Thursday, February 5, 2009

Craft Shows, Ahoy!

First of all, I have never been to a craft show, let alone been a vendor at one. Let me get this straight; I have to bring what? Extension cords, tablecloths, lamps, aprons, cash box, inventory list, calculator, food, water, garbage pail... wait a minute, wait a minute, I thought all I needed to bring was my jewelry. Great.

PANIC IS SETTING IN!

My very first craft show is in April, so I went to a couple forums to get some great advice as to what I need to bring, how much inventory I need to make, what's a reasonable price to spend on an event, and how to decorate my booth. It was such great information! I can only speak to jewelry making, but this may carry over for other craft forms.

  • Make/bring entirely too much inventory. Bring everything you have, because you never know if you are going to sell out or if someone will want the one thing you didn't bring. If you bring $15,000 worth of inventory, you can expect to sell maybe 15% of that, depending on the length/type of show
  • Bring food and water. You never want to spend your profits on inflated food priced (but festival food is so great sometimes!).
  • Always bring help. You want to be able to travel around and talk to the other vendors and leave someone trustworthy behind to man the booth. Besides, the show doesn't stop when you need a bathroom or lunch break!
  • Arrive very early to set up. Your neighbors won't appreciate it if you're still setting up when the show is starting, and it doesn't look very professional.
  • Think about the methods of payment you will accept. If you accept credit cards, how are you going to take that payment?
Here's a list of essential craft show items:
  • Tents/Stakes/Weights (if it is an outdoor show) (maybe an umbrella just in case?)
  • Shelves, Tables, Table Covers, Hanging System, Mirror
  • Business Cards (and lots of them!) with maybe a freebie attached
  • Signage
  • Packaging (Twine, Bags, Paper, Bubble Wrap, Tape, Boxes)
  • Change (Keep a large bank of 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, and coins. No bank is too large)
  • Sales Tax Permit (State & Local!) (These look very nice inside a picture frame)
  • Ability to accept credit cards
  • Drinks & Food
  • Baby Wipes, Glass Cleaner, Antibacterial (Things tend to get dirty at craft shows)
  • A Hand Cart
  • Lighting (Lamps, Christmas Lights)
  • Extension Cords (Keep in mind, you have to sign up ahead of time for electricity at some shows, and it usually costs extra)
  • An Apron With Pockets
  • Various Wooden Height Boxes
  • A Rug
For a three day event, fees can be anywhere between $100 - $800, depending on the show. One day shows can run from $40-$200. If this is your first show, you can definitely go big and spend a lot on the show, but you'd better be prepared with a large amount of inventory. It's a better idea to start out with a smaller show. Expect to only sell about 15% of what you bring. Say you have $2,000 in inventory. If you sell only 15% of that, and your booth fees were $250, you would have made $300. That's a $50 profit after booth fees, not including the cost of your time for the hours you spent at the show, the cost of the equipment you purchase for the show, etc.

At your first show, it's a good idea to walk around to the other vendors and ask questions. You can get some great advice, and maybe get an idea of some other craft shows in the area. A good idea is to attend a show as a 'shopper' before making the plunge to pay the booth fee and attend as a vendor. You'll get an idea of the type of crowd the event draws, how sales are, and what other vendors are in attendance.

In a time of frugal spending, it is important to be wise with your decision making. It is probably not a good idea to spend thousands of dollars on your craft show setup. Cruise the thrift stores and garage sales for display items, and even www.craigslist.com which usually has garage sale listings.

Good luck with your craft shows! When my first one rolls around, I will be sure to post photos.

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