11 Mar 2009

Craft Market Hints and Tips

Are you going to be attending any craft markets or festivals this year to sell your gorgeous handmade goodies? If you are and it's your first time of doing it, you can get a little bit daunted about it and panic that you won't have enough stock or you'll forget to bring all the things you could need. Don't worry. You're not alone in feeling that way. At the beginning of festival season I feel exactly the same way. I wonder where I put my banner and if I need to replace it. I sort through boxes of goods and try to remember where I put the hat stand after last years final craft market. So today I thought I'd write myself out a check list of things needed to be taken and write out a few hints and tips I've picked up along the way to share with you.

This is us creating a buzz about our stall by teaching people to hula hoop outside the stall

The first tip is fore-warned is fore-armed. By this I mean that if you contact the organisers of the event you will be selling at and ask them what the venue is like, what will be provided by them and what you are and are not allowed to sell at the event. The more information you have in advance the better prepared you can be. It is terrible to turn up to an event that is miles away from home only to find that they won't be providing you with a table and you haven't brought one with you. Ask if there will be internet access, so that you can use a laptop to allow people to pay via paypal.

Ask what other stalls will be there. If you make and sell a range of goods it is always wise to try and bring more of something that no one else is selling that have a stall full of pretty much the same as the person next to you has. Diversity of types of stalls is what the buyers want to see and it will make them look more closely at each stall than a whole row of stalls selling the same things.

Research who will be at the event to make sure the goods you are taking with you are ones that will appeal to the target audience. It is pointless turning up to an event, that will mainly be attended by nuns, with a stall packed with naughty underwear and corsets. Tailor your goods to the potential customers. Take a few of your other items along as well, because you can never be certain who will turn up, but in the main stick with the goods aimed at the majority rather than the minority.

Be ready and prepared. Do a few trial runs of setting out your stall if it is your first ever market. This will help you to work out how to lay out your table/stall to be appealing, you will get a good idea of all the things you need to take with you and it will remind you of things you have forgotten to get, such as a banner or display units. Once you have done this, make a check list of all the things you used. Get large clear plastic storage boxes to put all your stock in. It is easier than cardboard boxes as you can see what's in each of them without having to rummage. Have a separate box for all the rest of your things, like your table cloth and display units. Be organised. When I first started out, I had a laminated check list. I kept it in a file with all the other paperwork needed to run a stall and before I left the house I would go through it and tick off everything as it was loaded into the van. I do it from memory now, but it really helped at the beginning.

Attempt to be one of the first people to arrive at the venue. This will give you a chance to scope out the event and if stalls are not already allocated in advance you will be able to snaffle up one that is a prime position, before anyone else shows up. Position can be everything in a craft fair. Try not to end up being the stall that is squeezed in at the back corner because you arrived late.

So what are the small things people regularly forget to take with them to craft markets?

Receipt book - Yes some people do want a receipt at craft fairs.
Pens and an order pad - people will ask "Can you make me that in a different colour and will you email me when it is ready?"
Business cards, compliment slips and flyers for your next event - Put one in every bag of goods you sell and hand one to anyone that browses your stall.
Scissors - they are the one thing I get most asked to borrow by other stall holders.
Duct/gaffa tape - When something breaks heavy duty gaffa/duct tape are your friend. From tent poles and table legs to putting up banners. You may need it so take it.
Money pockets/safety box - You need somewhere to store all that lovely money people will hand over to become the own your beautiful goods. Have somewhere safe to keep it. I like money pockets best because you can keep them with you at all times.
Change - Remeber to take plenty of small coins so you can give change, or round all your prices up to bank note sized figures.
Table cloth and display units - Without these your display is going to look a bit more like a jumble sale than a high quality craft market stall.
String and pegs - Pegging a table cloth to the table at a market where the wind has picket up can save you a lot of grief. String comes in handy to attach banners to poles, or to attach your gazebo to something that is not going to fly away. Tent pegs can also be helpful if you are outdoors.
Mirror - if you sell clothing or jewellery you need to take a mirror with you so customers can see what the items look like on them.
A large bottle of water/flask of tea and snack foods - Being trapped on a stall with nothing to eat or drink can be a big pain. Take food and drink that isn't sticky or messy. There is nothing worse than spilling a fizzy drink and having a swarm of wasps hanging around your stall for the rest of the day.
Price tickets - Clear and easy to read price tickets are a good idea. It helps shy customers as they don't feel they have to chat to you to find anything out. They can just pick an item out and pay.
Bags, tissue paper and gift wrap - Offering a gift wrapping service can make you a little added money. I suggest using paper bags rather than plastic, or if you sell small items maybe make up a few small fabric tote bags with your shop name and web address printed or embroidered on the side. It will make them stand out in the crowds and may bring you more customers.
Tools of your trade - If you can take them with you, you can work in the slacker times of the day. I've found knitting and crocheting on the stall attracts people to see what you are doing. If you are a blacksmith or someone that uses large tools in their work you might find this harder to do, but sometimes it's not impossible.
Refuse bin - a small rubbish/trash bin to put waste in.

I'm sure there are many more but my brain has fogged over now. If you think of something leave a message in the feedback and I'll add it to the list later.

