Wednesday 12 October 2011

Guest Post: Tips for Selling at Craft Fairs or Markets

There's turning out to be a bit of a craft fair theme in some of this week's guest posts! Today I'm delighted to be able to share a fantastic guide for selling your wares at markets, written by Ruth Crean of Nice Day Designs. Ruth lives and works in Limerick, Ireland where she creates lots of different types of crafts from felt brooches and pincushions, hand drawn earrings, pocket mirrors, and badges. She is happiest when she is squirrelled away in her studio working on a new project and listening to an audiobook.

I've been working selling my wares at weekly markets for the past 4 years, and I always have other crafts people asking me for some tips and tricks to do them.There are two sides to doing a market, the nuts and bolts of display, tables, and getting your stall. And also what to do/say to your customers to make the best of your stand. Both aspects have their difficulties, and trust me I've learned the hard way by making every mistake in the book.

Firstly you need a great display, this can take a long time to figure out, it's taken me years to really get to grips with properly. Maybe try to do some research online and at markets, take photos of the displays that you like and try to learn from them. Here are some easy pitfalls.

-Don't put all your products flat on a table, people will be walking past and judge what you're selling in about 2 seconds, if it's not visible they will walk on.

-Don't have an empty stand, if there isn't lots to choose from people won't buy. If you don't have lots of work share your stand with a friend. It cuts on cost and it fills up the table better.

-Price your work, people will be afraid to ask if there is no price on it, especially with crafts, people always assume that they can't afford it.

To help with creating a better display use risers, either by propping up some boards with boxes covered with a table cloth. Alternatively buy two notice boards and hinge in the middle so they can be free standing. I easily covered my boards with white cloth so the pieces can be viewed better against a fresh background. Other things like pretty baskets and hat boxes are fantastic for displaying your work in.

Shop around in the pound/thrift shops, even in the garden or kitchen ware sections, think outside the box for what you can use. Also places like Aldi and Lidl sell mini easels and chalk boards, which can really add to the charm of a display. If it's possible try to contrast or conordinate the colours of your table cloth to your logo, it will really give your display that extra punch that it needs. It's all about creating depth and texture, if there is a lot to look through people will stay browsing, but it must be well organised so it doesn't appear chaotic and cluttered, you just need to find a balance.

Buttons in jars instead of packets are more tactile

During the Summer is a good time of year to go shopping for market equipment, things like fold down tables, chairs and gazebos are all easily available in Argos, B&Q etc, look in the camping and garden sections. In the past I've used fold down tables that are used for wall paper pasting, they are very affordable and the heavy duty one is still working 3 years later.

What ever you do if you need to provide your own stall do not buy the one in Argos that is a pole assembly, it is a nightmare to put together and it's useless in British weather, it may look like a bargain but trust me it will break your heart (and your back!). At the start try to find a market that is indoors or provides cover for you. For your first market it will be quite daunting to deal with this aspect as well as your display and selling to customers.

Signage is also very important, you want people to remember your brand and know what to call you when talking about how amazing you are later to friends and family! I made my own banner with my sewing machine, but in the past I've used a long laminated sign, that cost about 40 euro from my local printer. Just like with your etsy shop it's good to keep your look consistent, so my banner matches my tags, and my smaller price signs.I got this great stamp on etsy from Jlmould, and it's really helped with my packaging, while keeping my costs low.

I use a mannequin to display my brooches instead of a board to add something different

Now that your stall is looking stunning all you have to do is figure out how to talk to people. Doing your first market can be daunting, and it's difficult to know what to expect, one thing I hadn't factored in was how to interact with my customers, I figured it was no problem since I had worked in the service industry for so long. But I discovered it's different when you're selling your own work, on my first day I didn't know what to say to people because there wasn't that buffer of the being at a checkout/bar/till. Suddenly it seemed far more personal and I got really tongue tied, it took me a little while but I learned tricks to get around this:

-Be friendly: Nobody wants to go to a stall where someone looks grumpy and unwelcoming, I know it sounds very basic but a smile makes all the difference.

-Give People a bit of space: Don't pounce on them as soon as they stop at your stall, telling them the price of everything. Usually if someone picks something up or inspects a price tag I tell them it's handmade, or a special offer price. It's a way of opening a dialogue with someone who looks interested rather than heckling every passerby. It can be a difficult balance and some shoppers are very shy, so try not to get offended.

-Offer Information: There is nothing worse than talking to a trader and you feel like you are pulling teeth trying to get information out of them. Be pleasant and not too pushy, but tell people it's handmade, what the material is, or that your materials are sourced locally. These are things that people want to know, that's why they are at a craft market instead of Pennies/Primark.

-Converse: once you open up a dialogue and you feel that it's going well, continue the conversation, people at markets love to chat, go with it, you never know where it will lead. They might end up telling their neighbour 'about the lovely girl down the market',there is no harm is aiding some word of mouth business. Although be careful of those who want to chat for a half an hour but don't buy anything, those people might get in the way of other prospective customers, I know it sounds a bit cruel but you'll need to politely dismiss them.

