- Pick busy fairs: It is no fun going to all the effort of preparing and attending a fair, with all the setting up and packing down, the time, the travel (and in some cases the parking costs) and you end up selling less than the cost of the table. Are they a regular fair? Do they have a web presence such as a website or Facebook page? How much advertising do they do? Some fairs also ask for an item for a raffle, consider what it is you will donate and be sure to use it as an advertising opportunity and include your business card.
- Pick the right fairs for your products: There are Craft Fairs, Wedding Fairs, School Fetes, Summer Fetes, Gift and Beauty Fairs, Christmas Gift Fairs and many more. Some will not be the right vehicle for your target audience. Someone who does children’s toys or baby clothes is going to do much better at a Nursery Fair than a Gift and Beauty Fair. Be aware that Wedding Fairs are more about contacts, you will probably not make many sales, so take lots of advertising material for brides to take away (these are not my target audience, but reading online and chatting to other people, this is what I have heard). Location can be important, if your products are expensive you will likely do better choosing village fetes in small villages with mostly established home owners, whereas in a new estate products aimed at children will do well as it is a younger population with young families.
- Shop Fittings: You will need at the very minimum some form of covering for the tables and some form of shelving to display your items on various levels. Some fairs ask you to bring a table too. Summer and school fetes are more likely to need you to bring table, chairs and a gazebo. You should have a sign of some sort that is very visible, you want people to know your company name and hopefully remember it. Try to keep all this within your normal “branding” image. At first I displayed my christmas decorations hanging in front of the table, but I found sales increased when I hung them from a portable clothes rail over the table.
- Sales Sundries: Sales at a craft fair are different to selling online and need slightly different equipment. Price tags are one requirement, put prices on everything, people don’t like to ask and that can mean missed sales. I bought little card ones on strings from Staples I think, but they are available in lots of places (I didn’t want to mess up my products with sticky labels). Those easily slip over many items and for odd shaped items, for example on my plant pots and glass vases, I attach them to a rubber band and then put the band around the item… they don’t mark and are very easy to remove. You will probably need some bags for some of your sales, particularly for bigger or multiple items but take care because some fairs are now plastic free (I use paper bags). Use the bags as an opportunity to include your business card or flyer, I preload mine and have a lovely big sticker with my logo and some relevant addresses like email and the Etsy shop on the outside of the bags. I also have printed safety/care sheets for many products that I put in the bag when the sale is made. Have a stock list and tick off items as they are sold and compare against your cash at the end of the day. I record every sale in a duplicate invoice book. Have business cards and nice flyers (A5 or A6 size) out on your table for people to pick up.
- Legal Stuff (Insurance/Risk Assessment/Certifications): You should have both public and product liability insurance. The public liability is in case someone injures themselves in the process of looking at your stock, whereas the product liability is in case someone injures themselves once they own the item. Even if they use the item in a manner it was not designed for and they try to sue you and you win, the insurance is a must as it can help with all the legal costs. If someone does try to claim against you and you have no insurance, you will be responsible for all costs until after it is resolved. Some fairs insist you have a certain level of public liability insurance, so check the small print of the fair against your policy. (Note too that some insurance policies will be reluctant to offer product liability for items being shipped to the US and Canada, do be aware of what cover you have if you are selling online). Some fairs have their own public liability cover and will allow you, sometimes at a small fee, to be covered by theirs, but you still need product liability cover. I always take a copy of my insurance certificate to the fairs, just in case someone asks to see it. Another thing I take is a copy of my risk assessment paperwork. This is a general form that shows you have considered possible problems and tried to minimise the risks of injuries. Note that if you use anything electrical at all such as lights, you will most likely need them PAT tested. Take that paperwork along too, or better still look for battery operated alternatives. Toys need CE certification. Food, beauty products and candles all have special rules around hygiene, allergens and/or safety including listing the ingredients, make sure that is all on display and you have the more official paperwork close at hand in case it needs to be checked.
- Money: Have some way of keeping the money close to hand but safe. I use a metal cash box and keep the key with my car keys in my pocket at all times. Other people go for money belts or bags hung over their body, often worn under their jacket. If you are manning your stall alone, other stall holders are really friendly and happy to watch your stall if you need a “call of nature” break, but remember to take your cash with you if you need to leave the stall for any reason. Have more than enough change. If you only accept cash, put up a sign to that effect. Having a machine to accept cards is not that expensive, but it is not necessarily a step you need to take for your very first fair, or even for the first year or so. Most people understand and bring cash to a fair. If you have an online store, there may be a way to access that using a phone and accept payments that way, but you will need to look into that yourself, it is not something I’ve considered as of yet.
- Be Prepared: Food and drink might be available at the fair at a cost, but sometimes it is hard to get away. I always have cold drinks with me. I also take mint tic tacs. Have a warm jacket, even an indoor fair can be cold. I also have a “useful bag” of little items I might need in an emergency, like sticky tape, clothes pegs, bubble wrap, scissors, pens (plural), a notebook (sometimes people want to place an order and sometimes other stall holders have good contacts… write them down), string, safety pins, glue, sticky dots… could you fix an item quickly if it needed a repair? Could you rig up a better place for your signage if against the wall?
- Stock levels: It is hard to know what stock and how much to take, especially if you also run an online shop. When I was first researching fairs lots of experienced people recommended having some small items that fit in with your other stock. I have found those little items sell well, but they are not worth selling individually online. If you take stock that is online to a fair, how will you handle any sales of those items… with one-of-a-kind items, you can’t sell it twice. Last year I put my Etsy shop on vacation during each fair, but this year I am going to try using the Etsy app from my phone to remove any listings as I sell them at the fair or remove the item from the stall if they sell online. As for stock levels, I think perhaps I am taking too much, giving people too much choice, but I take approximately 200 items to each fair (remember lots of them are those little items I don’t sell online).
- Enjoy the interaction: Treat each fair as a learning experience. They can be hard work, but they can also be fun and you get to interact with potential customers and see what really catches people’s eye. Allow people to touch your products, which is one thing online customers can’t do. And have fun!
Didi Lou Crafts can be found at various fairs around Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire as and when (keep an eye out on the Events page on this website for upcoming dates), but is always open online at Etsy. See the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy shopFollow Didi Lou Crafts