A very disappointing day


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Established Member
18 Aug 2019
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Ash Vale, Aldershot
Well I started today feeling optimistic, the school summer fair and plenty of stock to sell, got up at 7 to go over and start setting up my pitch, by 10 I had it looking amazing and was really feeling good, after all at the Christmas fair I made over £600 profit so surely I'll make some profit today, maybe not as much with it being the 1st week back at school after the Summer holidays but something. In the first 20 minutes I had sold 2 small items then a handful of other small sales throughout the event, by the time I had packed my stall away everyone was gone and it was 5pm, I counted up my monies, subtracted the cost of the pitch and insurance and I'm left with £10 for a 10 hour day 😥 trying not let it get me down but it really stings.
Nothing wrong with those great looking products just the wrong audience. School summer fair tells me younger families with mortgages and kids so not a lot of spare cash and probably not into something different or more one off, more your Dunelm / Ikea brigade.
Anywhere else you could sell them?
A local coffee shop or garden centre?

Typical places for monied pensioners tbh.
I think timing was the biggest problem, everyone has spent their money on holidays and new uniforms for school, I wasn't expecting much but thought I'd do a lot better than I did, the turn out in general was minimal, probably lest than 1/4 of our families turned out, the fair was meant to be before the holidays but was cancelled because of bad weather that weekend, don't know why they chose the first weekend back at school it should have been at the end of the month after payday at least. On the plus side a local Scout leader has taken my number as they regularly hold events I could have a stall at, there's also an indoor makers market in Camberley I'm looking at as it's not too far to get to and being in the town centres shopping centre will have a lot of footfall.
Been there, done that. SWMBO sold Italian produce from home (edit i.e from Italy not from our kitchen LOL) for a while. You learn to pick your markets and seasons... learn the hard way
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Unfortunate Stig but on the bright side you didn’t make a loss.
I very much suspect it’s down to the timing and economic climate. Most people, especially those with school age families have seen a big hit in disposable income this year. Spending is on essentials rather than gifts and special items.
You do have great stock for the Christmas Fayre’s now though or as others have said other local events, though I would be cautious about spending too much to attend other shows and markets. If it was me I’d try to generate an online presence with a store and really just look at the Christmas markets for having a physical stand.
Hi Stig, do you pay for your wood? Also are you just funding your hobby? I have only ever sold at at Xmas Fayre's and did it just for 3 years to basically offset my material costs (excluding wood - which I never pay for because I scavenge around and use whats available). My price's were approx. a third less than yours for similar pieces, but if you have to recoup the cost of purchasing blanks, then this will drive your costs up.

Ultimately, as others have said, its a mixture of the area/type of event and purchaser base. Your stock is very diverse and is well crafted and turned. Personally, I would include some other items turned in a different medium e.g. resin , and perhaps put some coloured pieces on your stand. I also noticed that you appear to one type of finish (I could be wrong), but I could not see anything that gave a really glossy wax finish? A number of my customers after holding the piece remarked that the piece felt like glass before purchasing. I generally got rid of nearly all of my stock on the day, but the event I used to sell at had a foot-fall of something like 2000 people over the day.

BTW, the cost of the pitch rose by £10 each year and the last one i did cost £70 for a stall under cover. In the end, I had had enough, too much like hard work and it was long long day. Hope you have better luck at your next sale.

I attach a photo of my stall (inc. wife) at a Xmas fayre a few years back. I did a mock up in my kitchen first of all.


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I don't pay for my wood but I don't think it should make a difference if I pay for the wood or not in regard to pricing stuff, that would lead to (for instance) two bowls with identical shape and dimensions have two very contrasting prices not to mention having a potential detrimental effect on those that do sell for a living, I also don't think it relevant whether I sell for a living or for pocket money, why would somethings value be dependant on my reasons for selling 🤷‍♂️
There are a few pieces that have a glossy wax finish but the majority have natural or live edge rims and don't lend themselves to a wax finish such as the mushrooms podlets and bud vases.
Resin and colour isn't my thing, I can appreciate it in other people's work but it's not really for me at the minute, maybe in the future if I get more space to work in.
( None of that ⬆️ is meant to be as defensive as it could read 🤪)
@Owd Jockey
Your pieces are stunning and I have to say the prices that I could see don't do you justice in any way.
Unfortunate Stig but on the bright side you didn’t make a loss.
I very much suspect it’s down to the timing and economic climate. Most people, especially those with school age families have seen a big hit in disposable income this year. Spending is on essentials rather than gifts and special items.
You do have great stock for the Christmas Fayre’s now though or as others have said other local events, though I would be cautious about spending too much to attend other shows and markets. If it was me I’d try to generate an online presence with a store and really just look at the Christmas markets for having a physical stand.
A website or etsy type store is something I plan to do, although I don't relish the idea of packaging and then getting everything down to the post office 🤪it wasn't a total loss you're right, I did meet a man who has a walnut tree that is about to be felled on his property in france and he has promised me as much as can bring back next time he goes over and the local scout group leader has said I could have a stall at any of their events if I want to.

In regard to cost of stall, the PTA charged me £15 for my pitch, it also cost me £25 for my days insurance but if I do decide to do a few markets a year I'll get a years cover as it will be hugely cheaper. The makers market in Camberley that I'm looking at charge £50 for a pitch and it's in an unused shop location in Camberley Square shopping centre, there would easily be a couple thousand people walk through during the day which I believe runs 9 till 4, my main difficulty would be getting everything there as I don't drive so would be reliant on others help.
I have a lot of respect for people who try to make a living like this, The Somerset Craft Guild of which I am a member has quite a few crafts people who sell at shows and other events, its a lot of work, getting there (some travel miles and miles), moving stock, setting up a stall and moving what has not been sold at the end, plus you`ve had to make the stuff to start with, it must be soul destroying sometimes but you`ve got to keep trying. I hope your next event is more successful.
I wonder if .......

