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!