Craft fair article

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Established Member
19 Sep 2011
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Nr. Swansea
Well here goes. I have written an article on craft fairs. Hopefully I have left nothing out but if I have feel free to ask anything you like. I e-mailed one of the moderators this afternoon about putting the article on her but have not had a reply yet. I hope it comes through okay and I hope you enjoy.

I have been attending craft fairs for a number of years and I really enjoy them. I have known the regular stall holders for years and we are like one big family, always helping out each other and giving the punters a warm welcome. It was not easy when I first started and the reason for this is that I was as green as grass and had no idea. I can remember my very first craft fair. I never took a penny. I had no display of any kind, not even a table cloth. All the things I took to sell were just plonked on the table. My first three craft fairs did not produce any sales at all.
I soon learnt and looked at the other stalls and how they displayed their goods and for me it was an eye opener. I bought nice red table cloths as this colour highlights the wood. I made display stands and bought some LED spotlights. Since those early days I have replaced my display props several times and today I am happy with what I have. There are several shelves to my display but no two are the same length and all are supported by wooden boxes I have made. I have under shelf lighting plus several spot lights. Some halls can be a bit dingy with natural light. In the main lighting is trial and error.
The important thing with display is that it must be quite high, ideally the highest point will be at eye level when you are standing. It must be strong enough so that when a punter bumps your table or a lady collides with you table with her push chair into the display it wont fall over. Ideally your table cloths will just overlap the back of the table and at the front be close to the floor. Underneath the table/s you can store your plastic storage boxes. Talking of tables I have at least two 6ft tables, sometimes three and I have around 100 different items on display. With some items I take ten of each and with other items maybe two or three.
Getting started with craft fairs can be expensive but it can be done quite cheaply, especially if you make your own display stands etc. I make all mine so that is an expense I don’t have. You will need a cash box and I keep mine at the back of my stall on a small table I use for my packaging. Oh yes, Packaging. I use tissue paper I buy by the ream and everything I sell I wrap in tissue and this goes into a paper carrier bag and with these I have two sizes. You will also need business cards and these need to be in a stand. These are easy enough to make at home and I have two, one on each table. You will also need order forms for people will order from you. If you are going to attend the venue each week you can tell your customer they can collect their order the following week. On the order form you need vital information. If the order is to be posted you want the full address including the post code. It is important that you have a contact telephone number as well. I have often had to ring a customer and say something like, “I cannot make your order in oak as my delivery of wood is going to be a week late,” but I have something very similar. You also need to ring the customer if there is going to be a delay as they will turn up at the hall the following week expecting their order and if you haven’t got it they will be annoyed.
With orders always take the money at the time of the order and don’t forget to add the postage if the order is going to be sent. When I started in craft fairs I trusted the customer and would make orders and then they never turned up to collect and pay for them so always take the money up front. The customer may well want a receipt as well. On my order forms I have a section called, additional information and here I put things like what wood the order is to be made from, maybe something about size if different from the one on display, some customers want things made to a certain size to fir a certain gap. Never take cheques. I am asked all the time if I take cheques and I say no. At one venue I explain there is a bank next door. If they have the cash in the bank they can easily get it. Other stall holders have taken cheques and they have bounced. One of the stall holders owns a garden centre and if any of us have a customer that wants to pay by credit or debit card the lady will take the payment from the customer and then give us the cash.
When I have laid out my stall I then go round putting the prices out next to each item. I print my prices out on card and then use a guillotine to cut the card, they look more professional then. I always price everything with 95p on the end, say £7-95 or £12-95. To the customer its £12 but to you its almost £13. It’s psychological, a good friend gave me this advice years ago. I also print little signs with the wood types as well. Also you will need to print other signs as well. I have several placed on my tables with “Orders taken,” on them. I also have a small board with an A5 card on which explains that orders will be posted one week after the order is received. Other signs you will need will be something like. Hand made from selected hardwoods. The most common question you will be asked is. “Do you make all this,” amd you will say yea, then the customer will say, “You are clever, or “it must be wonderful being a wood turner,” yes, its true.