-Business Cards: If someone seems interested but they don't end up buying it probably means they don't have the money on them at the time, but you have the opportunity for a future sale. Keep business cards on the table and also some close to hand. Hand them your card, tell them about your website, and also if you'll be trading at that market again. 99% of the time I get an encouraging 'oh really, that's great' in response.

Recently I've starting giving out DL sized flyers with all my info on them, shop, facebook, and blog with info and images from my business. This seems to be more effective than business cards as it supplies more information. If you do custom orders this would be a good way of letting customers know.

DL Flyers with all my details

Sometimes it can be a very long day if you are at a stall, especially if it's quiet and there aren't many customers to talk to. The temptation is to bring a book and read it, but I would highly recommend not doing this. It's like adding another barrier between you and the customer, lots of people won't interrupt you, and you will miss opportunities to talk to browsers. This one-on-one interaction is what massive companies would pay millions for, so use this opportunity to add a face and a personality to your business.

One tactic I use to pass the time is to bring some sewing with me, it makes it obvious that the products that I'm selling are made by me, I get work done during quiet times, and it's a way for opening up a dialogue with customers. It has the opposite effect of a book, it makes people curious and I end up talking to lots of people about crafting.

Another handy tip is to wear your product if possible, it shows a pride in your work and it also illustrates how well your pieces look when they are worn. Sometimes it can be a little thing like this that make that last final decision in a sale.

This is also something you can do in your everyday life too, I often wear my felt brooches, and if someone comments I tell them I made it and either give them a business card, or tell them that I sell at a local market. Moo keyring business card holders come in very handy at those times! I know it may seem pushy but you are marketing yourself and your business, and it does lead to sales.

Recently I've found my facebook fanpage to be a fantastic resource for the market. It's a great way to advertise locally for free, during the week I post pictures of the things I've made to build up an interest for my weekend market. Then the day before I post a reminder about the market, with opening times and a link to the website.

Without fail every week I get a new customer at my stall saying that they were reading about my work on facebook and they came down because they read my update. I can't recommend it highly enough, it's not that time consuming and it's free!

For the past few years things have not always been rosey at the market, sometimes it can be tough. Here are a few things I learned the hard way
Sales: There have been days that I've sold nothing, it's really heartbreaking and I took it personally, but sometimes it's more to do with advertising, weather and the alignment of the stars. Go home, have little cry, pick your self back up again and try again the next week. It won't happen that often, but try not to take it too hard if it does.

People: I know it sounds awful but some people are just rude, some people expect to buy everything at a market for £2 and get annoyed that you are overpricing. Either politely explain that it's handmade, if they persist ignore them. Some folks are just plain dotty!

Weather: If you are trading outdoors check the weather forecast the night before, there is nothing worse than being freezing with no jacket, or wearing uggs and a jumper in 30 degree heat.

I hope this has helped answer a few questions, and that it encourages some of you to go out and give it a try. It's been the driving force behind my business, and on bad days I might moan and grumble, but I really do love it.

Limerick's Milk Market, where I sell every weekend.

Click HERE to visit Ruth's blog, or check out her craft shop and supplies shop.


Archie The Wonder Dog said...

What a fantastic post - thank you! Love the look of your stall!

the Blue Rabbit House. said...

What a fun coincidence! I'm preparing everything for my first craft fair and some of these tips really come in handy. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Thanks Ruth. that was really useful x

Rachel (Mog's Togs) said...

Really useful post. As I only make one type of thing, which is quite small, I can't fill a stall on my own; but I'm sharing one with my mum weekend after next so I will remember all these tips!! Thanks!

Choo Choo Family said...

Thanks for the encouraging post! :)

Fiona said...

Great post. Some good tips. Thanks. I'll take a look at your blog as well.

Claire said...

Great post. I have a fair next week. Such good advice! Thanks! :)

nicedaydesigns said...

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments, I was delighted to be able to write a post for Laura...I love this blog!
Blue Rabbit-best of luck at your show!
Mog's Togs-good idea, there is no point in taking a full stall if you can't fill it, then at least you have someone to chat to during the day too.

Tumus said...

This is good info across the board and overseas, thanks!

Claire said...

Great post Ruth, I'm sitting here preparing for a market tomorrow, so found this post very informative and applicable to what I do.

Lots of things I agree with particularly displaying your wares and having them up off a flat surface. Have just twigged with that one (taken me a while!!) and I'm much happier with the look of my stall.

The last two markets I attended had very poor sales and I know alot of other stall holders were in the same boat. I know it wasn't my product and I didn't take it personally but I was amazed how it left me feeling very flat and not wanting to do any sewing for quite a few days. Fortunately, I am out of the slump and looking forward to my next market.

Claire :}

Anonymous said...

This was a really great post, thank you for the tips. I have been doing craft markets once a month for nearly a year now but I learn something new each time.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Thanks again for letting me post this, Ruth! x

I'm so glad everyone's found it useful... and I'll be referring to it myself if I ever try out the craft fair scene :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing. Markets are scary places for new crafters like me.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Best of luck with your first markets, Rosa!

Lauren said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I am doing my first stall this weekend, at a campervan festival. The nerves have just kicked in and you have eased them! Thank you :) X