You Found A Craft Show, Now What?

In the previous post I covered where you can find craft show and vendor event information ( click here for “How Do I Find A Craft Show?” in case you missed it). Let’s take this time to go over some things you need to take into consideration when booking the shows you’ve found.

Do Your Research

I know this seems like a pretty vague statement, and also a little bit ridiculous…. But I have been to so many events where other vendors will come up to me and complain about an event that they just did. They will tell me how lucky I was to have skipped it. It wasn’t luck. It was research. I researched my hiney off to make sure I was signing up for an event that would fit me and my ideal client. (If you are still trying to define your ideal client I would recommend reading this blog post)

Research alone won’t guarantee that you have an amazing event, but it will help you start out on the road to success.

Ideally you would go to the show as a participant before you sign up as a vendor. But that is not always possible. If you do have a chance to scope out an event ahead of time, check for a few things;

  • How many people are at the event and do they seem to be shopping or browsing. If no one is buying check the price points that are being offered. You may be able to fill that pricing gap with your products.
  • Is your ideal customer there?
  • How are the vendors arranged? Are they lumped together (all the jewelry people in one area) or are they evenly distributed. Personally I do better at events where the organizer evenly spaces the types of vendors. But others prefer being separated into clearly defined sections.
  • Are there a bunch of vendors selling the same thing you are, or will you stand out? I sell crochet and sewn items, which is a pretty saturated market at any craft show. But my products stand out against other crochet vendors because of the materials that I use and the size of my items. You are not gonna find another vendor at the typical show selling giant fuzzy fruits and veggies.
  • What does the parking situation look like? Are there enough spaces for everyone? Or are there a ton of cars in the lot but no people (meaning they are probably the vendors cars)? Not enough easy to access parking means that you will have limited numbers of shoppers coming to the event.
  • Was it easy to find? Were you easily able to find the show or did you have to read a dozen maps and drive in confused circles to half an hour? All kidding aside, if you can’t easily find the event, customers won’t be able to either. Keep an eye out for signs pointing the way. I’ve been to places that are off the beaten path, but the organizer did such a great job directing people from all over town that we were busy all day.
  • Is there another event happening that might draw people away from your craft show? Or does the craft show offer additional activities that could draw people away from the vendors. I’ve been to several events that offered games, food, and family oriented activities in addition to the vendors and it did not go well. We were all clustered so far away from the main events that most of the people attending never made it to our booths. Another event boasted several keynote speakers which required everyone to sit down and listen while they spoke. So no one was able to shop until it was almost time to pack up. In other instances the extra activities were spaced throughout the vendors so everyone ended up wandering through our booths and shopping between events.

If you can’t attend the event ahead of time, try and track down a vendor that has sold there before and ask them about the event. Never underestimate the power of vendor to vendor reviews.

Ask The Organizer For Details

I always try and ask the event organizer for additional information about an event. Especially if I haven’t heard of the event or organizer before. Some of these questions will already be part of the info they provide when advertising the event. So you can pick and choose which questions fit your needs the best. This is just the list that I use before booking a show.

  • How many vendors will you have?
  • What kinds of vendors will you have?
  • Will you be spreading our types throughout the event?
  • Can I choose my booth space ahead of time?
  • How many years has this event occurred?
  • How many people, on average, attended in previous years?
  • What is the fee structure?
  • Where do my booth fees go?
  • Are tables or electricity provided?
  • Where can I park during set-up and take down? During the event?
  • Where will customers park?
  • What time is set-up? Take down?
  • Will there be helpers at the event?
  • How will you be marketing/promoting the event?
What To Ask The Event Organizer

If the organizer can’t, or won’t, answer your questions it is not automatically a red flag. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with any of their answers, or non-answers, then don’t book the event. Ultimately you are in charge of your business and you have the final say as to the acceptable risk level for your business ventures.

The Fee Structure

There are a few basic fee structures you should be aware of when you start researching events. Let’s take a quick look at the three most popular ones.