Sadly from time to time people that come to the craft fair will steal things on display. I have been very fortunate over the years and have had just one item stolen. One of the ladies who has a jewellery stall had a very expensive necklace stolen. You need to keep an eye on your stall and make a mental note of what you have on display.
Venues for craft fairs vary quite a bit, they can be held in a village hall, a leisure centre, a shopping precinct, church halls etc. The craft fairs I attend run from 10am to 4pm and that is good, its worthwhile attending. I turn down a lot of invites to other craft fairs mainly because they are something like 12 till 2. That is no good to me; it takes me an hour to get everything set up. Providing you have a good number of people come through the doors you can easily end the day with £200 in the cash box. Some days you are fortunate to cover your cost and there are days like that but overall I make a good profit.
Most venues will open up an hour before it starts and this gives you time to get everything set up. As I said, it takes me an hour to get set up. At one venue I have a wood turner next to me and he is set up in ten minutes. He never brings extra stock and when he sells something he just spreads his bowls out a bit more. This is not the way to run a craft fair stall and he is losing out on a lot of sales. It’s a good investment to buy a folding trolley to carry all your stuff from the car park into the hall. With most venues you can park close to the entrance and when unloaded go and park the car but now and again you may have to carry your stock some distance. My car is packed to capacity when I go to a craft fair. I have six large plastic storage boxes that hold the bigger items and I have 12 smaller plastic lidded boxes that hold the smaller items. It’s a good system for when I am busy and have to replace an item I know exactly where it is.
Running the stall can be hard work; at other times you will wish you had brought a book but always look on the bright side. Ideally you want to be all set up before the doors open to the punters. At some venues there is a kitchen where you can make a fresh brew and maybe put something in the microwave. At other venues there is nothing so you will need a flask and sandwiches. During the day you will need the loo at some point and the stall holder next to you will watch your stall while you nip out. When you do have to leave your stall make sure your cash box is out of sight and that no valuables are left on display like your mobile phone or a camera. Ideally it needs two people to run a successful stall and many of the stalls I see are run by a husband and wife team so that someone is there all the time.
In the last year I have seen a dramatic change in craft fairs. There are now people making a good living organising craft fairs and they are ripping people off. They charge anything up to £50 for one table and with some you have to become a registered member and that’s another £50. I have nothing to do with these people. At one venue I attend I pay £5 for two tables plus a pound for the car park. At another venue I pay £20 and can have three tables but this is a very good venue for me and I always do well there so I don’t mind splashing out the £20. At another venue we are very close to the sea front and its on the edge of a large car park and being a tourist area we get lots of coaches come in. We have a guy who stands by the door and every time a coach comes in he dashes over and tells the tourist about the craft fair and every time they come in and a single coach can really boost sales. Many of these people have never seen scroll saw work before and they are fascinated by it. People love to see wood and they like to pick it up and feel it and smell it etc. Some venues will ask to see your liability insurance. I have never been asked and have never bought any but it may be a condition for the venue you hope to attend.
I would like to give some advice on sales. When you have set your stall up you are ready to start selling. Some stall holders sit behind their stalls with their arms folded and stay like that all day, this is no good at all and won’t produce hardly any sales at all. Other stall holders really do have to have a sales banter and it can be a bit boring listening to the same old thing every time a punter walks past. Fortunately wood being wood sells itself because people are attracted to it as soon as they lay their eyes on it. I don’t have any sales banter at all but what I do is this. When I see a customer approaching the stall I stand up ready to greet them, by saying something like, ”good morning,” you have broken the ice, you have reacted with the customer and given them a nice smile, by doing this you have put them at ease straight away and they feel more comfortable and they are more likely to buy than if you did nothing. When a customer is looking at a particular item you can say something like, “that’s made from so and so.” Or you could say, I also make that in another wood and in a larger size. There are lots of things you can say to customers. You will find that if you have a customer or two at your stall it will attract other people to come over as well for they will know there will be something interesting as it has already attracted other customers.