(This hopefully a constructive look at what might help)

When I used to go to school fairs, not that long ago, I expected to spend a few ££ to support the event and maybe buy something for the family, but I wouldn't have been expecting to buy anything over £25. Maybe the pricing ws wrong for the event, some of the larger/better items seem to be almost craft gallery prices.

I wonder if people passing by saw your more expensive stuff and immediately decided your stall wasn't for them. A stall with fewer things and selected from the lower end of your price range might have made it more inviting for the school fair audience you had on the day. Maybe less margin but a lot more turnover. You could always have a few bits of the top range stuff with you should anyone come up and ask "could you do me a special bowl as a gift for .... etc." Plus, if you have less on display and they think you might sell out they are more likely to buy on impulse, plenty of choice means they can have a think and come back later - or not. Other venues, other strategies.

Do you know any other stallholders, or did you get a sense of who was doing well - if so, what kind of prices even though it was different product. If school fairs get lots of buyers for stuff £10 - £25, then aim your display at that and sell the bigger things elsewhere.

Think back to the Christmas Fair when you did make some money - what was different then? Just the timing in the year or did you have different stock and pricing? Also, my memory of loca events like school fairs is that the same people turn up year after year - with a school you get a new year intake and lose one - but if well over half the potential customers were regulars and quite a lot had bought from you last time, maybe you need to find other audiences.

How do you accept payment? Even old people like me don't walk around with pockets full of cash, or even a chequebook, any more, so if you are selling anything much over £10 you need a card reader.

Good luck next time.
Stig your experience pretty much mirrors ours, school Christmas fairs were great, summer ones people were only interested in throwing sponges at the teachers.

We gave up local craft fairs after paying to sit in a village hall in the Cotswolds hearing 'Arabella could do that better' and 'cheaper on Amazon' all day lost it's shine.

If you sell on Etsy it'll cost you about 20% of your sale in fees.
If your local evri driver is any good you can arrange courier collection for stuff you send out. We've done that frequently in the past and it's gone very well.

Your stuff is too good to accept low prices. A piece of advice from an old hand at craft selling always sticks in my mind- if you don't value your product highly why would anyone else?

Stick with it and better luck with the next one
Hi Stig, thanks for your compliment. My point about sourcing your own wood is that pricing up a piece is dependent on your material costs, overheads and what you may charge for your labour. If you have bought say a Beech bowl blank (10" x 3") that would set you back c.£27 (inc PP), which would be an expensive bowl once all the other stuff was taken into account. I went to the Christmas Fayre last December, not as a maker, and I found a wood turners stall. His work was good, but he sold virtually nothing at the end of the day. All of his pieces were from bought bowl blanks and his prices reflected this. I advised him to source his own wood.
I suppose we all have different reasons and objectives for selling our stuff. I knew my prices were relatively low, but really my first objective was to get my £70 back (pitch cost). When we first did a Xmas stall, my wife and I both shared the same stall. She sold her crotchet, which was absolutely beatuiful and each piece took months to hook. She hardly sold anything, even though her prices were quite low. She was extremely demoralised, people commentated on the beauty of her stuff, but wanted to pay Primark prices! I felt guilty as hell, creating something from bare wool is far more difficult than putting steel to a turning piece of wood.

Talking of sourcing your own wood, this is a small vase i turned from a pile of wood offered as free firewood at Ikea. I called it my IKEA vase.


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This is an interesting one, is wood truly free?

I have a collection of trunks and oddments I plan to process this autumn and that will take me probably 2 days with a chainsaw mill and bandsaw to turn them into blanks. There's obviously fuel and electric costs, along with the initial outlay on the machinery, and some sort of sealant. That is before any consideration of the time involved.

I'm fortunate to have the kit to do this, and will get the enjoyment from doing so, but I think we should consider the 'costs' of free wood when selling. It should be cheaper, but I wonder by how much?

@Owd Jockey, those are lovely pieces, no wonder you sold well.
I think the biggest problem is that the fair was supposed to have been before the holidays, because it was cancelled and rearranged a lot of the stall holders couldnt make the new date so in reality aside from the few PTA stalls, BBQ and ice cream truck I was the only outside seller, there were supposed to be 6 other stalls with me, I never expected to do as well as I did at Christmas but £10 profit was demoralizing after a 10hour day.
I really didn't expect any of the larger stuff to sell, that was there more to show what I can do, I did think that the mushrooms and small bud vases would sell as they were all £5 or less but didn't sell a single one of either.
I think it's all down to a few things ultimately,
1. the timing, 2 days after the kids have returned to school means parents have spent all their money on summer holidays and new school uniforms
2. I don't think the new date was very well advertised even to our parents as I'd say less than 10% of our families actually came along so in reality I don't think my pricing made too much of a difference this time.
3. The weather didn't help at all, it was blisteringly hot and the event started at 12, the hottest part of the day so I'm not too surprised there wasn't much footfall, previous summer fairs have always brought in huge crowds in the past.
As others have said it all looks good stuff. The only thought I had if you were to do it again was whether some kids toys like spinning tops and yoyos would be a good addition. All of the things I can see in the picture are adult based. Kids are surprisingly good at pestering us adults into buying things, as you probably already know. If you can keep the kids there interested in getting something then perhaps the adults will also have a chance to look and make a bigger purchase.

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