddy’s table. Also, the main road was closed for another event in town, making it really hard for non-church people to find us. The building seemed busy, but I started noticing the same faces were lingering for hours. So not tons of foot traffic. But I still think it was a good place for me to start. I’m not ready to show my stuff at pro craft fairs. A little Christmas church boutique was less intimidating and expensive for a first-timer testing the waters. 

My first craft booth

So I bring to you a list of craft booth tips from an amateur. 

1. Have something really eye-catching at your booth
I thought that I did a good job at arranging my merchandise aesthetically, but I think the overall look was a little dull without something eye-popping going on. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who speed-walked by without even turning their head. I have never speed-walked my way through a handmade fair, so I am back to wondering if these people were only interested in shopping from people they knew. But still, I think something unexpected and eye catching may have slowed a few of them down. Once people actually looked at my products, they either purchased, or took a business card for later. But it was tough getting people to pause and look. I haven’t decided what I’ll do for next time. A lot of people suggest using mannequins to model your products, but I think a baby mannequin would look super creepy. Any thoughts?

2. You’ll need more space than you think
The craft fair coordinator asked me if I wanted a card table or a 6′ table, and I can’t believe I vacillated between those two options. I ended up going with the 6′ table and I had nowhere near the room I needed to display my stuff without it looking cluttered. I also didn’t have room for all the signs I wanted to display. If I do a 6′ table again, I’ll put up a backdrop for more showing surface area. 

3. Bring something to do that is NOT your iPhone
Lucky for me, I had my sewing kit, so I put the finishing touches on more headbands. If you can bring your craft to work on, do that. You will have downtime, even if you sell a ton of stuff. And you’ll need something to do with your hands to stave off (some of) the awkwardness. One of the crafters near me didn’t bring anything to do, so she played around on her iPhone all day. I people looked closed off when they have their nose in a screen, and if I were a customer I’d be less likely to approach a booth if the person was playing with their smart phone. 

4. Be friendly with other vendors
This might sound like a no-brainer, but I was surprised at how cold some vendors were to me. I just think that is rude. We’re small-time crafters, not the characters of the “Black Swan.” I made a point of walking the room to introduce myself and compliment others on their crafts, which I think is the decent thing to do. Even when I did this, I sensed  a bit of standoffishness from some. Of course others were nice and friendly. The vendor behind me even let me use her tissue paper because I was lame and forgot to bring stuff to gift wrap. I made note of the ones that were smiley and kind and I’d be honored to work alongside them again. I made a few great connections that I hope I keep in touch with. 

5. Don’t lay too many of your products face up on the table 
I noticed that the ones that did sell were hanging prominently, or displayed at the top of the mirror. Most people didn’t bother to sort through the masses of headbands on the table. I definitely need to do something about this for next time. I want to show as many products as I can, but I don’t want it to be “too much” for the customer to take in. I think a backdrop will really help. 

6. Don’t get discouraged
I’ll be honest, there were times throughout the day (especially three hours in when I still had made just one sale) that I felt stupid for trying to do this. Do not feel that way. You shouldn’t expect success at your first fair. The first one is all about testing the market, learning and making connections. A little failure is good. It’s a huge step to put yourself out there, especially selling handmade things, where it feels like the rejection of your products is essentially a rejection of you. I say tell those inner demons to get diabetes and die. It takes guts to start a craft business and it’s not for the easily discouraged. So if at your first fair you don’t sell a single item, come home and start planning your next one. And write to me, because it would be so fun to go through this journey with you. 

So those are the things I’ve been mulling over since the boutique. I can’t wait for the next one. 

In other news, it’s Christmastime at the G’s. It’s kind of bizarre that you’re considered “late” when you set up your tree on Dec. 8. Seriously, I’ve had this anxiety that we didn’t have ours up yet. Geesh. Happy Monday!

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3 Comments

  1. Linda gelsinger on December 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Have baby G model them!!!

    I agree not having too many things on the table is good, just have them color organized under the table in case a customer wants a certain color.

    Display in front of a mirror is a great way to capture attention!

    Offer little chocolates at the table for free….so they will stop and look

    Play music! Light a candle!!!

    Ok….have some ‘friends’ stop by and shop, exclaiming how nice the product is to gather attention from others!

  2. Bonnie Frank on December 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Great tips! My son and I sold his duct tape products at loads of craft fairs for a while. We always put out Hershey’s kissed or some other candy to entice kids (and then parents!) over to the booth. Also, if you have a table cover that goes to the floor, you can hide all of the boxes you carted everything in with under it. Your booth looked great!

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