What to make and put on the stall. Over the years I have come to know what sells and what doesn’t. Today everything I have on display is a good seller and everything I make must be reasonably quick to make. It’s no good spending three hours making something if you are only going to be selling it for £10. Also what sells in my neck of the woods for £10 may well sell for £20 in another part of the country. It may pay to attend a couple of craft fairs and get the feel for it, see what’s selling, see if there is any competition. If a craft fair is run properly the organisers won’t let two stall holders in selling the same things. It’s just not on. With out a doubt my best sellers are name signs. I make them in three styles and I have up to eight of each style on my tables. Very often I will sell several at a craft fair but in the main its orders I get. I can come away at the end of the day with 20 orders for name signs and I have already taken the money for them. They are quite quick to make and everything I make is from a variety of hardwoods ¾ inch thick. I design the name on the computer and then print it off.
I also have on display a few house name signs and get lots of orders for these. I make them A4 size as this is the biggest my printer can handle. I also have a few house numbers I do. I make the actual number from one type of wood and put it on a backer from another type of wood so they contrast with each other. I would say the majority of people that come into the craft fairs are grandparents and they love to spoil their grandchildren si I make quite a few things for kids, in the main they are simple animal jigsaws with up to 10 pieces but mostly five pieces. Again, they are quick to make and they can sell like hot cakes.
I originate from Kent but 30 years ago moved to Wales and one of the things I make is a welcome sign in Welsh and these sell well. Soon after I first started doing craft fairs I made 10 of these welcome signs, went to a craft fair and sold the lot before lunchtime. When I got back home I decided to make a batch of 20. I was on a sure winner her. Before the next craft fair came round I had made the 20 welcome signs. I did not sell a single one for several months. That’s the way it goes, you just cannot say with any certainty what will or won’t sell on the day. It’s all down to who comes through the doors. Now and again you will stumble across a pattern and you will be convinced it will be your best seller. Don’t go overboard. Make two and take them along and see if they sell. If they sell quickly you can then make four or maybe half a dozen but don’t go overboard.
Two other things that sell well are key racks and candle holders and I have designed several of each and they sell well. Sometimes I have an idea for an item and make one or two and they have never sold so I end up giving them to the charity shop. A good example of this is that one day I had a brain wave for some coasters. I designed six different ones and made several of each and the number I sold over a few months I could count on one hand. Clocks never sell and they are expensive to make. My next project is a money box for kids with their initials on the front. I will make a couple for display and then take orders for them.
I always take plenty of stock with me. After Christmas each year I have 3 months in which to build up my stocks before the craft fairs start up again. Once they get underway I am busy every day. Normally I am out two days a week at craft fairs and spend the other five in the workshop and in the summer I often work 16 hours a day just trying to keep up with it all and that’s why I try to make as mush as possible during the winter months but I only make things that are really good sellers. I also have stuff for sale in some craft centres and the centres can be very demanding wanting new stock all the time. The advantage with craft centres is that you can command a higher price. In the main they want 30 per cent commission. I sell to them for the same price I sell at the craft fairs and they add their profit and it still sells.
Pricing the things you make is never easy. I feel I make a very good profit from the things I make but I do not add my time in with the price. I am disabled and if I was not doing scroll saw work I would be at home twiddling my thumbs all day. I easily cover all my overheads and material cost and if I want a new tool or a new machine then it is not a problem. In my area there is a lot of unemployment so I have to be careful not to overprice my stuff. I have been told many times that my prices are very reasonable. I recently made one of the stall holders a house sign and charged her £15 for it. She had been to another craft fair some weeks before and saw a guy making signs and he would have charged her £70 for the same thing that I made for her. As I said, I am happy with the profit I make. At the craft fairs we have other stall holders that work with wood, one chap makes large mirrors, some using drift wood for the frame and then doing other designs with conventional methods. He charges an absolute fortune and I have not seen him sell one mirror. Some people are just greedy and want to rip people off. On the other side of the coin we don’t want to be to cheap. If you are to cheap it can be detrimental to sales, customers will feel it is to cheap, that it was not hand made and may even feel you imported them from China. Talking of China it is a sad fact that some of the stall holders at craft fairs do not make the good they are selling, they import them from China. I am fortunate that at my main craft fair you have to make the stuff you are selling if you want a stall and many get turned away. Customers come into the hall knowing that what they are going to buy is not available in any shop and that it has been lovingly hand made using the best quality materials. Its not mass produced and that’s what people like, something that is individual, has character and is unique.
S-T-R-U-T-H Geoff . . . brilliant effort sir.

