A lot of people worry about what to do and what not to do for Christmas markets and other craft fairs. Steph of Perran Yarns has done a number of craft fairs and has a lot of experience to share with you! 🙂
Relevance – It generally takes a few years of trial and error to find the craft fairs that work best for your items and location. Keeping in touch with other local small business people doing similar fairs is very helpful, as is keeping a list of contact details for the different events together with a reminder in your calendar of when applications open. If you visit a good fair that you’ve not heard of before, get the contact details for next year and add them to your list.
Christmas markets in particular can be different to those at other times of the year. Customers are looking for gifts obviously, so in my range I find that ready made items tend to sell better than craft supplies. If possible, have a good spread of prices to cover stocking fillers up to larger price ranges, and think about whether your customers will be looking to buy your products for children as well as adults. Think about how you shop for your family and friends, and how you decide what to buy each person, then apply that thinking to your range to see how it fits and how best to package/display items to make them most appealing.
Insurance – Most craft fairs need you to have your own Public Liability Insurance. This is readily available for a reasonable price from various companies on the internet, either for single events or as annual cover. Choose the one that works out the most cost-effective for you, depending on the number of fairs and markets you hope to sell at.
Layout – It is always interesting to see what sellers use for display. Height is key; it enables customers to spot your stand from across the room, plus it gives you more space to display your items, particularly if you sell larger products such as cushions or bags.
Do a mock-up of your display a week or so beforehand; if you don’t have a table just lay your cover out on the floor to the right size. Arrange your display and photograph it from several angles, then check your photos. It’s far less stressful to make layout changes at this point than on the day, and you’re more likely to pick up on extra signs or display equipment that you need beforehand too. I have been selling at craft fairs and markets for several years now, and still constantly change my layout and displays.
Equipment – I use 2 folding lightweight wooden bookcases to add height, one each end of my table, which cost not too much from ebay. On the top shelf of each I have display mannequins with sample products on, again giving more height and display space.
Rotating displays with hooks can be useful space-savers too, either on your tabletop or full height standing next to your table if you have the space (mention it on your application form; it’s not usually a problem). These can declutter your display so customers can more easily see what is available, while still giving you the ability to display lots of item variations.
Lighting – is very important, especially towards Christmas when days can be very short and dark. If a customer can’t see your items properly they won’t be drawn to them or see their true potential. A couple of bright desk/clip lamps and a long extension lead is a valuable and not too costly investment from somewhere like Argos. Compare several types in use to see how bright they are before choosing which will work best for you.
Battery-powered strings of fairy lights and a few lengths of tinsel can add a festive touch to your Christmas stand for very little cost. I keep my craft fair Christmas decorations separate to the household ones, as Christmas craft fairs are often going on well before we’re ready to decorate our home!
Do you sell items that will be worn? If so, take a well-sized mirror so a customer can get an idea of how the product looks in situ rather than in the packaging. Trying on a necklace to see the length is a lot easier than reading a measurement, and is more likely to secure that sale.
Offers – If you offer a discount for craft market sales, you will encourage customers to buy there and then rather than just take a business card (which you have dotted around your table of course!). It’s easy to make a generic ‘Show Offer’ sign with a standard discount that you can use at each market. Make sure you print it in BIG (and colourful if you like!) font on A4 paper & laminate it if possible for durability, then pin it to your display stand at eye level.
Make sure your offer works for you as well as your customers – i.e. you’re still making the profit you need after the discount.
Comfort – Standing at your stall all day can be a chilly business leading up to Christmas, even if you’re undercover. Fleecy boots can help keep your feet warm, as can a large piece of cardboard (e.g. a recycled packaging box opened out) for you to stand on behind your stall – it’s amazing how insulating that can be on a concrete or tarmac floor!
Take a flask of hot drink or soup if possible to sip throughout the day to keep you cosy and hydrated. Taking your own snacks and packed lunch keeps your costs lower too.
Reusable hand warmers are cheap to buy and very effective when held in your pocket or mitt. Just flex the warmer to click the metal disk inside and the disk will heat up and harden, then stay warm for several hours. To reuse, boil them until they soften again, cool and store in your craft fair box for your next event.
Money – Think about your prices and take a cash float that is useful for you. If you have an item that costs £1.95 you’ll need to make sure you take 5 pence coins in your float – or maybe round up your price to £2!
If you’re manning the stall by yourself it’s useful to invest in a trader’s money belt that clips around your waist. That way when you nip off to the toilet you haven’t got to worry about your cash or phone going missing!
Receipts – If you’re selling your items online too, it is helpful to write receipts (with carbon copy duplicates) for all of your sales. You can buy books of these online or in stationary stores like WHSmith. It looks more professional to the customer and gives you an easy way to check through the day’s sales and adjust your online stock levels afterwards. Make sure you include a business card with each sale, or stamp your logo/web address on each receipt beforehand.
Payments – If you sell items over £10, being able to take card payments is essential in my experience. I have an iZettle card reader, which is the same as the PayPal reader but was on offer when I wanted to invest. I use it at every craft fair & market, and have even taken card payments for other sellers when they don’t have the facility! All you need is wifi and maybe an electricity point to keep the reader charged up if you’re selling for a full day. You install the reader’s app on your phone, connect the phone to the reader using bluetooth and you’re ready to take payments!
Overnight – If you’re leaving your items in a gazebo or marquee overnight (e.g. for a 2-day fair), it’s a good idea to take a large sheet of plastic to cover your stall overnight. Condensation builds up very easily on the inside ceiling of marquees with the day-night temperature changes, which will then drip down onto your precious handmade items if you forget that cover!
Most important of all – smile, speak to your customers and enjoy the day. Try to think up a standard opening line you can use as customers come to your stall; I ask people if they knit or crochet themselves. Engaging the customer in a chat makes both of you feel at ease and gives you the opportunity to easily introduce them to your products. If they don’t want to join in just hand them one of your business cards and wish them an enjoyable day before they move on.
Even if you don’t make a huge number of sales, you’ll have increased your potential customers’ knowledge of your business and products, made contact with other local small businesses and chatted to a whole bunch of new people too!
So there you have it – words from an expert! 😉
What are your experiences with Christmas markets? Anything that hasn’t been mentioned? Tell us in the comments.