My last tip is dress appropriately to the situation you will be in. If it is a cold day and you will be outside put on lots of layers and always take extra clothing to put on. If you end up sitting still for a long time you will get colder than you could ever imagine was possible. If it is summer remember to put on sunscreen, even if it is a cloudy day and re-apply it through out the day. It is very easy to get sunburned without realising it when you are working on a stall. A hat is a good idea too if you do not have any shade to stand/sit in. If your stall has a theme, as mine does, it can be fun to dress up and become a character for the day. I become Captain Skulduggery Dug. It just makes your stall more fun and gives customers a starting line to open up a conversation with you. Yes, by the end of the day you will probably be sick about talking about why you are dressed the way you are and some of the silly comments people make, but remember it has opened up a conversation with a potential customer and gives you something to build on.

The most important thing you must wear all day is a SMILE! Always smile at everyone that approaches your stall and say hello. Break the ice so they feel you are approachable.

Good luck and have fun. Make friends with your fellow stall holders and help each other out. You'll have a fabulous and hopefully profitable day!

Written by Lynne of Hyperloop Hoops and PiratePixieCrew


  1. How true is the duct tape!! I take it (nearly) everywhere with me, people think I am mad until something breaks or needs sticking up. Never underestimate the power of the tape ;)

  2. Sorry that was me commenting!! Nic

  3. If you can bring a laptop, with internet connection.. Maybe you can accept paypal...

  4. Dj, that's a great tip. That's another thing to ask the venue, is there wireless internet available.

  5. I use ProPay at my markets and it works great - much less expensive than PayPal's virtual terminal - although I am not sure international sellers (outisde US) can use ProPay.

    here is the link and I think they still offer etsy sellers a deal:


  6. Great tips, and so many things I hadn't thought of to take!

  7. great article. Thanks for the tips.

  8. I couldn't agree with the scissors part more! It's always the thing that people ask me to borrow too! At a show in the fall I lent my scissors out and that lady happend to be organizing a spring show, invite only, and asked us to attend. You just never know!

  9. Very nice tips...I am going to my first Craft Show on April 24th...thanks!

  10. Great tips! Always have extra price tags and index cards (or the like) for pricing items you forgot to price, or signs you may want to make up...etc.

    Bring extra pens

    Bring paper/notebook to jot down ideas or suggestions from customers or other vendors

  11. Getting ready to do my first show of the year-Springfest in Gulfport, a small art town on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Fl., April 11th. I take everything but the kitchen sink! Thanks for the great tips! I will be checking into payment sources listed here, as I get asked all the time about taking charge cards!

  12. Thanks for the advice/tips Lynne - I like this one "if you sell small items maybe make up a few small fabric tote bags with your shop name and web address printed or embroidered on the side. It will make them stand out in the crowds and may bring you more customers"!!

  13. It never occured to be to bring a laptop for letting people make a payment thru PayPal! That is a fantastic idea!

  14. Great advice! Thanks, I've been gradually learning the craft fair ropes the last 6 months.

  15. Thanks for posting this. I have my very first show on April 4th so any advice/info is great to find. I bookmarked this so I can reference it later. :-)

  16. Great tips, that lap top idea was a top suggestion. Thanks

  17. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions! My first art fair won't be until June, but you've already got me planning ahead :-)

  18. This is a GREAT article. I'm about to do a Weekly Farmer's Market for the first time and am quite nervous, so thank you for these tips.

  19. Brilliant advice, thanks for sharing your experiences. Love the list - think I'll be printing that out myself!

  20. paper towels! don't forget the paper towels!

  21. I don't seem to do any fairs with internet connection but a laptop is on my dream list.

    My 'must have' are wet wipes and hazard tape. I don't travel light, I have loads of massive boxes with my expensive stands inside but bought same make boxes that stack on top of for storage, and one in a different colour to the rest so I can find the one with the cash, toolbox, vital stuff in a hurry. My boxes are big enough to make more display space if any magically becomes available. My tip: make friends with the organiser; if there are any bonuses to be had, extra space usually, you're more likely to get it. I've been known to get 10' instead of 6' because they knew I could fill it adequately and am supportive of them.

  22. Great advice! I'm thinking of doing my first craft fair this year (yikes!) These tips will definitely help me plan and be prepared. thanks :)

  23. Good luck to all of you thinking of doing some craft fairs this year. It really isn't as scary or difficult as it can feel like to jump in and do your first one. Just be a bit organised and you'll be fine.If you do forget to take something with you, don't panic. Most other stall holders will have "been there, done that" and be only to happy to lend you a helping hand.

    Don't forget to smile :D

  24. Thank you! What a fantastic guide, I would love t link this to the Blog of an event I am organising, hope that would be o.k? And if you fancy coming along........;0)

  25. Try to hold stock at different price points to cater for a variety of customers. Always have greetings or postcards for sale with your website details for later sales, commissions or workshop bookings. You are effectively asking people to pay for a business card.


  26. starjumpfelting9 April 2009 at 20:20

    Great list, and very helpful! I'd just add a contact book for people to put their contact drails in, then you can let thme know when you're next doing a market and when you list new stuff on Folksy.

  27. Thanks! I'm doing my first fair on Sunday - bit nervous, and i don't know anyone else that does them either, so can't ask for advice. This is great help, wish me luck!


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