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Craft Show Tips

Locating and Booking Shows:

When you are looking to participate in craft shows, the first thing you need is to find some!! If you are in the Panhandle Craft Mall locale, we have made that part easy for you with our listing of over 365 Spring Shows and 450 Fall Shows within 5 hours of Pensacola, FL. We now cover the area bounded by New Orleans, LA - Jackson, MS - Birmingham, AL - Atlanta, GA - Apalachicola, FL. Just go to the lists at least 6 months before the show dates in which you are interested.

We highly reccommend the SAC Newsmonthly (800-825-3722) to those outside our immediate area.

Another place to look is in your local paper under the "Events" or "Craft Shows" sections (although these sections will seldom list events early enough to sign up for the better shows). If you are already a seasoned crafter, you will also usually find some through word-of-mouth and from craft fairs seeking you out through other crafters. This is at least what we have found after years of doing them! Larger shows are usually advertised on TV and in your local papers with a contact phone number. Call the phone number that is listed in the ad, find out the location, time of the show, date of the show, setup times, the size of each table, if there is a deal for renting more than one table, and if table covering is provided. Check to see what the approximate amount of traffic is that comes through the show. If a lot of people attend it every year, chances are that you will do better! (It's a numbers game of sorts). Check to see if you need a vendors permit to do the show. A lot of smaller shows do not require it, but you do not want to violate any laws. Record all this information, with the contact name, and decide if you wish to participate in the show.

Should you decide to do a particular show, do get a receipt, as it is not actually a surprise that people who put shows together can make mistakes. We have shown up several times for shows, and our tables were not there! The show coordinators had to quickly "fit us in", and we were happy that we had a receipt to prove that we had paid! If your craft business is a valid registered business, you can write off the table rental as a valid expense. Check with your accountant to make sure.

When you sign up or are approved for a show, you will usually receive a packet of information explaining rules and guidelines. Read them carefully and follow those rules. If your show will take place in a historical building, the restrictions will usually be more intricate than with other shows. Some places may not allow certain types of display props (Christmas lights, for example), use your imagination to replace your normal props. Be different and creative so your booth stands out from others.

If you know you have a show coming up soon, be prepared. You'll probably wonder "How much should I take?" The only true answer to this is "How much do you want to make?" My theory is to make and take much more than you intend to sell. You can always sell the leftovers at either another show, online, or on consignment in a shop. Having too much is much better than running out of merchandise early into the show. You've already paid the show fees so you'll want to make the most of it!

Pricing Your Products:

Because of resale value, it is a wise choice to plan out the crafts you are going to make, and the exact quantity of materials needed to make those crafts. If you do this, you can watch for the materials to go on sale, and if this is done well in advance, it allows you to either make more money, or be able to make your product easier to purchase since you can reduce the price somewhat. What you do with your savings are up to you! Take note of the fact that each craft sale will go differently. You may sell 50 of one item and think that the next sale will sell the same amount of that item. It won't necessarily be so. Don't go crazy with inventory, as you may end up with a lot of extra items.

The big question is always..."how much should I sell it for?" Not only is it a common one, it can sometimes be a tough one! Crafting should always be an outlet for enjoying yourself. Don't make it a stressful experience. Start by keeping receipts from the purchase of all your materials. All items, including the glue used to make it, needs to be figured into your price. After you make your craft, record how much of each material you used for it, and how long it took you to make it.

When you have the amount of materials you used, figure out how much of that particular material therefore was used for the craft, and its resultant cost. Do this for all the materials used. When you have the total, this is the COST of your product.

How long did it take you to make your product? If you "pay yourself" $10.00 to make a craft and it took you one hour to make it, add $10.00 to your product. This is now your "real" net cost. To find out your selling price, multiply the real cost by 2 or 3x. When you find your final price, check to see if it is competitive with your competition. Don't be surprised to see a product you sell for $5.00, being sold by another vendor for $10.00. Your costs for the products might have been less for the same thing. Do not despair if you are the vendor with the higher price. If it causes you to reduce your price, you lose money and you do not want to do that. Chances are you will do another show where no other vendor will be selling the same items that you are, and your "higher price" will then be seen as reasonable.

Put a price tag on EVERY item. Placing a sign with your prices will only work half the time. If you want to hold a customer's interest in an item, don't make them search for the price. Some customers may ask you, but most will just put the item back and move on. If you're with another customer, you can almost bet that person will not wait until you are free to ask you for a price. When pricing your items, take care where you place the price tag. If the item is breakable, you might want to place it where it is plainly visible to keep it from being picked up often. If you are selling pictures, don't place the price tag directly on the glass unless it can be easily removed without leaving adhesive. If you are selling pairs or sets, mark your tags accordingly.

Make it clear if your items include tax(es) or if they are extra.

If you take credit cards, post a sign saying so. It may boost sales, as most people do not think that crafters accept them.

