Today’s Memo: Craft Show Vending Tips

I’m recently recovering from my first craft show.  Just kidding.  I loved it!!  I’ve had an Etsy shop open for a couple of years, but this past September was the first time I took my goods to a show to sell.  I learned quite a few things that day that I want to remember for the future, as well as share with all of my crafting friends.  Here is what I learned from vending my first craft show:

  1. The Dollar Store is your best friend.  I think I practically bought out my local Dollar Tree.  I bought a quite a few 5X7 frames and painted the glass fronts with chalkboard paint to use as sign displays.  I also bought glass bottles to hold hats, brown packaging paper to cover tables, tissue paper for bags, etc.  It’s a great place to pick up cheap display items, and even if you only use them once, it’s not a big loss at a buck!   
  2. Register for the show as early as possible.  Often times, if you register early for a craft show, they offer an early bird discount on registration fees.  Also, if the show starts advertising early, particularly on social media, they may tag your site on their show page before other vendors have even registered! 
  3. Choose a show that is realistic for your trade.  Give yourself the time you need to realistically get the inventory you need!  If you only register for a show a month or two before the big day, you may not have enough time to create enough items for sale.  Also, some shows have registration fees that are so high, it may not give you a good return on your investment.  Other shows, particularly if it’s your first one, may be bigger than you want to participate in or have inventory for!     
  4. Secure a corner spot, if possible.  I lucked out in my first show and had a nice corner spot.  I’ve seen other shows where you can pay a little extra to get a corner.  I would recommend this little splurge.  Often times, you can bump your tables out slightly to give you a little extra room.  The foot traffic is also much heavier at a corner.  You can also set up your tables so that people can easily walk through one side of your tent/stand and out the other. 
  5. Shop early for displays.  Displays can be expensive.  I know I didn’t want to invest a lot of money on displays, in case I never participated in another craft show ever again.  Shop at home first, utilizing what you can from around the house.  Otherwise, keep your eye open at the store for bins and baskets to hit the clearance racks!  After watching some items for a few weeks, I finally scored a $4 2-tiered wooden stand from Sam’s Club and $5 and $7 wire baskets from Michael’s.  Can’t beat that!
  6. Borrow as much as you can.  I was lucky enough to borrow 2 tables from friends and family.  As stated in #5 above, you may want to hold off for a couple of shows before investing in all your own gear to make sure you like vending! 
  7. Take custom orders and be open to anything.  There were quite a few people that liked different aspects of each of the items that I make.  I was happy to take orders for custom items to incorporate everything they liked!  Give the customer what they want.  Have them pay for it at the show and give them a time frame in which the item will be delivered.  Don’t forget to take down their contact information.   
  8. Bring a friend.  I was lucky enough to have quite a few helpers the day of my craft show.  Setting up, tearing down, and even bagging items and talking with customers can be a 2 person job.  Plus, since I vend wearable items, it didn’t hurt to have an extra model around!
  9. For outdoor shows, secure everything in your booth.  Even if you think it’s heavy enough that it won’t blow away, secure it!  I used tape, large rocks, and even mums to display on the tables to keep things weighed down!  And don’t forget to stake the tent if you have one! 
  10. Accept multiple forms of payment.  The majority of my sales were credit cards.  I made sure to get the Square Reader and app and test it before the show!  I also went to the bank before the show to get lots of change – enough of $1s and $5s to make the bank cashier wonder where I was spending the evening.  🙂

Good luck and remember to have fun!!  It always gives me so much satisfaction to see people love my handmade items as much as I do! 

Craft Show

Minutes before my first show!