Tuesday, July 21, 2009

So you want to start selling at shows?

So you think you'd like to start selling your handmade items at shows? Where do you begin? Unfortunately, the answer is different for each person and the items you make.

Let's start with choosing a show. I find the Midwest Art Fairs publication invaluable as it lists over 1200 art and craft fairs and festivals across the Midwest. This publication is available online or at many art or craft suppliers. Organizers of events submit information about their event including anticipated attendance, costs and the process to apply to participate.

One of the most important decisions, is what type of event is most appropriate to your items and market. I divide shows into three different and distinct categories; boutiques, craft fairs and art festivals. Here is where you need to make some of your decision based on the type of handmade items you have.

Generally, a boutique has some handmade items and some direct sale items (like Pampered Chef or Mary Kay). Where as, craft fairs and art festivals have mostly handmade items. Again, the Midwest Art Fair publication will indicate if the event is all handmade or can be direct sales. Will your product fit well or be similar to the market at one type of event better than others? Lots of crafters do well at boutiques and craft fairs but not at art festivals or vice versa. I'm sure there is some marketing guru science to it, but I think it's really about what people go to these shows to find. What's your market and do customers in that market go to more boutiques, craft fairs or art festivals?

After identifying the appropriate market for your products, and deciding on a show(s) you'd like to try, talk to others who may have done this show in the past and see what they thought. Go beyond the general question of "was it a good show?" If it wasn't good for them, ask why? What products do they sell? Maybe it wasn't the appropriate market for them and that's why they didn't do well or maybe there was bad weather.

Lastly, if you are considering a show for next year, go there this year and check the attendance. Do you see people carrying bags of purchases? Are there lots of people selling the items you also make?

Because I sell many $50 - $100 items, I prefer art festivals where other vendors also have items in that price range so the event generally attracts people who expect to spend that amount on an item they are purchasing. Some of my favorite and most successful events include Lanesboro Art in The Park, Zumbrota's Art in East Park, Eagan's Art Festival and Northfield's Riverfront Art Festival.

Good luck on your decision to sell your products at shows. A future post will included how to have a successful show once you've made the decision where to participate.

Be well.


M. B. Karger said...

Great information and tips! Thank you! I've got my first art & craft market coming up in August. I'm so excited and so nervous! Looking forward to more like this!