Craft Show Essentials and Survival Tips

December 11, 2012

It's that time of year when many artists and small business owners like myself are taking part in local craft fairs and holiday shows. I love doing these types of shows because it's a great way to meet customers face-to-face, get feedback on products, meet other artists, and, of course, sell your goods.  


After participating in a number of shows this season, I thought I'd share some of my tips and tricks. I'd love for you to share your own tips in the comments section! In no particular order...

- Bring more stock than you think you need. Sales at shows can vary and it can be challenging to figure out exactly how much you need to bring to any given event. That said, review sales figures from past shows and try to figure out best sellers and make sure you have plenty of these with you at upcoming shows. At my most recent event, I knew I needed to have plenty of gift tag stickers on hand because they were hot sellers at two shows earlier in the month. 

- Create a master checklist that you use each time. I have a spreadsheet with all of the items I know I need to bring to a show. Each time I have a show coming up, I just print out the list and don't have to brainstorm all over again. 

- Create a display that's pleasing to the eye. Practice setting up your display at home before you go to the show. Think of people walking by and what they can see at eye level. 

Introduce yourself to your neighbors. I've been able to meet some wonderful people doing shows and it's a great opportunity to make connections. Plus it's helpful to start on the right foot with your neighbors in case you need someone to watch your booth when you need to step away.

- Display your business name prominently. Invest in a canvas or vinyl sign with your company name and logo. These are quite durable and will last a long time. Make sure to have business cards on hand as well as a few catalogs/line sheets in case a store owner visits your booth. 

- Don't blow the bank! You don't need to spend a ton of money investing in super fancy display items. I found wooden bins in various sizes on clearance at a craft store that I spray painted white to hold different products. I also use a stacking table originally intended for shoes to create another level. I did shell out some money for a nice acrylic spinner and a tiered display last year that have held up very well. 

- Display your pricing and other relevant information. This is helpful for people just browsing who don't want to strike up a conversation with every vendor. At shows, I usually have small signs with pricing and product information such as the quantity of cards in a box and that all of my cards are blank inside. 

- Accept credit cards. Square and other devices have made it unbelievably easy to accept credit cards using your smartphone. I can't tell you how many times customers have thanked me for being able to pay via credit card because they were out of cash. 

- Bring an emergency kit. You never know what can go wrong at a show. I always make sure my kit includes duct tape, regular Scotch tape, safety pins, twine, an extra Square reader, pens, Advil, and paper towels.

- Pack small snacks. Unless you have a buddy with you at your booth all day, it can be hard to step away for more than five minutes, making it impossible to grab lunch or eat privately. I find it awkward to be chowing down on a meal behind my table, so I try to pack small snacks that I can discretely eat throughout the day. Shows are usually long and can wear you out and it's important to keep your energy up!

- Listen to your customers and ask them for feedback. I love meeting customers at shows and hearing what they like/don't like. I've used shows to test out new products and to see how people respond before formally launching them. I've also received great product ideas from customers. 

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