Discussion: What makes a good Craft Fair?

23 May

Craft Fairs, Craft & Gifts Fairs, Handmade & Vintage Fairs, Fetes,  Festivals, whatever they are called, they all can offer a great opportunity to get out there and meet the public face to face and show off and sell your crafts.  It is a totally different experience from selling your crafts on-line.

But to sell at fairs, you do have to consider all the costs involved!  First, there can be a charge for a stall, this can be from as little as £5, although the average for a stall from my experience is approximately £25-£35 per day depending on the size of the event. There are some organisers who will ask for a percentage of your takings on the day instead of charging a straight fee, which is OK if you don’t expect to sell much but can be quite expensive if you do.  Lastly, if you are considering selling at a festival over a few days you could be looking at far greater charges, which are usually negotiable depending on the size of your pitch and what you are selling.

Next there is the cost of getting there to consider, petrol/mileage and the possible cost of overnight stays if the event is further away or over a few days?  Then there are the costs involved in just setting up your stall (although some of these may be one-offs); you may have to purchase a table, a strong gazebo (suitable for rain and wind), table covers, display items, lighting, labels, business cards, banner, bags and cash box etc.  Lastly there are the other sundry costs on the day, for instance, drinks, food and not forgetting that there is the temptation to buy from other stalls, especially the cake stall!!.

So a Craft Fair can be an expensive business and can take a lot of planning, time and effort too for both the organiser and stallholder!  The least the stallholder can expect is a well advertised and organised event, lots of people and hopefully they sell enough to make a profit.  And the Organiser hopes the stallholders turn up, enough people visit the event, people are happy with the organisation and they don’t make a loss.

But in reality, many events are poorly attended, stallholders are not happy and sometimes make little or no profit, the Organiser makes no profit and usually the whole blame can rest on their shoulders.  It’s not easy being an Event Organiser!

So why is this?

  • Poor or lack of advertising?

Rosewood Crafts commented on the TCN page: “I feel there is a trend of charity events booking craft stalls but not advertising that we are there. The only conciliation being that your stall fee has gone to charity. Anyone else experienced this? I am not suggesting expensive posters etc just a few handmade ones posted around locally would suffice”.

  • Poor Location?
  • Not enough stalls?
  • Not enough variety of stalls?
  • Bad organisation?
  • Lack of interest?
  • Stallholders don’t turn up?
  • It’s a new unproven event?
  • The organiser has been given misleading information?

To be honest, it could be any of the above or none of them, all I know is I wouldn’t want to be a Craft Fair organiser in this current economic climate!  You will not know this, but last year The Crafty Network did consider organising a craft fair and it is not easy or cheap, believe me!  Our first stumbling block was trying to find that perfect location, a venue big enough and cost-effective enough to make it worthwhile, we didn’t want to start small, we were thinking of at least 50 stalls!!  But after considering all the costs; for the venue, event insurance, table hire, advertising & marketing and the amount of time and effort that would be involved, we decided not to go ahead with it!  We didn’t even look into it to make a profit, we just wanted to break even, but we were not sure we could even achieve this. So if you think Organisers of craft events are in it just for the money, think again!

So what does make a good Craft Fair?

(One, where I have massive crowds around my stall, I sell all my stock, take orders and I make loads of money, but then I wake up!!)

I really don’t know, my personal experiences at selling at Craft Fairs have been mixed, most I’m happy if I break even or make a little profit, although recently I’ve made a few losses.  I’ve never paid more than £35 for a craft stall and the maximum I would pay would be around £50. I’ve also made the decision not to travel too far, for one it’s usually a very early start and the further you go there’s more fuel expenses.

I look forward to every event I do and usually spend the week leading up to it organising my stock, practicing my layout, labelling, photographing and packing everything away and most importantly telling everyone about the event on my FB page etc.  Some of my best events have been the ones I’ve least expected to do well at and the ones I’ve had great expectations for have been a bit of a flop.   I’ve been to some great locations where you would think a craft fair would be perfect but not enough people have showed up and yes they were advertised well, but the one thing you can’t do is force the public to turn up and buy.   This is so disheartening for everyone concerned.   But when you do an event that is busy and you get to talk to people and hand out business cards and they make lovely comments and buy from you, then it makes it all worth while.  You learn something from every event you attend, good or bad.

But, if I am allowed one criticism about some fairs,  I believe it is that some organisers are put under pressure to fill their event and in doing so have booked too many stalls selling similar products.  I believe 2 stalls selling similar items is healthy competition and offers the buyer’s choice but when buyers are faced with 5 or 6 stalls all trying to sell similar items, this can put them off even looking at one and in the end nobody wins, it’s not good for the stallholder or the buying public.  I also feel sometimes there isn’t enough variety of stalls to encourage the public to look around a fair and could be one factor why some regular craft events don’t do that well either.  I say this from a buyers point of view and a sellers!

