If I knew how to pick a winning show, I’d tell you. But I don’t.
But this should help you place your bet
Why you have to do shows
However magnificent your online empire, you have to sell your product face to face to get feedback to modify, ditch and develop your work. If you isolate yourself you will fail.
People are more ready to buy expensive pieces online if they have encountered the work before in the flesh.
Don’t do too many
The after show recovery period is a week. They are truly exhausting and you need that week to unpack, follow-up and catch up.
Sometimes booking a particular show every other year can be better, as then your existing customers see your presence as an opportunity rather than the “same old”.
Dont book the year’s shows if you are inexperienced. Shows are expensive and they are a risk . Young businesses need to book and try to use the lessons from that show to inform their next pick.
Never book a show unless you can survive losing your costs. It is a gamble. How ever great previous takings might have been you cannot rely on that happening again. If you do a show and you get your costs back they must go back into your show fund they are NOT profit.
Start small and work up
Evaluating the Audience
It is not just about numbers. You need to work out what the visitors are seeking at this show and what their price range is. Most organisers insist their show is ideal every inquirer You need to drill down deeper.
For example if there is wall to wall craft making workshops that might be where the majority of the visitor spend is going and retail is just an add-on. If there are great children’s activities then is it more of a family day out? If there are lots of displays and the entry ticket is high, then visitors will be there to see rather than buy.
If it’s an established show look at pictures of last year’s online, do the visitors look right?
Pictures can tell you a lot. In this image the visitors are not laden with purchases, the girl in red has not got any interest on her stand, she is bored and watching the world go by . You know she is a seller as she has an exhibitor’s badge.
See if you can find the exhibitor list for that show, what’s the mix ? Click through to some websites and see what their price range is, phone a couple and ask if they would recommend the fair. A show like this is a big spend so take time researching it.
If you are approached and offered a special deal don’t be flattered, it means they can’t fill their show. If you are given a brief time frame in which to sign up to secure the “deal” don’t be rushed.
Always, Google a show and look for upset stallholders’ comments. There are outright scams out there and shows hot on promise and cold on delivery. Got that? Always.
If there is a craft show in your discipline that you aspire to, be sure you make a note in your diary for the application timings and don’t apply if its beyond you financially Don’t go for the most prestigious, but for the next step up for you. You don’t want to be the worst in the show as then you have no chance of recouping your costs.
Before you sign up use this checklist of costs
- Cost of stand
- VAT on stand
- Lighting larger shows you pay for any electrical connection even if you provide your own lighting.
- Stand furniture even if you have your own can you transport it as well as your stock and display?
- Internet connection (I recently did a show at Alexandra Palace where they charged £200 for a connection,so watch out)
- Overnight stays
- Food away from home
- Help on stand
- Hours spent at show
When you have your total cost consider how much of your product you would have to sell at the show before you made any money. If you just cover costs you have worked for the show organisers which was extraordinarily kind of you.
Beware the halo effect. We all dream of finding the perfect show where our work sells like lottery tickets and your kids can be privately educated. Sad, but the fair you are considering probably isn’t actually THAT one.
The days of doing one big show a year are long gone
Sharing Don’t do half a stall each, that makes you both look losers. Choose your partner wisely: so a potter might share with a furniture maker, displaying their pots on the furniture, so the display is mutually enhancing.
If it is a multi day show you can timeshare. But be sure you get the right days.
Stall Size think hard about this. Getting the smallest possible stall can be a false economy as most of your other costs are set and do not relate to stall size. If it is a big show a very small footprint means people can miss you entirely.
Negotiating You are the customer. There is a huge proliferation of craft shows competing for your business, you have a bit of room to negotiate.
Ask for concessions. Play the long game. A hesitant no from you can open up a better deal. This is the response I got “ if there’s anything I could do to tempt you back (short of giving you a free stand!) just let me know.”
They may not be able to cut the per sq metre cost but they can often throw in stall furniture, lighting, insurance, internet connection and bump up your location. Ask for a corner stand and you double your sales frontage.
Accommodation Book your accommodation early so you can find a cheaper room or a twin bedded room that you can share with another maker
Set Up Try to set up on the morning of the first day as that will save you overnight stay costs and working time the day before.
Folksy blog runs a series of craft fair reviews by sellers
You can try Stallholder which is an event listing site to find shows
If you are new to fairs read through some of the craft fair help threads on craftsforum co.uk
For the bit of the public you should aim for, read Juicy Customer Segment
This is first of three posts on shows
the next part is about Preparation and the last At the Show itself. If you want those emailed scroll up the left side column and click on Follow.
5 thoughts on “Craft Show Low-Down : Picking”
This is a great post with good commonsense advice. Thanks for sharing!
These points apply to craft shows in the USA as well as the UK. We have handmade jewelry vendors for past 6 years and found we agree with just about all of your points. We were aiming to cut back on live shows this year because we created a new, FABULOUS website and I love this section, “However magnificent your online empire, you have to sell your product face to face to get feedback to modify, ditch and develop your work. If you isolate yourself you will fail.
People are more ready to buy expensive pieces online if they have encountered the work before in the flesh.”
Intend to be more selective and fewer in 2014. Thanks for a great post.
Roslyn I am sure you are right to prune your craft fairs a bit. It can be hard to give yoursel permission as it can seem like you are being a bit lazy by not going. But like everything any craftsman does it has to earn the effort and investment.
So many great points in this article, definitely info to cut-out-and keep and refer to as and when needed.
Many thanks for sharing !