I have attended quite a few craft fairs over the years not only with China Petals but with previous businesses too and have learnt many things along the way. If you are new to craft fairs there is a lot to think about it's hard to know where to start. Apart from making sure you have made enough stock what else do you need?
Here are a few things that I believe should be in a crafters craft fair tool kit
1. A table cloth. At most craft fairs you will be given a 6ft x 2ft table but not always a cloth to cover it with. I like to use a table cloth that will reach the floor at the front. This way I can hide boxes under the table and everything looks tidy. The cloth you will need will be much larger than a standard table cloth so if you are going to buy I suggest a length of material that doesn't crease when folded. Crushed velvet fabric in a mid to dark colour in extra wide (150cm) and at least 8ft long is great. It doesn't crease like cotton and the darker colour can hide little marks which can develop over the day when people are handling things on your stall. You can use this material either way up depending on the look you are going for. Table clips, like you use for outdoor table cloths, help to make sure the cloth is secure at the back and prevents it slipping forward during the day. At the end of the day the cloth folds away quite small ready for next time.
2. Change and money tin. You've made your first sale, hurrah. The item was priced at £5 and they want to pay with a £20 note, oh. Do you have enough change and money in your float to give back the difference? What happens if the next person comes along and also has only a £20 note? If your lowest item is priced at £6 you will need lots of £1 coins in your float to give back change for £10 or £20 notes. If you have priced your items ending at 49p and 99p you will need lots of 1ps and small coins to give change back. I favour round pounds at craft fairs as it makes things easier. The more craft events you do the more you will be aware of your prices and what float you will need but a couple of £10 notes, £20 of £5 notes and 10 £1 coins work well for me. It all depends on the prices of your items, if you have lower prices you may not need a big float. Always keep your float in a lockable tin, small enough to put in a bag when setting up and taking down and so it doesn’t take up too much room behind your stall as space is always tight.
3. Wrapping materials. Someone has bought something from your stall, hurrah! What is it and does it need wrapping or placing in a bag so they can carry it away. My objects can be quite delicate so I like to wrap them in a couple of sheets of tissue paper, pre-cut to size before the event, and secured with one of my logo stickers. I often place a business card inside too as you never know the purchaser may want to look you up when they get home. I like to use tissue that co-ordinates with my brand colours to make everything look nice and professional. I always ask if they would like a bag as many people nowadays carry their own and we all need to do our little bit to help the environment. The bags I use are generally brown or white paper kraft bags with handles bought from the supermarket and are often advertised as sandwich bags. These are ideal for me and I always place a logo sticker or use my logo stamp on the bag to keep with my brand.
4. Leaflets and Information. If you are trying to build a business and reputation having some extra information about what you do, the services you offer and how you can be found is essential. I talk to many people at fairs about what I do and about my workshops. It’s great to be able to give them some information to take away so they remember me. When first starting out you can print these yourself but if you start doing a few fairs it maybe worth getting some professionally printed to save on printer ink and paper.
5. Spare chair. Most venues will provide tables but lots only provide 1 chair per table or sometimes no chairs or even tables! If you have a spare chair take it with you, a directors chair with an attached side table is ideal. Standing up all day can be so tiring so being able to sit down every now and again can be very welcoming. I am a great believer that you shouldn’t sit behind your stall when engaging with the public. Stand up and look active, smile and say hello. If you create something different chat about your making process, lots of people are fascinated at how things are made and it helps give value to what you do.
6. Wheels. (Trolly wheels not a getaway car) Not necessarily an essential when first starting out but the more fairs you do the more handy they will be. Moving your stock and essentials from your car to inside the venue is hard work. I have a small, collapsible trolley which I can stack 3 or 4 of my boxes on. Using my wheels I can save myself at least 2 trips back to the car and after a long day this is so welcome.
7. Price tickets. Obvious I know but so easily forgotten. How do you tell people how much things cost? Do you use stickers, string labels or little bits of card next to the item? I have created my own little swing tickets. On one side I have my website address www.chinapetals.co.uk and the other side is blank for the price to be written on. I punch a hole at one end and I thread some thin string through so I can attach it to the object. If I have something that I can’t attach the price ticket to with a string I just stick the string to the back of the object with so low tack sticky tape so it doesn’t damage the object. I often leave the price ticket on the item when wrapping as a bit of extra promotion.