So that’s my experience and opinion.  I’d now love to hear from you and hear about your experiences, I’d also be really interested in gaining your feedback on a number of questions I’ve jotted down for you to consider, I’m hoping to write another post later based on Craft fair good practice for the Seller and Organiser, so your feedback would really help and if you have any other points that could be included please let me know:

1.  Do you think the stall fee should be paid prior to the event or on the day of the event?

[The reason I ask this, I saw a post on a Forum a few days ago about bogus Craft Fairs.  Some stallholders had pre-booked and paid for an event, but when they turned up on the day the venue knew nothing about the event.  The Organiser could not be traced and the stallholders lost their money.

But from the organisers viewpoint, if an Organiser only collects the fee on the day, they risk the stall holders not turning up as they have made no commitment.  The organiser could potentially be out-of-pocket due to paying out for the venue, insurance, advertising and catering and the event looks half empty which is no good for anyone!

I would not want this to put people off booking and paying for an event, just make sure you do some checking first, talk to the venue, other crafters and keep in regular contact with the organiser].

2.  How much would you be willing to pay for a stall, average to the maximum?

3.  Where would be the perfect location?

4.  Thinking from a buyers point of view, how many stalls would you expect to see at a Craft Fair?

5.  What do you think about the variety of stalls and limiting it to one or two selling the same type of products, ie. jewellery, cards, cakes, soaps?

6.  When is a craft fair not a craft fair?

7.  What are your opinions on Craft fairs (Advertised as Craft & Gift Fairs) selling mass-produced (not handmade) gift items?

8.  Do you think the organiser asking for an entry fee is a good idea or do you think this can put the public off?

9.  Many stallholders moan that an event wasn’t advertised well, so what advertising would you do or expect to see?

10.  Lastly, please share with us your experiences of selling at a Craft Fair or organising a craft fair?

To conclude, you must not look at Craft Fairs as a potential to make lots of money, although you could!   Look at them as a great opportunity to meet and network with other like-minded crafters, who can be very supportive and friendly and offer some great advice about other fairs, displays, pricing etc.  But, the most valuable is feedback from the public, take the time to talk to people, ask their opinions, let them touch, try on or taste your products, tell them about how you made the items and you will find most of them will be very interested and honest.  Even if you don’t make many sales, the potential to attract new customers and gain feedback can make the whole experience worthwhile.

For more information, hints & tips on selling at Craft Fairs, see our page

Thanks for reading.

Linda x

(Please note, I am not an expert and these discussion posts are meant to encourage people to share their opinions and experiences and to agree or disagree with me, I don’t mind.  I like to look at everything to do with selling crafts as a learning experience and hopefully we can all learn from this).


Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Discussions


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4 responses to “Discussion: What makes a good Craft Fair?

  1. Rosie

    May 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Point 1. Yes I do think fee’s should be paid in advance from both the point of view of the crafter and the organiser. However always check out the event .Word of mouth from other crafters I find to be invaluable.
    Point 2. £10 -£25 depending on venue, catchment etc
    Point 3. Ermmmm not sure on this only to say I have often had better sales in a village hall than a large organised event.
    Point 4 15-20 again depending on venue size . Many more and I think people tune out..
    Point 5 I agree 2 is healthy competition but no more than that unless style is very obviously different. ie wooden toys/ wooden furniture or fantasy cards/ flower cards.
    Point 6. A craft fair in my opinion is where products should be handmade by the person selling them. You can’t possibly compete with the prices of someone who has bought their stock in and there is nothing worse than hearing customers say that you are expensive compared to so and so who has bought in goods. In my opinion there is no room for them at a craft fair. Craft and Gift is where they should be.
    Point 7 see point 6
    Point 8 Entry fee definately puts people off.
    Point 9 Local radio/newspapers/posters in local area/ flyers handed out on the day around the area of fair , well signposted . Mail shots to local houses . Signs up outside of venue.
    Point 10 A little tip is to always carry a few signs yourself saying craft fair here today , more crafts this way etc which with the permission of the organiser you can put up. Usually they are only too glad.
    Always have you prices clearly displayed. People don’t like to ask the price.
    Always stay until the end regardless of how your sales are unless the organiser says otherwise. There is nothing worse than when one or two start leaving early it can spoil the whole event.
    Be mindful of health and safety when setting up your stall, trailing cloths and buggy wheels are not a good mix.
    All above or only my thoughts and opinions but hope they are of interest to others. x
    Rosewood Crafts.

  2. Yowe

    May 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I’m sure that you’re right Linda in saying that it’s not easy being an event organiser. I’m so glad there are some people out there willing to have a go, as I really enjoy taking part in craft fairs. Here are my answers to your ten questions:

    1) I would certainly not expect an organiser to wait until the day of the event for payment as it would be too risky for them. I’ve been to lots of events where stallholders have not turned up on the day (presumably for good reason) and they have just had to take the hit. In these cases the organisers usually allocate the extra table(s) to other stallholders so they can spread out. It saves the venue from looking sparse and it’s a lovely bonus if you receive some ‘free’ space!

    2) Tables at the fairs I attend cost from £25 – £40. I don’t think I’d be willing to pay more than £40.