Your Display:

How to display your products is one of the most overlooked elements. It should be obvious that just laying your products flat on the table will not be eye catching. For this reason, and also because space is a factor, making your presentation contain elements of elevation is a necessity. Anything from covered boxes, to plastic containers will help you with this problem. If you have a "woodworker" somewhere in your life, it is very helpful to have them make wooden shelves for you (the type that are 3-D as in a sport grandstand style). Other items that help are --wooden crates with shelves, metal grids, flower pots, jewelry stands...let your imagination run wild! Whatever style you choose, the factor of elevation should help to create an appealing display, as it is a widely known fact that anything at eye level is seen before all other items.

It is a nice idea to present a product in a unique atmosphere. If you knit baby booties, put them in a wooden doll cradle for presentation. Other ideas could be to attach jewelry (ie. brooches) to an actual sweater and hang the sweater up on the wall or a grid, to actually wear a piece of jewelry you make to show it off first hand, or to place Christmas ornaments on a small Christmas tree that you place on your table. Be unique. It will make the customer stop to look---the first step to enticing a sale!

Use a pleasant color for your table covering. Hunter green, earth blue or white are best to give a comforting feeling. Black or white will show off jewelry the best, and festive colors (such as red and green for Christmas) help create an atmosphere. Try not to ever put your products on a bare wood table. It is not as appealing to the eye.

"Little extras" can help create a special look without taking away from your product. If you make a particular craft that is unique, you might want to actually work on one while you have spare time at the show. People walking by do like to see "work in action", as this allows them to see it being made and they see how much work does go into the product.

Before the Show:

If it is your fist show ever, go early for setup, as you may not realize that it does take some time to set up your table/booth.

If you do shows often, you've probably invested in a truck or van. However, you may only have a car. If you do, you'll want to use your space wisely when loading up. Pack your items neatly in boxes, if possible, and label the boxes in big lettering with a marker. This will save you time later when unloading and setting up. You'll need to load your vehicle the night prior to the show. This will keep your morning free to get yourself ready and tie up those last minute loose ends. When loading your boxes, try to place related items near each other. For example, if you have a box of candles and a box of candle holders, load those boxes right next to each other in your vehicle. This way when you are unloading, you can easily place your candle items in the area of your space where they will be displayed. If you sell several different types of items, this can be a real time saver. Organization is important and can help get your show started off with very little frustration.

When unloading, be courteous to your fellow vendors. Take as little time as possible to unload and then move your vehicle out of the way. Blocking the flow of traffic can be very inconvenient and irritating to other vendors.

Before the show, take a look around. Make a mental note of the location of the restrooms; find the food court or concession stand and make a decision as to whether you will bring your own lunch; figure out the closest available area to unload and load your vehicle; look at your space and visualize how and where you will display your items. Your fellow vendors will probably be doing the same thing. Talk with them and get acquainted. You'll feel more comfortable with your surroundings and "neighbors" on the day of the show.

Make sure that your table is not next to someone else who is selling the same item. Most exhibitors will ask you what you sell, but is is wise to make sure the "competition" is not directly beside you! Most show promoters are aware of this and try to spread the crafters around but in case of error, feel free to speak to mamagement about a relocation.

When setting up your displays, make them pleasing to the eye. Cover your tables with fabric down to the floor. You will then have some great storage space for boxes and extra merchandise. When choosing your table covers, you'll want to use wrinkle-free material or you can take some Downy Wrinkle Remover along. You know which items will be more likely to sell. Take advantage of that and place them at eye level. Try to keep from placing items either directly or in baskets on the floor. They will most likely be damaged or unseen by most customers.

Use your booth space wisely and don't take up any more space than what you've paid for. If your neighbor has finished setting up and has some space left over, go ahead and ask. However, be sure they are completely done prior to asking. Most will offer if they have extra space and see that you are needing more. Be considerate and never assume that it will be fine for you to use part of someone else's area, no matter how small.

Take pictures of your table/booth after it is set up. This is great for your scrapbook, and is also helpful if a juried show asks you for a photo of your "wares".

Dress casually for your show. Wear something comfortable, yet nice. You'll want to choose clothes that won't wrinkle easily and shoes that won't hurt your feet. Dress according to the show theme. If it's a Christmas show, get into the spirit of the season! If your show is in the winter - take a warm coat or jacket. Keep your cosmetics and jewelry simple, use Visine if your eyes are red from a late night (as most nights before will be), and make sure your fingernails are clean and trimmed. And always WEAR A SMILE!!

Being well groomed, wearing a nice outfit and a big smile are probably the most effective forms of presenting yourself. Don't forget, that although you may not think of it as such, YOU are part of your display!! Customers like to deal with happy, nice people. If you had a bad day, leave the "grump" at home! (This may seem silly, but we have seen it first hand, and customers will walk right past a table where someone is acting anything other than pleasant!)

Market yourself! Take plenty of business cards along and display them in cardholders in several areas of your booth. If you have a web site, make sure your url is noted on your cards. Use your crafty talent to make a plaque with your web address. Tole paint it, wood burn it, use fabric scraps to spell it out, whatever your craft is, you can use your imagination to market your web site at shows. With every sale, put a business card in the bag. If you have promotional pens or magnets, place them in a basket marked "Free" If you use hangtags, add your business name, address, web address, telephone number, etc.

