Craft Show Low-down : Preparations

DC Craft Show, 16, break down

What you have to get sorted before the show.

Words of remarkable wisdom on:

How much stock to take
 Getting  your display right
Checklist of what  to pack
Handling money
What to wear
 Pre show marketing


The rule here is less is more. Do not overwhelm the customer with choice. Faced with endless decisions the customer becomes confused; loses confidence; cannot decide and ends up not buying 

When customers ask do you have it in green? That is not a sale lost. You could show them a green and then they may want it smaller etc or a different green. If they like it enough they will buy it in blue.

The more stock that pounds its way too and from fairs, the more elderly it’s going to look.

If your stall is easy to set-up and easy to take-down, shows will be easier. You might not have to hire a van.

Push what you have with confidence, you don’t want to be endlessly head down searching  the under the table stock for one customer while that little crowd of customers you had before  evaporates .


The less you display the more expensive and special it seems

Severely edit what you take 


Display is not about pretty, display is about communication Your audience has to understand at a glance what you want them too. What you need to communicate depends where you are selling. Can you take it for granted that your visitors know what you are selling is handmade by you? If not, that has to be message one.

Message two might be the material you work in, for example if you make silver jewellery you have to get across the silver bit. Having gathered those two facts the visitors will hopefully close in for a better look.

Beware of branding If you were selling washing up liquid then branding is all important, but hopefully you are not. If someone buys  you want to be sure they go away with something that tells them  who you are and how to buy from you again. But before they buy, it has little relevance. It can even be a sales killer.

Toft Knitting &Stitching

Over branded to the distraction of the product

Handmade is one-off, by you. You are the brand. Talking about yourself is the way you brand.  Your name is the name for your craft business.


Look no overt branding  at this very successful open studio event but the presence of the maker


At shows the organisers provide you with a stand sign but it’s usually over the top of your stall so when people are looking at your work they can’t see that sign, so put another sign inside your stall. (At the end of the show nick the organiser’s overhead sign, cut off the stand number and you’ve got  a  sign for your next show) 

Its important  your visitors understand your offer, sometimes it’s not completely straight forward


Having criticised this stand for branding, I think they got the explanation bit bang on.

Greenwich Market 007

Sometimes your product itself might not be obvious and that needs addressing head on.

Heavily displaying  your website on your stand can lose you sales, as visitors feel they needn’t spend their cash at the show as they can do it online anytime. Tell them about your online shop once they have purchased.

Handling the Wares

The way you display tells the audience whether they can handle your work.


this one says don’t touch


This one says pick me up

If you put a sign telling people not to touch, you won’t sell. Picking something up is the first move of ownership. You are pretty stupid if you block the first move.

How to display pricing

There are two ways to price, price at a glance or by the visitor handling the product to find the price. A mixture is probably the best route.

Always price in round figures as it makes transactions easier and it values your piece as an art work

Handwrite your prices ( it emphasises the handmade) and write them unapologetically big.

Make it obvious what you are selling 

If you have a book to sell about your work pile it high up in the front (in uneven piles so it looks as if the piles are depleting) Then have a huge notice Signed copies and the price.  Displays of your work featured in the book go behind that.  The visitor then understands I am here to sell my book.

Display materials

Don’t sink a fortune into  buying purpose made display materials, they are expensive:  be creative.


A brilliant display solution on a  juice seller’s stall

rhinestone display

Pinch other people’s good ideas


Think laterally, here cardboard hat boxes from a millinery supplier are used as plinths to bring the display up to different levels

Display rules

Give your display height, but  make sure you  can serve through your display

Show tables are too low for the standing customer you need to bring your surfaces up so they can handle and see your work easily.

Most shows are under lit so consider taking extra lighting .

Try to help visitors to see themselves owning your work


Showing pots on a  dresser helps  visitors imagine them at home

If possible block out the sides and back of your stall otherwise people look straight through to your rivals and whiz off there

Try to take a small table of your own  to act as a secure location for your cash/phone/ iPad and as a packing surface.

