Tips: Craft Shows

Originally submitted by Vicki of OrionDesigns. 

Many of us will be very busy this season doing lots of craft fairs. I am a veteran of the craft show circuit in Alaska, having participated in many events each year for the past 10 years. I would like to share with you some tips and ideas that I’ve learned over those years.


Know Your Audience

Whether you call it a craft show, a bazaar, holiday shopping extravaganza, or an art show, each one will have its own “personality”. Certain types of venues will attract a certain type of crowd. Understand that my characterizations are general and not hard & fast rules – how could they be?

Craft shows that take place in schools and churches are often very inexpensive to enter and attract a large crowd. There may be fund-raising tables with kids selling baked goods and their own handicrafts. My experience is that the items that sell best at these shows are economically priced. Fancy displays are not the norm. Plenty of kids and moms will be shopping for Christmas gifts.

Large shows held at sports arenas, convention centers and the like will be much more expensive. There may be an admission fee for the shoppers. This could translate into shoppers that truly want to purchase hand-crafted items. You will probably face lots more competition at an event such as this, so it’s best to offer your products in a professional looking, clean display. Good lighting is a must when selling jewelry.

Juried art shows can take place in any number of venues. I have been in these shows in our local museum, hotel banquet rooms and art galleries. Very often, the sponsor of the event will take a percentage of your sales. This can still be very worthwhile as the clientele can be very upscale.


Your Booth Space

Regardless of where your craft show takes place, you want your booth/table to look its best. Be sure your table coverings reach the floor. Under the table is a great place to stow all of your empty bins & boxes, and this isn’t something anyone should see! Your table coverings should be selected with your product set in mind. Black will work for some jewelry collections and lighter colors will work for others. I use black skirting and top the table with a champagne colored fabric. I feel that those colors work best for my work.

Think about creating different heights as part of your display. Shelving units are effective but can be awkward to carry around. Try creating risers with collapsible cardboard boxes (for easy transport), topped by a wooden board and covered with decorative fabric. Several levels of product display add visual interest.

Necklace easels, earring racks, bracelet bars are almost essential to any display. I have seen many jewelry artists use household items for display purposes and this can be very economical if you’re just starting out. I started with mug holders to display my earrings and different colors of felt squares from the craft store to display necklaces and bracelets. I did this for a couple of years before I could invest money in more sophisticated display items. The thing I continue to struggle with is keeping my display looking like it all belongs to the same collection. My jewelry is diverse, so my display ideas tend to be diverse.

Things to Bring

In addition to the display items mentioned above, here’s a list a items that will be handy to have with you for an indoor event:

  • Change (I start with the same amount of money for each event)

  • Business cards & holder

  • Product packaging (bags, boxes, bows)

  • Hand mirror (or 2)

  • Blank paper for notes, custom orders, addresses, etc.

  • Lights, extension cords, multi-outlet power strip, duct tape

  • Sheets – to cover your tables overnight if it’s a two day show

  • Extra pieces of neutral fabric (to offer to your neighbor when they have an unsightly mess in their booth that needs covering – this could affect how customers see your booth)

  • Sales tally sheet. I’ve created one in Excel that lists some general categories of my jewelry. For example, I have 7 price points for my earrings and for these I can use tick marks to keep track of sales. Some necklace styles also have fixed prices where tick marks will work. For higher end necklaces and bracelets, I need to write down specifically which item I’ve sold). You will know what works best for your product line.

  • Pens (bring a red pen too for putting things on sale)

  • Extra price tags (in case you need to change a price, or if one falls off somehow)

  • Calculator

  • Fire extinguisher (many shows require this)

  • Small bottle of alcohol & cotton balls (to clean earrings if someone tries on)

  • Set of pliers to switch earwires, if necessary

  • Tape measure (to measure a wrist for a custom bracelet order)

  • Credit card machine/imprinter and slips

  • Put together a small box (I use a couple of altoid tins) of “notions”: thumbtacks, tape, rubber bands, straight pins, paper clips, Velcro dots (these things can come in so handy!)

  • Water

  • Snacks that are neat and easy to eat

  • Mints

Most important of all, try to remain cheerful, even when it seems as though everyone around you is selling more than you are!

Happy selling!

Tips: Home Parties

Originally posted by Brandi of Catiesblue on her blog, reposted with her permission

The topic of home parties has come up a few times recently, so often that I became inspired to write down some tips.

Before I ever thought to consider selling online, I did home parties that were really succesful. All of what I’ve learned has been through trial and error, but I’m not going to say that what I do will work for everyone (it won’t), nor am I going to guarantee gigantic sales right off the bat. But I do believe that if you work at it and be as prepared as possible, you, too, can do really well! So, here we go.

** Disclaimer ** I love parties. I love planning them, so there may be more information here than you want or need. I apologize for that, and encourage you to take what you like and make it your own. Use these tips as inspiration.

1. Decide what kind of party you want to have.

All of my parties fall within two major categories: a) a smaller luncheon-type of party with a set guest list; and b) mini craft shows that have a set start and end time, but where guests are free to come and go as they please.

It’s easier for me to define what kind of party I want it to be, because I approach each one a little differently. If it’s Party A, then my focus is on the food and the mood, while aiming to keep things like the presentation casual. If it’s Party B, then I focus on an organized display that is easy to navigate and easy to see.

I will also say that different parties worked for different groups of customers and for different times of the year, but if you’re just starting out, go with what you’re most comfortable with and what appeals to you most.