8. Card Payment Machine. These have changed so much since I started out and are now very small and handy and are fast becoming a craft event essential especially if you are planning to do fairs on a regular basis. Hunt for the best deals on the internet. Some are offered free of charge but you pay a little more on the % commission and others you pay for the terminal and the % fees are less but it is worth doing your research. For me my iZettle has become an essential tool for craft events. For impulse purchases it is lovely to be able to say ‘I take card payments’. It can often be the decision maker for the customer and lead to a sale and sometimes the customer will buy more than one object because they know they don’t have to spend all their cash at once. A down side can be when the event doesn’t have internet connection or a terrible phone signal but, fingers crossed, I’ve always managed to get it to work.
9. Food and Drink , especially if you are on your own. You need to keep your energy levels up and you may not be able to move away from your stall for too long to get food. Stallholders are generally happy to keep an eye on each others stalls to enable people to go to the loo and grab something to eat. Taking a flask, bottle of water and some snacks just in case is a wise move. Take snacks with you that you can pick at as you never know when you need to stop eating and start talking to a potential customer and try not to take smelly food as this may not go down to well with people looking at your stall or your fellow stallholders.
10. Display. You’ve created all your beautiful work, you have a 6ft long table and a table cloth but how do you display? Will your objects look good just laid flat on the table or do they need to be seen standing up? Height on a stall is always good at it helps the public see things without having to bend down. How do you get height on your stall? Lots of stall holders use crates stacked on top of each other to get height and interest into their stall. They are also good for framing feature items too. Menu boards which come on little stands are good too for small hanging objects. Maybe a small bookcase or cabinet, display ladders the choice is endless. Have a look at other stall holders to see what they do, they have some brilliant ideas. Pinterest and Google are good for ideas and inspiration, I have a dedicated China Petals Pinterest board where I share pictures of great ideas I've seen. Your display will develop over time as you refine your brand and style I must admit this is something that I am still trying to get right. What ever you do please practice your set up at home first. This way you will know if things are stable and look good. I hate to be a bore but health and safety needs to be considered too, it no good having a tower of crates if one small knock of your table sends them tumbling down.
11. Order Book. Someone really likes your stuff and would like that object in blue not green can you do it? Yes of course you can, great and you turn to your order book. This doesn’t have to be a book it could be a printed A4 sheet to start with but you will need to be able to duplicate all the information so you and your client both have a copy of the agreement. Take details from the customer such as name, address contact number/email address. You need to state what it is you are doing for the customer, the price plus any postage costs. You need to give an estimate of how long it will be before they can expect their commissioned piece. You should also include your contact details and your terms and conditions on the order confirmation in case they need to get in touch with you (you could staple a business card to the sheet). I would always, as a rule, take payment for any requested work at the time of taking the order, especially if it a personalised piece.
12. Lighting. Not necessarily an essential when starting out but it is something I have added to my craft fair box. Some venues, especially in winter can get rather dark and it is hard for the public to see what is for sale. I was next to a jewellery stall at an event last year and she had some wonderful LED lights that clipped to her display and lit up her jewellery. On chatting to her she showed me that the light clips were very versatile and were powered through a USB connection into a battery pack and not into an in electric cable. Quite often at events you have to pay extra for electric and also have to have all electrical items PAT tested. Using the USB lights and a battery pack she didn’t need to do this. The lights cost about £5 each and the battery pack (the size of a mobile phone) about £15. It was a real eye opener and can make a huge difference to a display.
Craft fairs are an important and integral part of my business. They give me a window to engage with people who otherwise would not see my creations. They are hard work but good fun and I love meeting the public and other stall holders finding out about their crafting journeys. Over the years I have learnt which fairs work well for me and which don’t and which I would really like to get into. I already have some big fairs coming up this year (Haddon Hall coming up in April and Patchings Arts Festival in July) and I have booked a few Christmas ones already.
Thank you for reading this blog post, I would love to hear your experiences and any hints and tips you would like to share.