I’m sure you’ve visited craft markets, even if you’ve not yet run a stall of your own. Have you ever noticed that some stalls are much busier than others? It doesn’t take deep analysis to tell who is having a successful day and who isn’t, it’s usually pretty apparent from the number of customers browsing their products and, sadly, from the look on the stall-holder’s face.
It goes without saying, I think, that, first of all, you need to pick the right craft market – one that is likely to suit your products and provide plenty of customers.
So, what are the key differences between the best-performing stalls and those that seem largely deserted?
1: The Product
Above all else, successful stalls sell in-demand products. Does that seem too obvious? Well, perhaps, but the fact is that lots of crafters seem to ignore this – they simply make what they enjoy making or what they’ve always made.
Times change, crafts go in and out of fashion (loom bands anyone?) but, more often, specific aspects of a craft become more or less popular. For example, one year it’s all chunky crocheted scarves and the next it’s rib cowls (whatever they are!). Colours vary from year to year and even seasonally. Motifs come and go – robins have been very popular this year, for example. I spoke to one stall-holder who’d sold out of crocheted stuffed robins and she said I could have one as long as it didn’t need eyes as she’d run out.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you change your product line radically to chase each new trend as it comes. However, it does make sense to watch for previously solid products losing their lustre. If you haven’t yet started your business, make sure you visit lots of craft markets and look for stalls selling similar products – work out what is selling well (talk to the stall holders!) and make special note of the products being sold on the quieter stalls.
Bear in mind that the whole point of a craft fair is for customers to buy unique, hand made items. The sorts of people attracted by this prospect are also likely to be interested in the use of organic ingredients, fair trade materials or eco-friendly processes – this is a great way to differentiate your products and give them greater perceived value. At one craft fair I attended recently, someone was selling nicely made teacup candles that I could see used soy wax – and yet this wasn’t mentioned in any of the labelling. Many customers won’t care either way, but for those that do, it really matters – they are your buyers.
There’s lots to say about product selection but you can find out more about it in the online course Your Craft Business: Step by Step.
The best stalls have a wide range of pricing. I’m a firm advocate of premium pricing but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have products at a low price. The robin lady I mentioned above was selling her little stuffed animals for £3 but they took her just minutes to make. She also had higher priced items on her stall, but the little stuffed animals drew people in knowing that they weren’t going to feel pressure to spend much.
Successful jewellery stalls have products ranging from a couple of pounds for a child’s costume ring right up to three figures. Art stalls have keyrings and postcards alongside their limited edition prints.
Step one is to attract the attention of customers with your choice of product (and your skills). Step two is to reassure them that, if they take a closer look (or their child wanders over), there are low cost items they can buy.
Believe me, I know it’s hard to keep an upbeat manner and wear a smile when you’re having a slow day. To be frank, there’s a good reason why Peta is the face of MakingYourOwnCandles when it comes to dealing with customers and suppliers. I’m a grumpy devil when we’re having a slow day and so I’m not the ideal person to be manning a craft stall!
Customers are attracted to look at stalls run by friendly, positive, happy people. After all, people visit craft fairs for the enjoyment of the experience as much as to buy things. You should arrange your products so customers can easily see them without feeling as though they have to immediately interact with you. Using height and gathering similar products together can help with this. If you’re selling scented products, have samples at the front of your table so customers can pick them up and have a sniff without committing to buying or even engaging with you.
If a customer does look your way or express interest, be friendly and not pushy. Yes, you want the sale, but this is not the right time to ask for it. Answer any questions, be interested in the responses, and you’ll know pretty quickly whether the product is right for the customer. If it is, then don’t be afraid to nudge the conversation towards a purchase.
In a former life I had the misfortune to write computer-based training for car salespeople. I’m sure I’ll carry that particular stain on my soul for a long time to come. As crafters, we don’t need to resort to the sort of strong-arm tactics employed by the Arthur Daleys of this world, or the estate agents for that matter.
You are selling a beautiful, hand made, product. You know its value, how long you took to make it, the quality of the materials or ingredients used. After talking with the customer, you’ll know whether that product is right for them. If it is, be confident, keep talking and suggest that they buy it. Yes, we’re British and yes, this takes practice, but it begins with confidence in your product and listening to customers without being distracted by the prospect of a sale. Your product isn’t right for everyone but, when the right person sees it, they will want it. No persuasion needed.
Finally, remember the cliche that people buy from people. I’m an absolute sucker for this so I know it works. If I’ve been attracted to a stall by the products, I’ll often strike up a conversation with the stall holder. In a good percentage of cases, I’ll buy something – not because I feel compelled to do so or guilted into it (I’m far too much of a crusty old sod for that). I buy because the craft product reflects something of the personality of the crafter. I was initially attracted to the stall by the first impression made by the products. If that impression is reinforced by my interaction with the crafter, I am much more likely to buy.
Be the person customers want to buy from – be yourself. No need to be a salesperson in the traditional sense (in fact, don’t be that salesperson), be friendly, confident and, above all, let your love of your craft shine through – it can be incredibly infectious.
My top tip is put your bestsellers on a front corner of your table. It draws people to the stall and they stop and look at everything else. Put them in the middle and if you already have someone at your stall the person already there is blocking the view of your bestsellers.