    3) Close by the centre of town so that people don’t have to make a special trip to attend.

    4) I think probably around 20 stalls.

    5 )Not necessarily as few as only two stalls selling the same sort of items as it would depend on how many stalls there were in total, but there should definitely be some sort of limit.

    6) When stallholders are simply buying wholesale and then selling on for a profit!

    7) I dislike them. I think fairs should be limited to craftwork only. There are plenty of gift shops selling mass produced goods.

    8) I can see a positive and negative side to each. If someone has to pay to enter a craft fair then chances are they are genuinely interested in handicrafts, or are looking to buy a special gift. However the throughput is likely to be less than at a free entry fair. Most of the fairs I attend are free and I find that people sometimes come in and can seem quite disinterested in what is for sale (maybe in out of the rain/cold?). Mind you, there is always the chance that someone will fall in love with something on your table even though they hadn’t intended spending when they came in!

    9) Plenty of posters around the town or village in advance of the fair. Also, I think it’s important to have a big sign outside of the venue so people can spot it easily.

    10) I really enjoy selling craft fairs even though I don’t always come out in profit. I appreciate being able to enthuse about my craft with people who are happy to stop for a browse and listen. I also enjoy the camaraderie amongst all the stallholders. In fact, in my experience of craft fairs its very common for venders buy from one other. I suppose that’s because we can appreciate the work that has gone into one another’s craft items. I certainly have trouble keeping my purse closed at craft fairs!

  3. Barbara Paul

    June 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I organise two craft fairs a year The Rattery Craftr Fair and also sell at craft fairs. From my experience as a seller I have tried to incorporate all the good points about fairs I have attended whilst avoiding those are not so good. The following are the ‘rules’ that I, and my co-organiser, follow for The Rattery Craft Fairs which may be useful to fellow artist/makers when considering whether or not to apply to take part in a fair.

    * I organise the fair with one other person. Whilst we may seek advice from other artists/makers we find that we do not get embroiled in endless discussions but can get on with the key elements of organising a fair.
    * Before setting the dates for our fairs we check, as far as we can, what elese might be happening in the area around the same time.
    * We set a budget for the costs of organising the fair. This enables us to very clear about all the fees involved, including advertsing. From this budget we can then set the price of a stall at the most cost effective level for participants. For our November fair a 6′ table or sapce will cost £29 and a 3′ table or space cost £15. We do not make any profit from running the fairs and if there is any money remaining it is carried forward to the next fair.
    * We have a website for The Rattery Craft Fair, which we keep up to date and attractive. All information about the fairs and the applications forms are posted on the website.
    * We have a closing date for applications which we adhere to.
    * We ask for a cheque in payment for the stall hire to accompnay the application forms, together with a copy of the public liability insurance for that applicant.
    * We operate a selection procedure as we want to ensure that each fair has a good mix of exhibitors who make high quality work.
    * At each fair we have some exhibitors who have taken part in previous fairs and some new people. We want to keep our fairs fresh and interesting for visitors.
    * We will not accept bought in crafts for all or part of a stall.
    * We always have a couple of people demonstrating their art/craft, e.g. woodturner, water colour artist.
    * We keep exhibitors up to date, via email, on the organisation of the fair as it progresses and make sure that they have all the information they need to make the day successful for them as an individual.
    * We advertise widely in free listings and take paid advertising in at least 7 local newspapers. We also try to get a mention on local TV and Radio.
    * We produce posters and flyers to advertise the fairs and ask our exhibitors to help with the distribution of these in their locality and through their own networks.
    * We run a raffle in aid of a local charity (a different one each time) as we feel it is important to give something back to the community.
    * We provide high quality light refreshments that are very reasonably priced – everyting for 50p.
    * We provide free tea/coffee for exhibitors.
    * We hold the fairs in an excellent hall, which is light and airy and fully accessbile. There is ample free parking outside the hall.
    * We signpost every route to the fair and put our signs out the day before.
    * We ask the exhibitors and visitors for feedback on each fair. We listen to what they say and try to incorporate what they tell us.
    * After each event we publish the acccounts for the fair so that exhibitors can see what their stall fees were spent on.

    I hope that readers find this interesting/helpful.

    I would love to receive comments on this. It may sound very rigid – but it works to ensure that we continue to have an excellent reputation for the high quality of the fairs, with a waiting list of people wishing to be part of what we do. Our visitors get an excellent day out and our exhbitors make good sales.

    Best wishes


    • The Crafty Network

      June 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      WoW Barbara, thank you for your comment, it almost deserves to be in a post on it’s own, rather than just here! The way you organise your fairs is exactly how I would do it too, I think you have to if you want to make a success at it. I also like the fact you have new stallholders as well as regular ones and agree you have to do this to keep the public visiting your fairs, otherwise they get bored and lose interest. I haven’t forgotten about your email message and I will put it on the Blog, I just wanted to get the mini challenge out of the way first, otherwise your post could get lost. Thanks. Linda x


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