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Craft Fairs

(13 Posts)
AuntDotsie Mon 12-Sep-16 15:41:24

I've done a few in my time, with various types of product. I've never made any kind of real money at them, find them demoralising and a huge waste of time, effort and money.

Just for a bit of context, I once spent £70 renting space in a 3-day fair, pre-Xmas, in a very posh venue. I'd spent hours and hours making lovely candles in hampers, organic, soy yadda yadda. I sat and watched for 3 days as every single person in there walked past me and the woman across the way with a machine for embroidering dogs onto towels made an absolute fortune.

My friend is now setting up a business, both online and at fairs, with a view to opening a real bricks and mortar shop in the near future. I've given her some of my pieces as stock, sale or return, so have a little bit of a stake in her success. She's having the same kind of experience as I had at fairs and I'm struggling not to colour her experience with my attitude (which is, basically, sack them off).

So has anyone ever had a fab time selling at a craft fair or similar? Made heaps of cash, networked like a good 'un, handed out a rainforest's worth of business cards and gained hordes of Instagram followers? I mean, someone must do, right? Otherwise why would anyone bother? And if so, what's your secret(s)?

VioletBam Tue 13-Sep-16 12:10:10

Well I honestly think that it's candles that are your problem.

People love a candle but in my experience they prefer well known brands which they know will smell beautiful.

If yours were expensive, then it's one luxury item where people won't want to take a risk.

I've had success with children's toys and clothing and nursery decor.

AuntDotsie Tue 13-Sep-16 13:27:48

I've tried it with candles, bags, clothes and toys. Currently it's jewellery my friend is doing, plus some other giftware type stuff.

I've given up on selling almost entirely, I just make stuff for me and family/friends, but I do put surplus bits on Etsy just in case someone else wants it. I'm lucky enough that I'm not reliant on craft for income, but my friend is trying to be.

I don't think there's a massive market for handmade things with a price tag that pays the maker a fair wage, but I may be wrong. All I see is a bunch of imported stuff from China, piled high and sold cheap. Or embroidered dog towels, of course.

So I'm really just after any positive experiences and hints and tips, I guess.

VioletBam Tue 13-Sep-16 13:31:43

I think it really depends on the fair and also on the quality of the goods on sale.

delilahbucket Tue 27-Sep-16 08:31:28

I sell home decor products and have been in business for five years (plus another six years in retail management), so consider myself experienced. I did a fair last Christmas that went fantastically well. It was a late afternoon fair combined with other festive things going on in the village. The table only cost me £10.
I did another fair in July. The table cost £30. There was a distinct lack of footfall to make much. I took enough to cover my fee, but once time and stock was deducted I made a massive loss. I would have been better spending that time in my studio.
I think the best thing to do is visit a fair before selling at it. Christmas ones are best I think. I'm booked in for another this year. I won't do any mod year ones again though unless they're big ones with lots of publicity. Etsy do local fairs but getting a table is so difficult. I was turned down again and I don't know why. I'm well established on Etsy with excellent feedback and I sell a lot.

PollyPerky Fri 30-Sep-16 08:02:08

I'm just dipping my toe in the craft thing, more as a hobby but may try some local fairs. Have you ventured into the world of school fairs- Christmas ones? Cheap to rent a stall.

I think you hit the nail on the head with your own musings; people will buy cheaper tat from China unless you are offering something really different.

Candles are as cheap as chips now, so you have to ask why anyone would pay a fiver for yours instead of £1 at Wilko. Or they go to the other end of the scale and spend £50 on a Jo Malone one. Aiming in the middle is not going to work.

My own feeling is that presentation has to be spot-on; something beautifully wrapped has more appeal as a gift.

FiveGoMadInDorset Fri 30-Sep-16 08:05:42

I make and sell candles and have done craft fairs over the past few months and it really depends on the fair, I also rent space in two warehouses which has been going really well. To be honest with jewellery the craft fair market has reached saturation point as some I have been to half the stalls have been jewellery

pickledparsnip Fri 30-Sep-16 08:10:19

It's tricky. I've been making and selling things for the past few years. Recently did a prestigious county fair which cost rather a lot. I didn't make much money, but contacts wise it was brilliant.

I think it all depends on what type of fair it is, where it is. There really is no way of knowing for sure.

I had planned to do it full time, but I wasn't making enough, so also have a "proper" job.

pickledparsnip Fri 30-Sep-16 08:11:09

That being said, a friend of mine has been doing it for 10 plus years. Said she didn't make any money for the first few years.

