Craft Show Vending – What I Learned

Most of you know I set up a table at one of our local craft shows a couple weeks ago. I had been considering the idea for a while and was fortunate enough to secure a spot in one of the largest shows in our area. But I was a bit late to the party, and only had four weeks to prepare.

My plan was to use this show as a experiment of sorts. I wanted to see what interested the  people who attended these types of events. The questions I wanted answers to were:

  • Would there be an interest in larger (more expensive) quilts?
  • Would kits sell to creative and crafty people? Same question for my quilt patterns.
  • Everyone seems to like baby themed items; could I sell baby quilts in a show like this?
  • Do quilted items attract attention?
  • Could I get my name ‘out there’ as someone who would quilt an already finished top for others?

With these questions in mind, I was ready to set up.

MY TABLE / SPACE

The venue is an elementary school. Vendors are given space in the cafeteria, gymnasium, and in the hallways. Normal space size is 8′ x 6′. Hallway spaces are 15′ x 3′. I was assigned a hallway space. We were required to bring our own tables, chairs, and any other set up items we might need. I used a 6′ long folding table and quilt displays.

Working with a three foot deep space was a bit of a challenge and was uncomfortable for me at first. There wasn’t room for me to be behind the table and use it as a barrier (the shyness in me coming out). I was forced to be beside my table. However, this allowed me to really interact with the people who were stopping by, and I had some great conversations.

My hubby made a couple free-standing quilt displays. He used PVC pipe which was light and easy for me to transport and put together. They were very rough, but with his work schedule and the short time frame we were a bit rushed. However, they worked perfectly.

The downside to the narrow hallway space was just that – the halls are narrow. Lines of people were moving up one way and down the other and it got pretty crowded at times. When there were several people in the moving line, it was difficult for someone to stop and look because they were holding up the flow of traffic.

ITEMS FOR SALE

I took most of the larger quilts I have, making sure I had a sample quilt for each of my patterns. I hung the quilts on the display racks, and pinned a pattern to them. In addition to the large quilts, my table held:

  • Casserole size hot pads (see tutorial here)
  • (3) pre-cut kits for the casserole hot pads with printed instructions
  • Printed copies of my patterns
  • Zipper pouches – large and small
  • Hexagon shaped coaster sets
  • Table runners
  • Baby/Lap quilts
  • A flyer and informational packet on my quilting services
  • Business cards
  • Wall hangings
  • One set of flannel burp cloths, tied with a cute ribbon (I really wanted to make more of these, but totally ran out of time)

MY DAY

First, those burp cloths sold before the show even started – to one of the other vendors. Seriously, who can resist cuddly flannel, cute prints, and a pretty ribbon?

I displayed the hot pads with a casserole dish sitting on one, and a sign that explained what it was, what it was made of (the Insul-brite to protect from heat), and the price. It seemed that people just didn’t understand what they were. I only sold a few and I really expected them to be a popular item. I don’t know what else I could have done to make that display better – maybe the flyer needs to be more self-explanatory… I still think they are a good item to have in the kitchen and would try again with them if I do another show.

Only two people looked at the kits. I knew that it was an iffy thing to have because fabric choice is so personal. But now I can say I tried. I don’t know if I would do those again, it would depend on the area the show was being held in.

There also wasn’t much interest in my patterns, and I’ve been giving that a lot of thought. Part of me thinks the patterns, kits, and maybe some precut fabrics need to be on a table separate from finished items. I feel like using only one table kept things jumbled up a bit, and didn’t pull people in like it may have if those items were easier to spot when approaching the table.  Another part of me wonders if a craft show just isn’t the right venue, maybe a quilt show is the better place to highlight those types of items.

The table runners were popular, and I received a few orders for ones made with different fabrics than what I had on display. I was happy to accommodate the requests and finished those runners last week. They have been delivered and well received. If I do this again, I will display the runners in a way that makes them easier to see and browse through. I talked to one vendor who recommended hanging them on hangers, which I thought was a great idea.

Part way through the day I sent a pic of my table to my sister. She told me it was too organized and needed to be messed up a bit. The OCD part of me came out and I was like “what??” But I took her advice and unfolded all the lap/baby quilts and just piled them on the back corner of the table. The change was immediate. People looked through all of them – they weren’t afraid they would mess them up. It was good advice, and I sold a quilt because of it. 🙂

The zipper pouches and coasters didn’t sell well. I wasn’t surprised about the coasters. They use so much fabric and need to be priced pretty high to make any money. But the pouches did surprise me a bit. Maybe they will do better at a different show.

The most interesting part of my day was talking to people about the actual quilting. Remember the tree wall hanging with the swirl quilting in the background?

Swirl quilting free motion quiltingI was amazed at how many people thought a) this was done by a computerized machine, or b) I bought the fabric pre-quilted. Once I explained that it was free-handed by me at a sit-down machine, I could see their appreciation for the work involved. Apparently one woman wasn’t one hundred percent sure I was telling the truth – she came back to the table to talk to me about it a second time! 🙂

I talked to several people about quilting for them, and gave out my information and business cards. A couple of the ladies sounded pretty serious, and hopefully that will turn into commissions after Christmas.

Overall, I am very pleased with the day. I learned a lot about how I want to display items at another show, and about interacting with people. I think now, even if I had the option to be behind a table, that I wouldn’t be. It was much better to mingle and talk.