Flat Booth Space Fee

You’ll likely see this one the most. You pay a flat fee in advance of the event and you get a certain size space at the event. Once you’ve paid and filled out whatever paperwork the organizer asks for, you are ready to sell at the event. I’ve signed up for events as far as one year in advance and as late as the day of the event, although I am a lot less likely to wait until the last minute these days.

Percentage Of Sales

I am not a huge fan of this method because it can get quite expensive for me. Basically you pay a certain percentage of your sales to the event organizer at the end of the event. This can be done a couple of ways. The first being that there is a central check out location for the event. Each merchant will tag their items with an identifying tag and at the time of the sale, the tag is removed and set aside. At the end of the event, the organizer pay out each vendor minus their fee. The other method is that the vendor self reports their total sales and then pays the fee before they can leave.

I have seen this method being combined with a flat booth fee and/or a raffle item. Personally I do not sign up for events that use these multi fee structures because my margins are small. But I know several people who do and they do very well.

Raffle/Donation Item

Some events, especially the ones that are fundraisers, will require a raffle item as part of your booth fee. Generally the event organizer will tell you a minimum dollar amount that they require the item or basket of items to be worth. If you do an event that requires this make sure you include your information with the item. I like to do a small basket that has a few items with my tags on it and then include my brochures. You never know if the winner of the raffle item will become a customer, and you want to make a good impression. 

I do a significant number of fundraising themed events throughout the year. They have a set booth fee in addition to the raffle item, this is a pretty standard combo. Only one of my events during the year will have no booth fee and only a raffle item. These raffle/donation items add up over time, so remember to factor that cost into your overall cost for the event.

What If There Are Multiple Events On The Same Day?

Unless you are in a very small town, there are going to be multiple shows happening on the same day. In some cases there will be a craft show going on as well as another type of event or activity. And that is okay. Having another event drawing people out and about can help attendance at your craft show,. But only if the organizer is aware of the other event and plans accordingly. If your craft show cross promotes with another local event, both events can benefit.

If you are trying to decide between two different craft shows on the same day remember that a bigger event isn’t always better. I constantly pass up a rather large event in my town because my ideal client would not be there. Sure I’d get a few sales, but I probably would not make much more than the large booth fee back. And I may not recoup the cost of the raffle item I had to donate. Instead I go to a smaller event, and I do really well, because its at an elementary school, and my ideal customer is a parent of elementary aged kids. The cost is less and its a smaller more intimate show, but customers know that I will be there and they look for me.

Traveling For A Show

Inevitably you will find, or get invited to, the perfect show… only to discover that it is decently far away. Don’t panic, it can be a good thing to travel for a show. You can see new customers, meet new crafters, share your unique style, and spread your network further. You just need to plan a bit better for a long distance show. 

If you do book a show, make sure you properly account for the costs. Is it within driving distance or will you have to fly? Will you need to book a hotel or rent a car? What about your display pieces, can they travel, or do you need to find a local rental? Will your pieces travel well?

You should start booking your flights, hotel, car rental, and display rentals as far in advance as possible to help keep your costs down. Plan on arriving a day early so you have time to scope out the event area and make any last minute adjustments or repairs. Since you most likely do not have your full set-up with you, be prepared to be flexible in your booth set-up. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the other vendors for help. Trust me, they get it, they were once the new person or the person asking for help.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to book a show every single weekend, in fact I strongly do not recommend it. Take it from someone who has done 40 shows in a 4 month span, you need to rest between shows. Take the extra time to restock, rest, fulfill those custom orders, and properly advertise your next show. Customers will get tired of seeing you constantly post “come see me” and “craft show today”. They will quickly tune you out and by the time you’ve started posting about new products again they are long gone. 

If you have any additional questions about researching and choosing your ideal craft show, please feel free to leave a comment below. Up next we are going to talk about what you should keep in mind when booking an outdoor event.

Blog Posts In This Series

2 thoughts on “You Found A Craft Show, Now What?”

  1. Pingback: Indoor Show VS Outdoor Show - A Fox in the Fabric

  2. Pingback: Prepping For Your Craft Show - A Fox in the Fabric

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