2. Invitations and the Guest List.

I always send out invitations, mostly a paper invite as opposed to an e-vite, since the majority of my customers are older, and not all have email or even a computer. However, this is where your personality can shine through, and where you should consider your potential audience. Are you looking to invite a group of professionals or have a group of technology-saavy friends? Then maybe an e-vite is the way to go; they can plug the date and time directly into their calenders and Palm Pilots. Do you have a group of friends that may really appreciate a colorful postcard? Not only is it pretty, it can double as a visual reminder on the fridge.

Invitations themselves don’t have to be elaborate or expensive; I used postcards or flyers for the “craft shows” and cute handmade invitations for the smaller parties. Send what you can afford to do, it doesn’t matter – but it is nice to get a piece of mail that isn’t a bill.

As far as the guest list is concerned, here’s what you do – either have someone host a party and invite 20 of their friends, or, if you host it, send out invites to people in your address book that say “Bring a Friend!”. You can even offer a coupon like “save 10% on one item if you bring a friend – save 10% on two items if you bring two friends!” to get customers to show up with more people. Also, always over-invite people – I’ve noticed that for every three people or so I invite, maybe 2 show up, though usually that number is closer to 1.

3. Decide the party’s location.

Where will you be holding the party? Your house? A friend’s house? In your backyard or garage? It really doesn’t matter because you can make anything work, but make sure your location has enough parking for everyone, is easy to get to, and that you have enough seating for everyone who comes (it’s not an issue inside a house, but it is in the backyard if you don’t have patio furniture).

Other things to consider is how much space you’ll have (or want) to display your pieces, what the flow of traffic will be, where the bathroom is, and where the food will be kept.

Additionally, you may decide or you may be asked (if you’re doing a party where someone else is the hostess) to have your party outside of the house. These can be fun – my first party was in a chocolate shop! – but they pose their own set of issues. Is there a cost involved? Are there limitations, such as amount of people allowed in a particular area? How early can you get in there to set up, and by what time do you have to be out of there? While it’s nice to not have to worry about strangers in your home, also know that you will have time constraints, so you’ll have to gently (or not so gently) nudge your guests on home, so be prepared.

Wherever you decide to have the party, make up a little map and slip it into the invitations if it’s some place most people don’t know how to get to. That extra step will be greatly appreciated by a customer who may not be familiar with the area.

4. Set up.

Where I was having the party, as well as the type, dictated how I’d approach setting up and displaying my jewelry.

If the party was at a home, or was a smaller group, I’d confine the jewelry to an area or room, but display it all over – i.e. coffee tables, down the center of the table where we were all seated for lunch, someplace unusual or unexpected – any place that would get people to pick it up and try it on.

If it was a craft show type, I would use more traditional displays, like picture frames, busts, etc., and keep my display confined to a table or two.

5. Food.

Regardless of what type of party it is, my main concern where food is concerned is that it be “non-greasy”. Non-greasy snacks mean clean hands, and cleaner jewelry. Simple and easy food also gives you more time to prep your jewelry pieces (assuming you’re throwing the party yourself).

*** If you’re thinking of doing a home party for something small, if possible, put everything in little plastic bags. I’ve done picture frames and cards at my parties, too, and both of those were packaged in plastic because, as my wise aunt once told me, it’s cheaper to replace the bag than it is to replace the item. I’ll even confess to my jewelry being in bags sometimes.

6. Hostess Benefits.

It IS nice to offer a little something to the hostess (having been a hostess myself), but don’t feel like you have to go overboard. Figure out what works best for you without you essentially paying the hostess to have a show. Here are some examples of what I’ve done (but not all at once!):

  • 1 free pair of earrings (hostess choice) + 3 more items 25% off
  • 1 free pair of earrings (hostess choice) + 10% off entire order
  • 10% off entire order
  • A custom made necklace/earrings set (only did this once for a big repeat customer/hostess, and only because I knew her style well
  • 3 items at 25% off (hostess choice)
  • A percentage off hostess order depending on the total amount of the show’s sales: 5% for $500 show, 10% for $1000, 15% for $1500, 20% for $2000 – the hostess then will become a sales person for you, getting her guests to buy more!
  • A little gift bag full of goodies

These are by no means the only things you can choose to do – there are many options, including coupons for a 10% off their next order or free shipping (I’ve also used these as door prizes).

7. Theme and Time of Year.

All of my parties have a theme, whether I announce it or not. Sometimes, it’s as simple as picking Spring Flowers for a Springtime party; this will give me a jumping off point for the color scheme (pastels), the food (light tea cakes), the decorations (flowers everywhere), and the invitations (floral themed cards). Other times, I’ll plan it around a holiday like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day.

Those are pretty self-explanatory, but think of other times you can have parties during the off-season – birthdays, bridal showers, baby showers (mommies need attention, too!), a Just Because party, a Girl’s Night In party, a Wine party, or to celebrate a new collection you have.

8. Relax and have fun!

I’m a very laid back seller. I generally say a few words to introduce myself (if I don’t know all the guests) and to explain what I do and what they’ll see. I tend to keep it short, then let people browse. I try to keep things as relaxed as possible; I may have music playing, maybe some fun drinks, because those are the kind of parties I like to go to. I don’t like people breathing down my neck or being really pushy, so I consciously try not to do it myself. Plus, if people can see that you’re not enjoying yourself, they will, in turn, be stiff and unreceptive, which can (and will) hurt sales.

So, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and smile.

I hope these tips helped! I know it’s mainly geared towards jewelry, but can be easily changed to any handcrafted work. Best of luck to you in your home party!