I'm gonna print it out and have a good read with a large glass of red wine.

Thank you soooo much for doing this and I'm sure a lot of us will benefit from your efforts.

Thanks again.


I enjoyed reading that, proof that craft fairs aren't as easy as some people think.

I attended one before Christmas, you would not believe the trash that some people were trying to sell, there was one stall with wooden toys, all of them were
' bought in ' nothing was hand made, another stall had little bags of sweets tied up with a ribbon, obviously the stall holder was buying large quantities of sweets and 're-packaging' them. The room was tiny, or it appeared so because the stalls were crammed in together, and there were 3 card stalls out of about 25, needless to say I didn't buy anything, other than a raffle ticket for some charity.

Well done Geoff, a great guide to being successful at craft fairs. We go to quite a few as punters and a smiling 'good morning' goes down well and does encourage you to look in depth at what is on offer. I also like woodworkers to say'pick it up if you want'.

Hope you have many more successful craft fairs and sell lots of Welsh signs.

Regards Keith
Thanks Geoff good info, I did my first one just before Christmas, was quite nervous but it went surprisingly well, I'm hoping to try and do a few more this year.
Thanks Geoff ,for a very brillient and unselfish insight into the craft fair setup . I'm sure a great many folk are going to benefit from your hard earned experience ,

I'm glad you are successful as you put so much work into your trade ,and deserve the rewards .It's true that ever so often a real decent person will come along and try to help others and to me Geoff you are that person . =D> =D> =D>

God Bless you .
Brilliant right up and sound advice

I've been wanting to do a craft fair, but in Birmingham it seems pretty poor,

Looking for more venues around B'ham
toesy":3oihl87d said:
Brilliant right up and sound advice

I've been wanting to do a craft fair, but in Birmingham it seems pretty poor,

Looking for more venues around B'ham

Hi toesy,

If you find any worth attending, I would appreciate a shout, as I am recently into woodworking.

Well done Geoff, good sound advice from your own experience, I think that anyone wanting to sell at craft fairs, could use this as their definitive guide. =D>

Take care.

Chris R.
That was a mammoth effort Geoff and a very good read.
I have been thinking about craft fairs..... not sure if this has encouraged me or put me off. Needs careful thought.
Thank you Geoff
that is inspirational :) had a wee go at a charity fair in November, and sold a couple of big candle trays and some little candy dishes. Got another one at the end of March and am gearing up now, making tealight holders and keyracks, (definitely more candy dishes) think I will be more organised this time thanks mostly to advice on this forum
Hi Geoff
I have to say, that is the best information I have ever read about a topic in general, talk about covering every aspect!!!!!!! I am trying to break into the craft fair scene, and you have answered so many questions that have been rambling about in my head that I feel I should send you a consultants fee !!. posting.php?mode=reply&f=19&t=77460&sid=afe12ab79a47839a1cbd23c624a31cf7# I think it is very generous of you to say what is your best sellers and what to avoid, that has been a major sticking point for me as I have just done one craft fair. I am also trying to use the net to try to sell with varied success. The best seller I have is Steve Goods "cat and mouse " door topper which I make from MDF ( I hate the stuff but it is cheap). I reckon that it costs me about 1.50 to cut and spray each set and I get a tenner for them, so it's not to be sneezed at.
If you ever give up on the woodwork, you should take up writing reviews for some of the newspapers!!

Hi Brendan. Nice to hear from you again and many thanks for your kind comments. I used to be a newspaper journalist in a bygone era so well used to writing articles. I am glad you found Steve Goiods cat and mouse a good seller. I made several sets last year. I made mine from 6mm birch play and like you sprayed them, 2 coats was sufficient, but sadly they did not sell all that well. I have a friend in Manchester who I taught to scroll saw and I sent her a large box of stuff that I had difficulty selling, she sold the lot at her next craft fair. I sell a fair bit on facebook but had to give up my web site as I just could not cope with so many orders coming through. I wish you well with the craft fairs Brendan and hope you sell lots. All the best.
Hi Geoff and Brendan.

Its strange how one thing will sell well at one location but not in another. :?

Geoff as you know I don’t sell anything myself, but of all the cat related items I make for the (Cats Protection Shop), the cat/mouse door frame topper is the best seller of all for them.

Brendan, another good seller cat related is a plaque I made up, with the words “A Home Without A Cat Is Just A House“.
You are getting a good price for your cat/mouse topper, as I think the (Cats Protection Shop), sells them at four pounds fifty. :wink:

Regards Both.

Chris R.

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