In my experience, craft show selling is one of the most rewarding yet most challenging methods of selling. Even if you aren’t competing against commercial interests, which adds a whole new layer of yikes to the package, you’re still trying to work with a mobile store, usually within a 10 by 10 foot space. You have to manage traffic flow, manage money, conduct transactions, answer questions, and keep an eye on your products while you’re being friendly and trying to avoid any major catastrophes. With everything that goes on at a craft show, many people wonder where in the world to start. Some might say pricing, and some might say making the items. But while those are things that need to be done, I would argue that figuring out your presentation is the most important thing you can do. Here’s why.
Presentation is Your First Impression
Presentation is everything in craft show selling. People walk by a hundred (or more) booths, and if yours doesn’t stand out – or at least catch their eye (in a good way) – chances are you’ll never have a chance to make a sale. Pricing, layout, knowing how to deal with people, and having great items are all important, but the presentation of your booth is the first thing they’re going to see. If you can’t get people in your booth (or to your booth), you won’t be selling them anything.
Presentation Helps Customers Decide Who You Are
People typically shop at craft shows because they love dealing with artisans and craftspeople. It’s the personal relationship, the handmade touch, and the community that tends to grow within the craft show community that keeps people coming back. So when people look at your booth, they immediately come to a decision about who you are as an artisan and business person. If you have velvety cloths and spooky creations everywhere, they probably assume you’re into new age work. If your booth is drenched in hot pink and daisies, they probably assume you cater to women – or teenagers, depending on how it’s done. Similarly, if your booth looks like you threw it together in five seconds, they’ll decide that you aren’t serious about what you do. And if it’s too busy and crazy, they might decide it’s too chaotic for them. If you don’t have a clear banner or sign saying what you do – or if it isn’t obvious by taking a look at your booth from afar – they might be confused about what it is you do. Those first three seconds when a customer sees your booth can make or break their decision to enter and explore, and presentation speaks volumes about your business. Make those three seconds count.
How to Create Outstanding Presentation
Someone says “Great, so how do I make my booth presentation outstanding?” Good question. I’m glad you asked. Here are some of the most important things to remember (and actions to take) when creating your booth.
Is your booth easy to walk through? Can people reach all the items easily? Will children be able to reach expensive items, or soil them with dirty hands? (They will, trust me, keep your valuable or fabric items up high.) Can people see a good sampling of what you offer just from walking by? Will people be invited to come in and explore, or will they get caught in the flow of traffic and keep moving? These are all things to consider. My favorite layout is an inverted U shape, with two long tables on either side of the booth leading visitors in, and a shorter or equal-length table at the back that joins the two behind which the seller sits. This allows you to maneuver behind all the tables and have one checkout area while shoppers can freely walk through the center and get away from the traffic areas.
The Busy Factor
A tablecloth full of multi-colored flowers or a leopard print explosion might seem like a good idea at the time, but add to that all of your items and it’s going to be a nightmare on the eyes. The simpler the better. If your booth has a high “busy factor”, in other words if it’s too busy and has too much going on visually, it’s time to rethink your design.
Showcase Your Work
You really want to showcase your work, and not the decor or tablecloths. The banner I have for one of my craft show booths has a rather busy border, but the rest of my booth is really only done in one or two colors. Pale pink table cloths and black displays for the jewelry (other items are on trays or draped across the table in the case of shawls). Because my banner has a lot of pink in it, the pale pink table cloths work. It doesn’t conflict with the coloring of my items, because those are all on displays or are large enough that it’s not confusing. But the main point is that my work is the star of the show. The banner might invite people in, but once people look at my items, the tablecloth and displays disappear in a sense – and that’s what you want. I’ve seen a lot of craft show booths that are full of super ornate displays, vibrant colors, or crazy patterns, and it makes me cringe. You’re not showcasing your skills as an interior decorator – you’re selling whatever item you’re selling. Make that item the star.
Have a Canopy
Not only will this come in handy when it’s cold or very hot, but it just looks professional. You don’t want to be the one person sitting out in the open. It loses that “store” feeling, and makes you look like you were driving by and decided to throw up a table with your items. I’ve done one show without a canopy. There’s a reason it was only one. The only exception to this rule, of course, is if the show is inside. In that case, a canopy looks a little silly.
While pricing your work is an art form in and of itself, when you do settle on prices, make sure they are very clearly displayed. A lot of people are very shy about asking how much something is, and in most cases they will simply leave if they can’t figure out how much an item is. I try to have same-price items together so I can put up signs that say things like “Shawls On This Table: $45” or something to that effect. Or “Necklaces: $30, Bracelets: $15”.
The look of your booth should be very cohesive. My booth is cottage themed, so it looks like you’ve walked into my home and I’m showing you my handmade items. And that’s how I like it. While I offer a multitude of colors, they all kind of blend in a way, and the style is pretty similar overall. That’s not to say that all my items look alike, but if you put two items next to each other that you randomly selected from my booth, you could see how they’d both fit into the same store. If you have handmade shawls on one side and shrunken heads on the other, it tends to confuse people. It’s completely okay to have more than one craft show business name. I do. Most of the time I use my cottage theme, but I have a couple of others I use for different shows that I like to go to, but with which my cottage theme doesn’t quite fit. The main point is to make sure that when someone looks at your booth it looks cohesive.
Don’t Forget Holidays
I have different banners and a whole different color scheme for each of the major holidays. People love festive. I mean…really love festive. You don’t have to invest in an robotic Santa or screaming witch decoration – in fact it’s best you don’t – but a holiday themed banner, themed colored tablecloths (not patterned, remember, just one color), and a few lights or a couple of minor decorations are a good idea.
Hopefully these ideas will help you set up and plan for your next show. Remember that presentation extends beyond that initial impression. While first impressions are the most important, the presentation of your items, and even through to the sale are crucial to customers, and therefore to you. Always try to have packaging – it looks professional – even if it’s just a paper bag with a sticker that has your business name on it. Offer gift wrapping around the holidays, too, if you can. All of these things make your booth’s presentation complete, cohesive, and professional, and will make you a memorable vendor likely to obtain repeat customers.