So you’ve signed up to exhibit at a craft fair for the first time. Congratulations! Planning your participation is exciting, but it’s also normal for first-timers to be a bit apprehensive. Not to worry, these tips will have you feeling like a pro before the show has even started.
1. Be Organized
Exhibiting is an investment of time as well as money. Planning ahead will help you get the most out of your booth. Be cognizant of logistics: Is there special parking for vendors? Does the fair organizer provide any assistance for you to get your goods to your booth space? Is there power? Wi-Fi? How’s the cell service? Will the area have good lighting? Are there concession stands or food outlets nearby? If your space is outdoors, is there a plan for inclement weather? The answers will help you determine what to bring.
2. Know the Law
Most states require sellers to collect and pay taxes on the sale of any taxable goods and services. This can also require that you register and/or obtain a permit in advance (yet another reason to plan ahead). Make sure you know the requirement for the state in which you are exhibiting and follow the necessary procedures for compliance. Click here for a state-by-state sales tax guide for craft fair vendors.
3. Advertise Your Presence
You’re guaranteed to get face time with people at a craft fair, but why not try and get even more? Before the fair, let people know you will be there. Ask your local coffee shop if you can put out business cards or flyers. Leverage social media to get the word out, starting with sharing any posts from the fair organizers. Use photos to show what your goods look like, share your website URL, consider special offers such as giving anyone who retweets one of your posts a 5% discount on the day of the fair. Have cards or flyers handy onsite – try to extend the sales beyond just that one event.
Your booth should draw people in to look more closely and engage with you. Table drapes are a quick and affordable way to make your space look more professional. If you are selling wearable items, bring a mirror so people can see how they look. If you’ll be in a dimly-lit space, consider some lighting (like our battery-powered LED exhibit lighting). And while it may be time-consuming, price your items. People want to know what things cost without having to ask. Free gifts and special offers will help hook people - everyone loves a bargain – but don’t undervalue your goods. Not sure what to charge? Check out our pricing tips. Be aware that if it isn’t obviously for sale, people will assume it is free, so keep items like pens and unopened bottles of water off your table: save that space for your business cards or flyers.
5. Put Together a “Show Kit”
Key items to pack include duct tape, packing tape, first-aid kit, sharpie marker, more pens than you think you will need, a small notebook, paper clips – and anything else you may need to get your display set up. Do you have a hanging banner? Bring plastic zip ties and scissors or a knife to put it up and take it down. Do you have power? Bring an extension cord and power strip – don’t assume these will be provided, and even if they are available there may be a rental fee. Is the show outdoors? Pack something (or things) decorative that can also act as a weight to keep your table drape and goods from flying around if it gets windy. And while everyone wants to be environmentally friendly, your buyers will need a way to carry their purchases and will appreciate your offering them a bag.
5. Be Ready to Take Payments
You’re there to sell, so make sure you have the infrastructure in place. Do you have a credit card processing account? If not, consider signing up with a service such as Square or Stripe. If you don’t accept one particular method of payment, make sure your prospective buyers are aware upfront, to avoid disappointment. Many people pay with cash, so make sure to have smaller bills and change – bring more than you think you will need, just in case there are any issues with processing credit cards. Poor cell service and/or wifi can lead to difficulties getting transactions to go through, so it is good to have a backup method. Make sure you track your sales and charge sales tax where appropriate.
6. Arrive Early
It’s always best to set up early, which gives you plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land. Locate the information and/or exhibitor services desk, restrooms, food stands, entrances/exits, your competitors, or any special areas at the fair that might be useful to know. It’s not uncommon for things to be disorganized during setup time. You may find that your booth location has changed, or that you are missing anything from a table to a power outlet. The more time you have to address any issues before the event starts, the less stressful it will be.
7. Expect the Unexpected
While it’s impossible to prepare for every situation, there are things you can be ready for, such as varying weather conditions (dress in layers, bring an umbrella). Have a backup plan in place for selling with no power or cell service (cash on hand, card or handout with link to your website for future purchases). Bring water, a small first aid kit, and at least some snacks in case you don’t have time for a lunch break (power bars are a good choice because they can be consumed quickly and are usually very filling). Save an empty box to use as a wastebasket. Save other empty boxes until you’re sure you won’t need to pack things back up. And always have tape. I love tear-by-hand packing tape, as it eliminates the “what did I do with those darn scissors!” question when you are repacking your boxes, wrapping products, securing items, etc.
Got any tips you’d like to share from your craft fair exhibiting experience? Leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.
- Danalynne (Wheeler) Menegus