In the third part of this blog series, I’m writing about the lead up preparations and the actual event.
Give yourself time to gather stock!
If you’re aiming for a Christmas fair, it’s easy to think November/December is way off having applied for the fair 10/11 months earlier! Easier said than done, but try and be disciplined in building your stock during the free months as it really isn’t much fun having that last minute rush as the weeks, days, hours and minutes start to decrease quicker and quicker. Leave plenty of time for organising packaging, pricing up items and keeping a written or computerised inventory of your stock. I was amazed this took me so long to do!
Aim to have a nice selection of items on your table at varying prices to attract all customers. It’s good to have some stock behind the table to fill any gaps that appear after all the sales you’ll be making, but if you do run out of something that someone is after, offer to post it on to them or hand them a business card so they can order from your online shop (or get in touch with you).
My mini brooches were selling like hot cakes on the first and second day of a fair at Christmas so I found myself making more in the evenings, staying up to the early hours and finishing off the items once I’d reached the fair the next morning. It wasn’t nice, and I was pretty tired with just a few hours sleep. I found changing my table display on the 3rd day helped customers focus on different items, so the minis weren’t so popular (and saved my poor fingers and mind for additional stress).
Practise your table layout.
My previous blog post talked about table layout ideas, hopefully by the time you’re ready for the fair you’ll know roughly how you’d like your stall to look. If you can, it’s a good idea to have a practise run at setting up your table. Use a table around the size you’ll be using on the day so you can see if everything works well together. Try out everything – the lighting, the signage, how you’ll display your goods etc. As you start to assemble your stall you’ll start to think of things that may need to be altered, or added. Take pictures on your phone when you’re happy so you can remind yourself of how you’d like the table to look when you’re setting up at the fair.
You may decide to put labels on all your items or have a board showing the costs of things but I’ve found people prefer to know exactly how much each item is, so perhaps pricing each and every item is the best way to go. It also helps if you need to have a loo break and your stall neighbour looks after things while you are away. They won’t know your pricing and you can bet the very item that isn’t priced is the item someone chooses to buy when you’re not there!
Cash, credit cards and keeping stock of your money.
You’ll need a substantial float for your cash payments. The chances are your first customer will use a £20 note for a £2 item so you don’t want to be drained of spare change at the start of the day. If you can afford it, and the fair you’ll be attending has its own internet (or strong 4G signal), you may want to consider buying a credit card machine. There’s several to choose from – two I know are Paypal and iZettle. I love my little iZettle machine and it’s actually secured a couple of sales from cash-less customers at my last fair. These machines are linked to your smart phone to do all the recording of sales and are very easy to use. You set them up with an inventory of your stock and it happily works out what you’ve sold to give you a clear record of all transactions when you’re home and ready to see your takings. The iZettle can also record cash payments (free of charge) so you can have a complete record of everything you sell on the day – this was a real help when it came to cashing up at the end of the fair. For cash-less customers without a credit card, it is worth investigating the nearest cash machine (or shop that does cash back) so you can pass this on.
Be friendly and welcoming to your potential customers.
This can be really difficult if you are a shy person and I must admit I found it very hard to know what to say when I did my first fair. At this particular fair I had a husband and wife team next to me selling coffee goods and they were obviously very seasoned sellers. The wife would be out front hovering around the stall ready to help any potential customers and the husband was behind the stall ready to take payment and wrap goods. I was impressed when one lady approached the stall looking as she waited for the rest of her family to catch up and the stall holder started chatting to her about coffee. The lady was quick to say she didn’t drink coffee at all, not interested in anything coffee, to which I would have smiled and moved away. Nope, the stall holder managed to turn the negativity around by enquiring if other family or friends liked coffee, how it’s a great Christmas gift to give, especially as it’s their own beans and nicely presented etc., etc. and the lady purchased two bags of goods just like that! I’m certainly not quite in that league yet but luckily, for the fair I did last December, I had amazing stall neighbours who were very friendly and chatty and I picked up a lot from them just by listening to how they started conversations and interacted. Once you start to realise it’s really not too bad at all, and people start to ask questions about your business and generally be very friendly, you’ll be off with no turning back! It’s not all about the selling pitch either – here’s some examples.
- Say “hello”, “good morning”, “good afternoon” confidently with a warm smile to those who approach your stall. Most will respond, a tiny handful will not (so you know they want to be left alone or just didn’t hear you). From this greeting you will begin to work out who then wants to browse on their own (they’d briefly look up to say hello then busy themselves looking at goods without any further eye contact or even move on) and those who may be up for more chatting (they don’t bury their heads in your goods after greeting you, but pick things up and generally seem relaxed to linger, or even chatter to their partner). At this point you could ask if they’re having a nice day and enjoying what they’ve seen so far. If they’re showing lots of interest in your items, ask if there’s something in particular they’re looking for.
- If potential customers approach the stall and look determined to ignore you, my neighbour would say “I’m just here if you need me” and quite often they would look up and acknowledge her and that would relax the atmosphere.
- Come out from behind the stall if people seem chatty – it’ll break that divide between buyer and seller and make it more personal. Try and be natural too. I was a bit stressed about using the iZettle as it was a new toy and I’m not brilliant with tech, so whenever someone wanted to pay by card I’d say “hopefully this will work, I’m not a very techy person” and the customer would always be understanding and patient.
- If dogs are allowed at the fair they are a real ice-breaker – give them a stroke (with the owner’s permission) and strike up a conversation (“aww, so sweet”, “what breed?”, “there’s so many dogs here today, it’s lovely to see them”). Dog owners love to talk about their pets!
- If you make a sale, thank them and say you are popping a business card in the bag because you have an online store (of your own, with Etsy, Folksy, etc., etc.) that they can purchase from at any time.
The more you start to chat, the more you’ll become aware that those visiting your stall are interested in your goods and generally want to know more about the process of making the items – it’s actually really lovely and a great boost to your confidence. Unfortunately, I have heard a few stories of people being mean about items for sale at craft fairs – usually about the cost compared to items on the High Street, or how they could make it themselves. As much as it is upsetting and uncalled for, try to remain professional and stay calm. Explain in a friendly way how your item is made in a different way to those on the High Street and the cost reflects that, or offer them a business card, should they decide to purchase (rather than make it themselves) in the future. You have to remember that these people are definitely the minority – the majority will appreciate your work and the time put into making each item.
Accepting custom orders.
If you decide you want to offer the option of a personalised order during the fair, then have a sign that states this and plan ahead a typed or written sheet that can easily be filled in by the customer. Other than recording the specific details of the item you have been requested to make, make sure you have customer name, address, phone number and email (get both if possible in case the email doesn’t work!), and any deadline for making and posting the item. Also make a note of payment (in full or deposit) as it is quite easy to forget once the fair is over and you start to work through everything. Give the customer a business card or your contact details in case you are unable to contact them, they then have the option to try and contact you.
Get to know your stall neighbours.
You can learn a lot from them if they are have been selling at fairs longer than you, as well as swap nuggets of information, pass on details of other good craft fairs to attend and look after your stall when you need a little break! I was really lucky last December to have very friendly, approachable neighbours that I now keep in touch through social media.
Stick to the event rules and clear everything away afterwards.
Event holders will send out a list of rules and regulations before the day – it is good practise to read them and stick to them so the event runs smoothly and hopefully you’ll be invited back! Keep your stall area tidy and pay attention to potential health and safety issues to avoid any disasters. It is only polite to take all your rubbish away at the end of each day and ensure your pitch is left as you found it when you first arrived.
The final part of this series, there’s a checklist of things to consider taking for a successful fair – you can find the post here.