Editor’s Note: We were so excited when Patchwork Show vendor Rachel Potucek of The People’s Soap Company asked if she could share some of the insights she’s learned about vending at craft shows with our Dear Handmade Life readers. Rachel’s business The People’s Soap Company has grown in less than 18 months from a farmer’s market stand to wholesale sales in nearly twenty retail locations.
If Rachel’s awesome tips and suggestions for making the most of your time and effort at craft shows inspires you to take your craft show game to the next level be sure to check out our online workshop: Craft Show Success: Make sales and build your business, confidence + community through selling at craft shows.
I share the tips and tricks I’ve learned from vending at over 300 craft shows and producing over 40 of them. You’ll learn how to: find and apply to the right show, develop your “look” using basic branding, prepare for shows with products, checklists, staff, and a pitch, merchandise and display products for maximum effect, deal with pricing, permits, and taxes + MORE!
Craft Show Success teaches you how to:
- Find and choose the right craft shows for your brand
- Determine and achieve your craft show goals
- Get organized and be prepared before, during and after craft shows
- Submit a stand-out application with great photos
- Create cohesive branding for your business
- Maximize your booth space and create unique on-brand displays
- Price your goods for profit
- Navigate licenses and permits
- Maximize your time at the show
- Build and solidify relationships with your customers, creative community and show producers
Click below to preview our Craft Show Success online workshop.
Now onto Rachel’s 10 Ways to Boost Craft Show Sales…
Selling at a craft show requires a little extra sales savvy. At a show where you’re competing for attention among 10, 50, or even 400 makers, your booth aesthetic is critical. But on top of that…when someone is in your booth, are you making the most of their interest?
You can get more people into your booth, and have them spend more while they’re there, by making a few sales-savvy changes that don’t require much money.
When I first started my soap business I met with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultants and got some great retail sales advice. I applied that advice to craft shows, and compiled this list based on my experience. (If you haven’t considered visiting an SBDC consultant, give it a try. As a subset of the US Small Business Administration, the SBDC offices advise businesses for FREE on everything from legal issues to business plans and finances.)
Here’s a few things you can to do maximize sales at your next show:
1. Run a “100 Foot Test”
Stand where your shoppers will see your booth for the first time, maybe 50-100 feet away. This is an important perspective: it’s your shopper’s first impression of your booth. What’s your first impression? Does your booth look dark, empty, boring, or uninviting? Can you see what’s for sale? Do you have a sense of your brand? Ask a friend for input: what’s their first impression? If your booth looks like a dark cave, try pulling the tables/displays to the front edges, and consider investing in a white-top canopy or electrical lighting. If you can’t tell what’s for sale, consider large signage shouting (or even suggesting) what you offer.
2. Clearly display your prices
A lot of people hate to ask for prices (I’m one of them). Don’t lose customers over a trivial inconvenience! Display your prices clearly. You have a few options: You can display one easy-to-read price list, or group your products into price categories and display a price for each category, or label each item individually with hang tags or stickers. It’s up to you. All my products are the same four or five prices, so I hang a price menu in a few places around my booth. Most importantly, if you display your prices on signage, make sure the sign is clear and easy to read, like these vintage store price displays by Roaming Yankees on Etsy.
Customers love knowing what makes your products special. Avoid vague descriptives like “best,” “most,” and “high quality.” Instead, highlight specific, interesting and valuable aspects. For example, I recently came across a gemstone vendor who described one of her crystals like this: “Tibetan dual-point quartz crystal, high vibration, very clear.” She could have described it as “high quality quartz,” which is equally true, but I’m glad she went with the former.
Take a tip from savvy restaurant menus. Restauranteurs are experts at exciting, pithy descriptions: A good menu description can transform chicken liver into the hippest $35 entree this side of Paris. This New York Times article offers great insights.
4. Encourage touch
Touch improves sales. Post small signs like “the softest lace you’ll ever feel” or “touch me I’m hand-felted wool” or “glazed ceramic, cool to the touch.” Or, invite verbally: About one third of my customers will stand right outside my booth, stop, and look. At this point, I usually invite with a smile, “Would you like to smell my soaps?” Nine times out of ten they respond with glee and walk in.
Put your esoteric makers’ knowledge to work. Invite visitors to ask questions about your craft. Explain what it’s like to make your wares, how many hours it takes, what kind of decisions are involved. Above all, tell them why you love doing what you do. Your bright passion will shine through, lighting up the space around you. You don’t have to give away trade secrets. But once a customer understands the labor and value of craftsmanship, they can appreciate a “high” cost as a reasonable one.
A craft show is one of your rare opportunities to get feedback. Don’t waste this opportunity to improve your business. Ask your customers why they are interested in your products, how they heard about you, what problems they hope to solve with your products, and what they are using your products for. Customers who believe in you will love to help you grow. Invite customers to keep in touch by displaying an email sign-up sheet. Give out your business card, a postcard, or coupon code with every sale.
7. Increase your average-sale-per-person
Imagine if, every time someone purchased your wares, they bought twice as much as they do now. You’d double your “average sale per person.” This is a key concept for any business: If you boost your average sale per person, you can be more profitable with the same customer base, and you can better survive slow sales periods. Try to measure your average sale per person, and set a goal to increase it. One way to improve craft show sales is to offer a special deal that customers can’t get through your online shop or anywhere else. You can offer a one-day-only, “free-item-with-minimum-purchase” deal, a percentage off, a giveaway, or a buy-3-get-1-free deal.
Having a mix of high- and low-priced items will help you appeal to more customers, and might even help you improve your average-sale-per-person (if you read that New York Times article I referenced above, you know customers usually buy in your middle price range, good to know). My grandmother was an accomplished fine artist and loved attending art fairs (she was a true extrovert). She occasionally sold her most expensive paintings at summer fairs, but her lowest-priced items, like prints and mini papier mache sculptures, sold like hotcakes. By having lower-priced items available, she could still generate sales, and her lower-priced items helped her initiate relationships with new customers, some of whom later commissioned large pieces.
People like to buy things that are at eye level, so display your products at eye level. Hang your art up, hang your jewelry on rods, hang your scarves and clothes up. Set up shelves, stack boxes on your table, or lift your tables on risers. Stacking shelves also expands space to display more things, and helps you attract more customers from farther away.
Your fellow vendors aren’t your competition. They’re your allies. Not only is it rewarding to befriend a fellow maker, sometimes vendors display each other’s products at festivals and craft shows. Offer to swap a few products to display at another vendor’s booth. You will expand your presence at the show, you might get a few referral sales, and who knows — your fellow vendor might end up being a friend and collaborator.
That’s it! I hope this list helps you improve sales at your next show.
Am I missing anything? Add it to the comments below. Don’t be shy! By helping each other, we’re supporting the entire handmade industry and making all our craft shows better.
-Rachel Potucek, The People’s Soap Company
*If Rachel’s awesome tips and suggestions for making the most of your time and effort at craft shows inspires you to take your craft show game to the next level be sure to check out our online workshop: Craft Show Success: Make sales and build your business, confidence + community through selling at craft shows.