Thursday, 21 January 2016

Planning for Craft Fairs

I know it is January and Christmas seems like a lifetime away but it is never too early to start prepping for Craft Fairs. There are a great variety of fairs nowadays and some can be a great way to gain local exposure for your business. In the run up to the festive season you will see a lot of gift fairs advertised but what about the rest of the year? Have you considered Summer fairs, School fairs, monthly or local farmers markets? Do you products lend themselves to Wedding 'fayres' or other niche fairs and exhibitions to suit your small business? Here is a run down of some of our top tips:

1. PLAN YOUR YEAR IN ADVANCE - get out your yearly calendar and realistically plan how many fairs you have time to do in the year. Take a look at previous years sales to find your quieter months and then have a look for any local fairs you might be able to fit in at those times. Avoid booking too many in November if you know that online sales are going to be busy and cause more stress. Most of the popular fairs are booked up many months in advance so if there are still tables available a few days before it might not be worthwhile.

2. RESEARCH THE VENUE - Before agreeing to a table do your research. Check if there is likely to be any passing footfall such as on a busy high street or shopping centre. Has the venue done any marketing or promoting of the event? Are there any other activities going on at the same time as the craft fair that may attract people through the door. If you can visit an event at the venue beforehand to get a feel for the place it can be really helpful too.

3. REMEMBER ALL THE VITALS - Mock up your table at least a few nights before and imagine everything that might happen during the day. Make a list of all the items to remember and pack everything in an orderly way to save time on the morning. Using a trolley bag or suitcase can be really helpful for transporting, much easier than carrying boxes. The basic list of things may include; stock, display props, tablecloth (large enough to cover the front of the table too so you can hide boxes underneath) additional lighting if required, business cards, float, receipt book, card machine, carrier bags, note /log book and pen for jotting down sales and finally snacks and refreshments as you don't want to spend all your profits on cups of tea!

4. DEFINE YOUR AREA - When you practise laying out your table try various options to see what works best. When you are happy with the layout, remove 20% of the items you have put on display then see how it looks. We have a tendency to over-clutter and it can be really unsightly and off-putting to customers. It either makes the table look untidy or confused. Remember you can take additional stock with you and replenish when necessary. Your items should be displayed in zones by either theme or product depending on what you sell, there should be clear signs and prices for everything and business cards or flyers should be prominent. I've always found bargain baskets or seconds baskets are great for attracting people to your stall and having a rummage, you should still be selective about what you include in your seconds basket as those items are still reflective of your brand and your business.

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - be prepared for things to go wrong, you may find you have a different size or shape of table to what you were told. Bring warm clothing as it may be draughty (if in an old hall or if you are placed near a door) Bring tools for repairing simple items or stationery for making additional signage for your table that you may have forgotten. Get to know the other stall holders as you may need to be leave your stall for a drink or a bathroom break at some point and they might be able to keep an eye on your stock for you. Don't leave anything valuable unattended.

6. CUSTOMER SERVICE IS KEY - make the right impression to passing customers. Try to dress professionally and avoid sitting down/ hiding when customers are near your table. Smile and greet everyone and if they stop to look at something, offer some insight into the item. Try to be relaxed and not too keen as that can put browsers off. Sometimes engaging in conversation can persuade people to purchase rather than walk away.

7. GO THE EXTRA MILE - leave a lasting impression on your customers by going the extra mile. It may make all the difference if that customers remembers your business and comes back in the future or recommends you to their friends. Ideas may include offering a gift wrapping service, a loyalty scheme or freebies with their purchase when they spend over a certain amount.

I hope this list will be useful to those of you starting out selling face to face, it can be a real mix of ups and downs and you will find some fairs are better than others. The best approach to have is to see it as exposure for your business and any sales you make on the day are a bonus, plus there is usually a great cake stall to take advantage of too!

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