Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Joining the Arts & Crafts Show Circuit

You’ve signed up, you’ve been accepted, and you are all set to sell at a craft show! Or are you? What do you have to do next?


The equipment includes items such as a tent (for outdoor shows), tables, chairs, standing racks, etc. First, ask what the venue will supply and what you must bring. Second of all, borrow, borrow, and borrow! The equipment you need for a fair can be very expensive so borrow if you can. Be creative! Your local church may loan you tables and chairs. Your Mom may have the perfect coat rack.

If you know that you will be doing many shows, here are a few tips on buying equipment.

· Purchase items at local wholesale clubs, such as Costco, if you have one in your area.
· Look at sporting goods stores. Their camping area usually has tents, chairs, etc.
· Purchase at the end of the season, if you can. A $200 tent with sides may become $60 when the season is done.
· Make sure all items are easy to assemble, fold up and pack away nicely.
· Invest in a good banner. Have it made or make it yourself. It should catch customer’s eyes, reflect your logo or branding, and be sturdy and weatherproof.


Here’s where your creativity should shine! Make your booth or table look fantastic and people will be attracted to your items.

Many venues require a table covering that reaches the floor. You can hide extra inventory under the tables. Use tablecloths, decent quality sheets, or fabric. Vintage drapery fabric makes great table coverings. Use pins and Velcro to make a tidy table covering. Adding a bright strip of fabric down the middle of your display can really brighten a simple (and cheap) white tablecloth. I use round placemats scattered on a white tablecloth, mimicking the circles of my logo.

Anything can be used for a display. I have used baskets, black metal tree sculptures, and funky wooden tiered baskets from Africa. If your items are extremely colorful, you may want to try all black for your display items. Vintage luggage makes a cool display for items (and an easy way to transport them, too). Break up your display visually by adding height and dimension. Fabric covered boxes and cake stands add height. Vintage bowls are interesting and keep small items tidy. Look at what you already have in your home and how it may be used for display. Scour flea markets and antique shops. Look at items for their display and hanging value. What can you create on your own? Your local garden shop or hardware store is a treasure trove of possibilities! Inexpensive clay pots or piping can be used in hundreds of ways.

Finally, place business cards, postcards, or other marketing materials in strategic places on your table. Also include a small notebook and pen for an email signup sheet.

Set up your display at home a few days before the show. Make sure it all works before you get there! Change items as needed. When you are satisfied, pack all the display items in a box or plastic tub. This makes set up so much easier on the day of the show.


I only have three golden rules for inventory. First, bring enough to make the day worthwhile. You don’t want to pay $100 booth fee and only bring $75 worth of inventory. Second, bring multiple price points. Different price points make your booth attractive to lots of customers and may mean more sales. Third, try your best to match inventory with the potential customers. For example, if it is a fair with ice cream and face painting, I may not bring many silk wraps.

Make sure that all items are priced. Many people are uncomfortable asking for prices. If you have many small items at the same price, a clearly written sign near those items is fine. Small blackboards are great for this.

Create an inventory sheet before you go. This helps you later when you reconcile cash with inventory, as well as helping at tax time. Storing inventory in clear plastic tubs is a great way to transport and store items. As you need to restock during the day, you can easily see what is in each box.

Other Things to Remember

Bring snacks and water!! Food at many venues can be very expensive and eat away at profits. Bring some with you. Extra water is especially important at outdoor summer fairs.

Bring a friend if you can. Everyone needs a bathroom break during the show times. If you must do it alone, become very good friends with your neighbors. The crafting community is very supportive and you can usually find someone to keep an eye on your booth or table.

Do not bring your pets. Outdoor fairs may seem like a great place to bring Fido for the day but they are not. Dogs make messes, need to be tended to and may scare away potential customers.

Don’t forget what I call the “magic box”. This contains all of those items that you may need in an emergency. Load with items like tape, scissors, band aids, etc.

Next time … the third and final installment – How to Create Your Own Show.

Written by Beth
Third Floor Designs


Becca said...

Great info Beth!! I actually have used white tablecloths then made my own smaller covers with fabric in funky colors to cover the white. One thing I saw at another booth that was cool was chinese lanterns hanging from the "rafters" inside the tent :)

Beth said...


I love the chinese lanterns! Great idea!