Market your products! If you sell clothing, wear one of your best designs. If you sell candles, ask the show coordinator if you can burn some in your booth (with great precaution!), if you sell jewelry, wear it but don't overdo it.

If your doing your first show, there are some items you'll want to take along that you may or will need. Whatever you do, don't forget to take an adding machine or calculator! Other items include extra price tags (or hangtags), pens, extra adding machine tape, scotch tape, a stapler, business cards, scissors, a marker, shopping bags, a sales tax table, a small notebook, a money box or bag, miscellaneous craft supplies in case something gets broken (needle, thread, hot glue gun & sticks), extension cords, a step stool, a broom and dustpan, hole punch (for hangtags), and baby wipes are perfect for spills or wiping your hands. I always take some Shout Wipes because I know I can be clumsy! If your show is outdoors, take bug spray and sunscreen.

Make sure you take lots of change to the craft sale. People often come with larger bills, and will use them to pay for even the smallest items. Asking another crafter to "make change" for you won't always work, as they do not want to part with what they have for the same reasons. There is not usually a place to get change, so be prepared. One other idea to keep in mind, is to ask a customer if they have smaller change when they hand you a large bill. This usually helps solve problems early on.

During The Show:

If you have children and weren't able to get a sitter, watch your children carefully. Remember, your fellow vendors have worked hard to make their wares and broken items are a loss of their time, effort, expenses, and profit.

If you are doing a show alone, try to eat your lunch when things are slow. You'll want to be discreet and put your lunch aside of you notice a customer coming your way. Place it out of sight. If you have a partner, take turns at lunchtime and eat somewhere other than in your booth. Snacks are good to bring along, but again, be discreet.

Use your time wisely. Take advantage of slow times to replenish your items, move things around to fill in holes left from items sold, sweep up, and keep busy. If your potential customers see you just sitting on a stool looking around, they may get the impression that you aren't very interested in being there.

Make eye contact with those passing by. Always be friendly. Say hello and ask people how they are. Don't pressure customers looking around in your booth. Most people like to browse and will usually find something that catches their eye. A pressuring sales pitch will often lose a sale rather than make one. It's fine to tell your customers interesting details about an item they are looking at, but choose your approach wisely and don't come across as pushy. Some people will want to talk endlessly and may even irritate you. Be nice and listen, you'll be surprised when you make a sale from someone you thought wasn't interested in purchasing anything.

Do make sure everything has a price tag on it, and make sure it is legible. There is not usually enough time to help everyone at once, and so this makes your work easier, and the customers experience more pleasant.

Don't count your money in front of customers!! This is a big NO-NO! Don't ask your neighbors how much money they've made. It's fine to ask how they are doing, but bringing up figures or asking for amounts is very rude. Be on your best behavior and mind your manners!

It is not common for customers to "dicker" or "haggle" prices. A craft show is meant to be that, not a flea market. You may never be asked to negotiate a price, but knowing that you do not have to is important. (If you choose to do so, that is up to you).

Some events may have charity auctions. If so, they will usually send people around asking vendors if they'd like to donate items. During the auction, the person or business who made a contribution will be mentioned. This is great advertising and tax deductible, not to mention charitable. I definitely recommend making a donation with a small to medium priced item.

If you are able, walk around and view the other wares being offered. If you see similar items to yours, make a mental note of their price. You will probably find many new and creative ideas. However, if you intend to make some of those items, beware of copyright infringement! Talk to the vendor if you're interested in making an item they offer. Ask them if they hold a copyright to the design. But whatever you do, don't ask them for instructions to make it!

After The Show:

Again, be courteous to your fellow vendors and load your things in a timely manner. Avoid blocking the flow of traffic or unnecessarily leaving your vehicle in the way of others.

Do not talk badly about other crafters. Although this may seem trivial, comments may come back to haunt you if you are dispersing them negatively!

Don't ask another crafter "how much did you make" after a sale. It is being too nosey, and it may also embarrass them if things did not go too well for them.

You may find that other people see you selling a lot of one item, then they show up at another show and have made the same thing!! Don't be disappointed if this does happen, as it is an unwritten crafter rule not to do this, but some people do it anyway. Be happy and proud of your work, and sell it with pride!

If you should book a show and it does not go too well, do not always judge an event by that one booking. We have done shows one year where they did not go as well as we had hoped, and then booked the same location the following year and it did fabulously! You never know from one year to another!

So the show didn't go well and you're feeling down. Don't get discouraged! Many factors can effect the success of a show... advertisement, weather, etc. If you did very badly, you may want to consider making small changes to your items or adding new things to your product line. However, this is only if the show was successful for most, but not for you. Reconsider your sales approach or the appearance of your display. Remember, not all shows will go as well as you expected and you need to take this into consideration.

Things will go better next time so don't give up! Good luck out there!

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