AuntDotsie Fri 14-Oct-16 09:25:41

Sorry, this thread dropped off my list!

So the people saying it depends on the fair - what do you look for in a good fair, then? Footfall, demographics, location, price, date?

For instance - we had tickets to go to The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair link last weekend but couldn't go due to bastard norovirus. So we sent my friend's parents instead and they spent hundreds, apparently. I had a look and a table there costs between £400 and £500. Wow! So do you have to speculate to accumulate?

My friend has been doing craft fairs in car parks and garden centres so far. I've done them (years ago now) in student centres, manor houses and community centres, mainly at Christmas.

Also, if you sell on Etsy, how do you promote your shop? I do Craft Hour/Buzz and whatnot but all it does is get me a few looks and likes, it doesn't translate into sales (so far). But I'm not trying all that hard at the moment, to be fair. I'm far more into exploring my new medium grin

The people I see doing well who work with my medium have made a name for themselves with innovative techniques and materials, which they also sell. I wonder whether the teaching is in fact the more lucrative side of their business, not the products themselves.

YouCrazyDiamond Wed 02-Nov-16 17:34:25

I'd love to know the secret formula to Craft Fairs, but I suspect there isn't one really.

Having said that I've only done one, which was quite successful, but I found it incredibly stressful, and think I might just be too introverted for it. Also I make jewellery which is woefully over represented at any fairs I've visited.

I've sold on Etsy for two years now, and also do Craft Hour, so our paths might well have crossed wink although I haven't been around much due to school holidays and I'm spending my time developing a new project.

I use social media, although admittedly a little haphazardly as I struggle to fit everything in to the week hmmgrin

I do intense bursts from time to time where I try to do all the craft hours in the week, I can't keep up the momentum though and promotion makes me feel very awkward.

I do donate items to the Woolly Hugs craft sales as it's the only way I can support those lovely women, barely knowing one end of a knitting needle from another grin and while I obviously don't do it for promotional purposes I was thrilled to get a sale directly as a result.

NickyEds Wed 02-Nov-16 17:53:54

I used to do well at craft fairs. I started about 10 years ago and gave it up when I had ds almost 3 years ago. By the time I gave it up it was becoming less profitable and I made lots more selling in a shop. I used to do best at city/town centre fairs that were close to shopping areas as generally the people passing through were shopping rather than having a day out and a cup of tea. School fairs were rubbish- parents there under duress and over excited kids who are just given £2 to spend and always spend it on tombola and sweets! I think part of the problem was that there was less money about generally so some stall holders didn't do so well, some of the better ones sold stuff elsewhere, the event organisers struggled to find quality sellers but still had to make money so became less picky, the product quality went down so people spent less money....and so it went on. When I started it was quite competitive to get a stall- you had to show nice photos of your work, everything handmade, no duplicate stalls, decent insurance, etc- by the time I finished you needed stall fees.

Everything must be beautifully presented. People don't want things to look homemade, they want it to look like it comes from a very exclusive shop.....but cheaper.

JoffreyBaratheon Wed 02-Nov-16 20:19:35

We've started doing wool/yarn/fibre shows this past year. Mainly demo but also selling, and have felt that although we didn't have a great deal to sell (mainly things like wool, knitting stitch markers, a bit of vintage haberdashery) we've done pretty well. It could be because we've done living history for many years and are used to dealing with the public. Not sure.

We have to strike a hard balance between being 'educational' - demoing various crafts - and enough retail to cover expenses, etc and the past few months started to really seem to hit the right groove.

Part of it is probably in the stall itself - make it unique, interesting, things at different heights (everything flat on a table and people tend to walk right past). Was a huge learning curve and every show we're still on it, but we feel we're making headway.

Everyone we talk to - many have been doing shows for years - says they have good weekends and bad ones. And ones where they sell so little or nothing that they want to give up. Then others that go ridiculously well. There seems no law to it.

We've had items that we thought would sell at Show A, only to find not a single one shifted then a fortnight later, different place - sold out. And can never seem to predict what t is that will sell. But some good advice I was given is - if you make something and it goes down really well, keep making that thing - specialise in that thing - and go for it.

We do have a bit of diverse stock, for that reason - as this year felt we were just putting our toes in the water and didn't know what might go. And we have already been able to see where the more popular things are. What has sold and what hasn't has often really shocked us.

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