Total Pageviews

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Adjusting your expectations for craft fairs

Now I have always thought that craft fairs were for you to sell your items - I mean what is the point of paying all the money for a stand/table, working like a loon in the run up to get as much stock ready as possible and then spending a long old day with a smile pasted on your face engaging with potential customers?

Well according to the latest stream of articles and blogs out there, I have it wrong :( With limited disposable income and everyone trying to look after the pennies, craft fair splurges seem to be a thing of the past.  Don't get me wrong, some people are managing to sell enough to make a living at craft fairs, but for most your expectations are sure to be dashed if you don't change them.

I mentioned in my last post about how I had had a terrible craft fair at the beginning of August, and how my two day bank holiday vintage fair was make or break as far as repeating them was concerned - well sadly it was break :(  I spent 70+ hours revising my stock and trying to gear it towards items that I thought would sell well at a vintage fair and it seems that still it wasn't enough.

I was sure these 1950s half aprons would be a hit!  The feedback on facebook had been immense and so imagine my surprise when not a single one sold.

I knew that Marilyn Monroe was always a firm favorite, especially among vintage lovers and this frame was beautiful!  A layered paper cut of Marilyn Monroe, what's not to love?  Sadly the facebook feedback was a hit, but at the craft fair I had very little interest for her.

I knew from experience that the Rockabilly gang loved to frequent the establishment that the craft fair was being held at and in their honour (and as they are a secret love of mine) I whipped up these Munsters, Herman and Lily layered paper cuts.  There hadn't been much love for them on facebook, but my husband was greedily eyeing them up and at the craft fair I had a couple swooning over them for ages - I was sure I had a sale - sadly not.

I got very obsessed with these reversible hand bags and ended up making 7!  Family and friends were in love with them and I had hints about Christmas presents from all and sundry - when they didn't sell at the craft fair I was really shocked.  There was some interest, but no one even came close to a purchase.

I also whipped up hair bandannas and re-jigged all of my displays - in fact my layout was the best yet!

Over-all the feeback I received was great - my online sales are increasing and I have people from all over the world purchasing my items - the only thing I can think of is perhaps the price puts people off impulse buys at craft fairs - there really is no solution to this.  I barely make minimum wage on most of my items and so it is impossible to lower them - this is after all a business.  I think we are in a society of bargain hunters and handmade attracts the opinion of "well if she made it, so can I" people don't understand how expensive the equipment is or how my experience and design flair is something that has taken a while to build up.

People are being advised to see craft fairs as a way to exhibit your work - the aim should be people taking business cards away and you making a great impression on them.  Personally I believe that my time (and money) may be more effectively spent on online advertising as I should be able to reach a much wider potential audience than I can at craft fairs.  Of course it could just be that I haven't sold at a event that is right for me and my products.

I have 3 more craft events this year that I had previously agreed to - I will be doing these and unless there is a major turn around in buying habits, I think that will be it for me.


  1. I can TOTALLY relate, being a crafter myself. The craft show circuit is very hard, and can take an emotional toll. Having to keep that happy face on all day when you haven't made a single sale. Then there are the whispers of 'I can make that'. I always wanted to yell "I CAN HEAR YOU' or 'BUT WILL YOU?' After 3 years of trying I threw in the towel and admitted defeat. Sad yes, but I am happier for it. Good luck and grow thick skin, it is your only defense.

    1. It has crossed my mind many times to throw in the towel, but I just keep hoping to eventually buck the trend ;)

  2. November 2013 at 06:24

    Oh wow. Glad I've seen this post and now I don't feel so alone. I actually had a craft fair yesterday but like you I am certainly reconsidering my approach to marketing my wares. I appreciate using it as a tool for advertising and gauging the reactions to new products. But I am fairly exhausted with them now when it seems my main hope as the day draws to a close is to pray for just a few more customers to cover my cost of the fair. The most frustrating element for me is the level of interest and actually quite overwhelming positive feedback and praise for my work only to for people cheerily walk away cooing to each other. Actually I'm thinking there might be mileage in me opening up a 'chargeable' gallery with my wares...and an extra premium for handling them. :-) Amelou's Den

    1. It is very disheartening to have such positive feedback, but to not make a sale :( It's even worse when I see my peers making sales when I'm not. I take heart in the fact that I am fortunate enough to make more sales than my peers online. If people are being positive about your items, then this is really good feedback :)

  3. It is becoming a well know fact that potential buyers think 'craft fair' but want to pay car boot prices. I do a few, and have been quite successful at time and then nothing at others. I'm not ready to give up the day job yet! I do fairs now as a way of promoting myself... I give cards away and and sell myself a bit like a At my last fair I didn't make the stall money back, but since then, I have had 3 commissions from cards customers picked up. I don't think many make huge amounts at fairs. Great post. X

    1. Dawn, I couldn't have put it better myself (car boot price comment) - I think part of this mentality is that there are a lot of hobbyists which charge just for materials - not time. Obviously this means that those of us who are trying to make actual money from our craft just can't compete :(