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 https://thecraftynetwork.wordpress.com/craft-fair-tips-advice/craft-fair-tips-advice/
Thanks for reading.
(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).