I also discovered I love talking to people about quilting. It was so fun to explain the process and see their reactions. Maybe there are a few new quilters out there today because of our conversations at the show.

I have time to decide if I would like to do a craft show again. Time will tell if the connections I made turn into business.

Have you ever set up a booth at a fair, festival, or craft show? If so, what has been your experience?

I’ll be linking with Lorna at her Let’s Be Social party. Be sure to check out the other participants there!

 

 

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About Beth

I’m a wife, mother of two, and lover of all things crafty. I love to cook up new things in the kitchen and in my craft room, and sometimes get “licking the spoon” mixed up with “licking the fabric”!!

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13 Responses to Craft Show Vending – What I Learned

  1. Jasmine says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Many people tell me I should make stuff to sell, but I have always wondered if people would even be willing to pay enough to make it worth my time.

  2. Kate says:

    What a great undertaking. Sounds like you learned a lot about the process.

  3. I’m planning on doing one this next summer – so this was great advice – thanks for sharing

  4. Diane says:

    My friend and I did craft shows for several years. What sells one year may not do as well the next. Lower priced items seem to sell best. We always received compliments on our products but larger priced items were a harder sell. We felt our pricing was in line with what we were selling but perhaps the economy at the time played a part in what people were willing to spend. Our business cards were on the table available for people to take which did prove to be beneficial. Wishing you the best in future shows.

  5. Great tip about keeping things too neat; that never would have dawned on me, either! I think having a “show special discount” gets people’s interest – many people at Quilt Festival wanted to know if there was a show special in the Quilter’s Planner booth (but for low price point like the Quilt Theory postcards, that was never a topic). Thank you for sharing so many details of your experience!

  6. Thanks for sharing that. It was interesting to read. I’ve thought about doing this but never taken the plunge. It is great you had some success.

  7. I’ve just about given up having sales tables at school fairs and the like. I quite understand that people go to those events with limited amounts of money that they want to spread between stalls (and children) and I don’t find it possible to make patchwork quilted items in the right price range. Most success I’ve had selling larger items is having space in a shopping centre pop up craft shop. The current one does not require rent but 20% of all sales and each crafter giving 2 or 3 hours a week as shop assistant. As well as selling one or two items a week I do occasionally have queries re. commissions. I wonder if you would have more success selling patterns online? It is easy to set up an Etsy shop and link it to your blog.

  8. Mary D says:

    I have done several craft booths/vendor shows. You just never know what will be hot that day. I find that baby items and totes do very well. I have learned to bring some gift bags ($1 store) and tissue paper with me when I bring baby blankets/burp cloths to package them up for gift giving. I usually offer this service for $2.00.

    Have some lower priced stuff in your booth for the bargain shoppers, I set up displays to attract attention. I have invested in inexpensive wicker baskets to display potholders or whatever small items I was selling. I have also made up table runners & potholder sets and displayed these in the wicker baskets. Americana fabrics have sold well.

    Perhaps for the quilts next time around bring a couple & make minis for show and to sell. Try putting a mini or two in a picture for display & to sell. Sometimes the shoppers like to see new ideas. Let them know you have larger quilt versions available. Consider making simple tote bags in great prints. I like to offer these for sell to the customers to shop with or to include my sold merchandise in.

    Have fun at your next craft fair, Be sure to have some inexpensive items to sell. Ones that you can make a good profit on. Make yourself accessible to the crowd to chat. Shoppers love that. I carry bright pieces of fabric (about 2 yards each) with me to use as a table covering to make my space look interesting. These coverings also allow me to keep items I need & use under the table without being seen by the shoppers. Take bags with you to put customer purchases in.

    I keep a small wheeled suitcase that I have all of my craft venue supply stuff in such as table covers, displays, bags. I keep it packed for whenever I have an opportunity to go to a venue.

    I look forward to hearing your next craft show venue renderings.

    tushay3 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  9. Karen Goad says:

    I didn’t do a craft booth but helped my sister in law (an author) to sell her books at a craft show where local authors were included to sell. We set up the table and put ribbon around the 3 books she has written as a gift set and set individual books out as well to be sold separately – individual books were 10 each – the sets of 3 for 25 sold more – was it stacked with a ribbon that did it or the 5 dollars off – we didn’t know but several people said they were buying as gifts to readers in the family

  10. I usually did the best with seasonal items and gift sets of related items. The very best I ever did at a craft show was with Christmas wreaths. Low price points did better than higher, and I would do a show special, people love to get a bargain. Priced appropriately, with 10-15% off advertised really kick started sales on larger items like placemat and napkin sets. I put little items in bins in a jumble. Your sister is right, people do not want to mess up a display, but will dig into a bin in a heartbeat.

  11. Jen R says:

    I have done a couple of craft shows and really, you never know what will sell that day. One year something will sell like crazy and the next year, nothing. You just have to make sure not to get discouraged early on. I think the best sellers are “gift packages”. My grandma always sold tons of those that she made with matching dish towel, hot pad, scrubby sets and things like that. And things for kids too.

  12. yanicka says:

    I never did any craft show but next year I will have a booth at Toronto quilt exposition…….I am excited and scared out of my mind at the same time lol

  13. This post is just what I needed to read, Beth, thanks! I’ve been invited to a craft fair next year, and I’ve been pondering much of what you touched on in your post. I’m honestly undecided as to whether I’ll do it, since I usually just make quilts by request. At least I have a year to get some things prepared if I decide to be a part of it!

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