Table coverings  need go all the way to the ground so  you can hide stuff away.


Make  sure your work and not your display is the star

Packing for the show

Do a trial  run for  the display at home and for packing up your car if   its is going to be tight


Pre show checklists reduce stress. I would do two, one for your needs and one for your stand. This list is to help you put together a comprehensive list of what you are taking, but be more specific


Stand tool box (you make this up once and keep from show to show) suggested contents:

  • Scissors
  • Packing tape /gorilla tape ( taping down flexes )
  • repositionable tape (resealing packets )
  • Velcro stickers 
  • Blu tack
  • Price stickers
  • Pens including marker pen
  • rubber bands
  • Paracetamol
  • Tissues
  • Electrical screwdriver

Product Toolbox only relevant to some products eg  jewellery to make alterations for customer

Packaging materials for sold products

Marketing materials

  • business cards
  • leaflets

Display materials

  • Posters/ show cards
  • stand covers including night sheet
  • stand display pieces

Stand Furniture


  • Lights
  • extension leads


  • computer/iPad and leads
  • camera and leads
  • phone and re-charger
  • card reader and leads


  • cash boxes and float
  • Reserve money purse
  • Signs


Yeah, after all that, don’t forget to take something to sell

Handling Money

Try and keep all money and packing off the display.

Consider not using an obvious cash box as locked or not it tells the opportunist here be the money and they take the whole thing.  I use two boxes one for change and one for notes and cheques. Neither look like cash boxes. use a money belt for street markets


Very tempting

How much float and in which denominations depends on your prices it should be change for those prices. My change box has only £1 and £2 coins as all my prices are in whole pounds My note box is stocked with £5 and £10 notes. £20 are no use to me. I take around £60 float for a big show.

If you are doing well, cream off  the money from your notes box to a non money looking container which is hidden away.

If you want to take credit cards check the signals at the show and any costs for internet access or electricity.


Lots of shows in top venues have lousy mobile signals

What to Wear

Your clothes are all part of your marketing. You are marketing yourself as the maker.

Guibert Didier

This look says I am not making any money and I never have

Ingrid Wagner

This look says I am wacky and my product is wacky

dutch seller K&S

This says I am a the craftsperson


This extends the packaging of the product


This indicates the work is expensive


This says only for the stylish


This says only for the fully committed

Think about what you are going to wear, match it to your stand, then you look confident. Nondescript just doesn’t cut it.

Your show marketing

You don’t have to if it’s a big well established fair. You take a stand at these to extend your customer base. Getting your existing customers to come along is not necessarily the way to play it. Invite them to a studio event. You don’t want to lose their spend elsewhere at a big show.

If you have a website, list the fair links in your diary bit because you have visitors there who are not yet customers. Do the same on Twitter and on your Facebook page. But no big effort is necessary.

Do not miss any deadlines for the show’s own publicity and take trouble with any exhibitor listing as that can really boost your website visitors.


This is second of three posts on shows

The first part was on picking a show, which you can read here 

The final part is about the show itself. If you want that  emailed  scroll up the  left side column and click on Follow.

If you want to pick up display ideas do a search on Pinterest

If you want  one to one help with your business then this is current  deal.

Talk to me in The Comments and if I helped please share the post.


10 thoughts on “Craft Show Low-down : Preparations

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi there, this was very interesting and love the photos v explaination it makes things so much clearer, im guilty of over crowding our stall and using obvious cash box lol I certainly feel I can look at these areas and display methods with more insight now!

  2. chrissicat says:

    I hadn’t thought of dressing to my stand before and as \i was doing the glamour look at school and church craft fairs I can definitely see I may have been scaring off potential customers before they saw anything I was selling thankyou for sharing your knowledge

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Lisa if it’s making you feel more confident then it’s doing its job, so good. So many people head off into making with very little idea of what is involved. I am always telling people what to do but really it’s not about that, its about thinking things through and joining up your thoughts.

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