Monday, September 11, 2006

Displaying and Selling at Events.

Doing events, craft fairs, trunk shows, and similar one-off or monthly sales events, is really useful in a number of ways. They usually cost a nominal fee to do, and eat up a day or two or three in really high-intensity people interaction - but are invaluable. Fairs and events are a great way to introduce new product lines - listing something on a website or getting it into stores is a greater leap. If you want to try out a new product all you've got to do is whip up a couple iterations and then wait and see how people respond. It's like a pressure-cooker to see people interacting with your stuff so constantly throughout the day. A clever observer of humanity can glean a lot of information about how people respond to products, pricing, display, and information throughout a day of presenting them.
They are good for a quick infusion of cash, although even good products presented poorly or at an event that's lightly attended will not do well. In using people's reactions to gauge which products will sell and which will not, it's necessary to compare what has happened to the event at large. Talk to other vendors, keep an eye on the crowd - it's all about learning the things that nobody would tell you.

So how do you find events to do and then choose which ones to go for? There are lots of different types of events that would be viable places for artisans to sell their wares - but each event will have a different slice of humanity attending, with a different goal in their minds when they walked out their front door. Some events are simply not filled with shoppers, and your sales will reflect that. Craft fairs, street fairs, and neighborhood street events and block parties are all great - it's important to keep in mind that some medium-scale events have still not come forward into the information age, and will be hard if not impossible to find on the internet. Talk to your friends and acquaintances about events they've heard about or seen in their neighborhood. I've often found myself chasing down an internet clue trail to decide whether or not to do an event - the event itself won't have a proper website (or will have one where all the text is a giant .jpg, so you can't find it by searching...) but there will be mentions of it on forums and event listing websites.
Other types of events that might have you are trunk shows, sample sales, designer sales, fashion and style events, fundraisers, sometimes even concerts. Events that you can sell at can be called so many things that it's useful to search and re-search different phrases to find things near you. A by no means comprehensive list of events can be found here: Craft Fair Links - I compile them as I come across them but haven't made a huge effort to add too much to the list. If you'd like to leave a comment with events you think i should know about, or tag something for me on, i'd be delighted!

Some quick display pointers:
Don't bring too many mixed products. Variety is good, especially variety across price ranges, but if you have too much of a hodgepodge all that will read is visual noise. If everything is made from the same fabrics or is otherwise across the same color family, it will hang together better and you can get away with more variety.

Take a moment to step back and look at your display - squint your eyes a little and try to imagine you are just seeing it for the first time. look at the displays around you and try to see what is different, better, worse. You can learn now not only from your mistakes but from other people's too.

Try to make it light and portable. Hauling this stuff around will quickly make you hate that mannequin bust, as you freak out about crushing its face each and every time you put it into the car or pull it out again. What about screens, gates, latticework? Vintage goodwill finds will often, with a new coat of paint, be great free display stands for all your scarves or mittens.


  1. Thanks for all the tips! I'm not planning on making things to sell anytime soon (much to the sadness of my mother when she sees my spun yarn stash), but I crafted with a group of girls who sold at Renegade Chicago and DIY Trunk Show, and they could have used some of those tips.

  2. i'm glad what i wrote sounds helpful to you! I'm trying to keep my eyes and ears open and learn from my mistakes - since it's the only 'schooling' i'll get in my new vocation...

  3. Rachel,
    I was very lucky to have Susan from Susan's Fiber critique my booth. She was brutal, and effective and made a mess into something presentable. Black cloth for table coverups, draw them in with an inviting space, be willing to demonstrate what you do. Don't be intimidated by someones professional display, just look and learn what makes theirs good.
    I see the wool arrived, love that tracking system!