I have visited lots of craft fairs, I find them full of inspiration, and buzzing with creativity, I tend to associate them with tea and cake, being a summer time affair generally, but obviously there are the Christmas versions (still with tea and cake), the Easter ones (tea and chocolate cake) but I do find them frustratingly difficult to sell at.
So, the basics of a craft fair are that the seller is registered with HMRC, if not then there could be undeclared income issues to deal with, and trust me its really worth registering as Self Employed if you are looking to make money because the fines simply weigh the meagre amount of tax you would be paying ten, twenty fold.
You need Insurance, public liability, you don’t want anyone to trip up and fall on your table leg, break a finger nail & then put in a claim against you.
Contents / Stock insurance, sadly there are people in the world not as honest as others, not to mention should the heavens open and it rains on your parade, or the Earth develops a huge fault and your table vanishes in a crater before your very eyes!
Table layout needs to be eye-catching, multi layered and not cluttered. Pricing should be clear, as should a little information about the items you are selling, its pointless selling Genuine gemstones if the potential customers don’t know they are genuine, they could just think they are overpriced plastic or glass beads. Or perhaps its a hand crafted lampwork bead design, exquisite and totally unique.
Packaging should be simple, elegant or beautiful also, especially if the items are to be gifts, but not excessive – there is also the small chance you could charge for gift wrapping or you could throw that in as a deal clincher!
I am a huge advocate of the personal approach, smile, greet people, engage in banter and chit-chat, stand at the front of your stall proudly displaying your wares, have a story to tell about them so that a passing potential customer can form an association with the item to the point that they simply must buy it – whether it be the stone of their birth month, or that it matches the colours of their jacket. The story can include a tale of how the feature gem is only mined 2 months of the year, in freezing conditions where the miners struggle to mine enough stone to make them enough money to survive the sub-zero temperatures for the remainder of the year. How the stone is only mined from one mine in the entire world and that its drying up, or the story could be something as simple as how the design was featured in Tatler, or Tiffany’s blue book or its inspired by the necklace worn by the Mona Lisa – the physical item is only half the story in clinching the sale the balance is about the memories you can create around the piece. I can waffle forever if I need to, its easy because I am passionate about the Gems I own & collect, and the pieces I am inspired to make whether they be out of gemstones or seed beads.
I also find that a stallholder can have a huge amount of interaction with potential customers by demonstrating at their stall, but also by allowing the customer to have a go themselves, or request a custom piece. It’s truly satisfying to teach someone a new skill, I love demonstrating techniques, and discovering new techniques, stitches what works and what doesn’t with different types of beads and stringing material.
I found last year that loom band craze lent itself really well to this, and at spare table a couple of children soon had a crowd around them ooo’ing and aaaah’ing at their looming skills!
But now we come of to my big big huge massive bug bare, the big issue I have with craft fairs is that people love to look, touch, hold, gossip, but rarely part with any money.
Lets face it, the real draw of doing a fair is to make some money, now whether that be to reinvest in stock or treats for yourself at the fair or the sole source of your income without money is there any real point to exhibiting at a craft fair ?
I get constantly frustrated with guest designers on JM and the presenters when I hear the constant oooh ahhhh ooooh at the fantastic designs demonstrated on the inspiration (and the other shows) there is absolutely no doubt they are amazing, beautiful pieces of jewellery, but oooh that necklace could be sold for at least (with real emphasis on the “at least” part of that sentence) £50 what a bargain, or the banter where each piece of agate on a strand could be sold for at least £20 each making a profit of £160 come on buy them, why wouldn’t you its ridiculous not to purchase them …but seriously would you, go a craft fair and buy a necklace or any piece of jewellery from a stall holder for that kind of money?? I wouldn’t and I can see the value in the gemstones and the time taken to create the piece.
My point is not to be negative at all, it’s just that I have visited as buyer, and as a seller a variety of craft stalls, I have made many friends whilst at these fairs but each time I have done them I have barely covered my costs, certainly not if you factor in my time or effort involved in setting up, paying for the stall, paying the insurance, petrol, food / drink at the fair and asking around most sellers I have met do it for the social side, and rarely make money. I am sure they all have really good days, but in truth I think anyone who believes you can make a good consistent reliable living selling at craft fairs must be living in a cardboard box or on fantasy island, however if you do manage it please do share your selling secrets and best stall locations!