There is something special about having people admire an item or product you have made, pick it up, and then pay you for it. Call it getting a crash course in retail or connecting with customers, but giving art shows, craft fairs and farmer’s markets a shot can be a rewarding experience. However, if you want to sell your stuff in a venue like this, you need to set up your expectations early and prepare in advance. However, many people tend to jump the gun and purchase or rent a booth the moment they see a listing for a show. Consequently, most of them end up leaving without having sold enough to cover their costs.
The full cost of participating in a show or market is something many vendors do not think about when calculating their profits. For example, in addition to the cost of the booth space, one must also factor in the cost of the promotional materials, tents, marketing costs, table/booth decorations, displays, and signage. The secret to success is to plan on participating in many events throughout the season, which will allow you to settle on the types of locations, themes, and setups that work for you, and earn more money for all the items you sell. For example, if you participate in 12 markets per year, your pop-up tent and signage will cost 1/12 of its initial cost when it comes to calculating the return on investment for each time you set up.
When you first start out selling at craft fairs or farmer’s markets, it can be difficult to determine how much to pay for a stall. Some booths/stalls seem very expensive, but that may be for several good reasons. Therefore, you should determine the profit margin of each piece you make in advance. Essentially, you should think about how much money you spent on your project and how much you will need to sell it for in order to break even. Additionally, remember to include the cost of any packaging, fuel, and man hours. If a booth costs $60, for example, and you make an average profit of $5 per item, then you will need to sell in excess of 12 items to cover the cost of the booth alone.
You may not be participating in a show or local market to make a profit on the day but merely to let the general public know about your products. If you come back from an event and realize that you actually lost some money, you should not be discouraged. Exposing your products and talking to potential customers may well result in numerous orders that come in after you’ve packed up and gone home, enquiries, and sales (so, make sure you budget for business cards, and at least a simple website for people to look at once they’re home). Participating in these events are a great marketing opportunity.
It is also important to know where the money you spend is going. A good venue organizer should have a sound publicity campaign worked out in advance. Therefore, you should find out whether the craft fair will be promoted using posters and flyers on the day of the event or through radio and local press too. Even a simple advertising campaign takes organization in advance.
If you have the time to visit and see for yourself, find out how the staff or organizer has laid out the fair. Determine whether they are considerate of where they place the vendors and how many of each type of vendor/discipline they will allow. You may even be allows to pay extra for more space or a prime position. However, you should remember to include the extra cost and time you will incur having to stock your items in a larger space.