When Jennifer suggested writing about craft fair etiquette for vendors, I though it would be useful to do one for organizers, too. I’ve done my share of craft fairs, and I’ve even thought about organizing one just to put what I learned to use! Here are some of those thoughts:
1. Promote, promote, promote!
It’s great to put an ad in the smart shopper; it’s great to tack a flyer to the grocery store bulletin board. However, there are a lot of craft fairs these days, and your methods need to be competitive. You need to also use more modern means; a Facebook page, a twitter account. Drum up some excitement, make your event look classy or sassy. One event I went to as a customer was called “Not Your Grandma’s Craft Fair” and had a logo with a pin-up girl holding a glue gun. They were very successful and drew a lot of traffic. Another event was a coffee festival (all vendors making something pertaining to coffee, even if it was a stretch). It was my best event ever for sales, partly I think because it was an interesting niche that drew a different crowd, partly because it was well-publicized and had an active Facebook page that periodically posts fun coffee links throughout the year.
2. Do your homework (conflicting events)
I went to a big two day event that was quite a ways from home that I had high expectations for. It was even listed in a national magazine and had been going on for decades. However, a new event had started up that year in a nearby town, and traffic for us was very, very slow. In fact, when I visited the nearby town, the event looked awesome and I regretted myself that I’d done the craft fair instead. If only it had been moved to a different weekend…
3. Make it easy to find
I went to one craft fair, the slowest fair ever, that was only marked by a couple of poster board signs, scrawled in marker, sitting outside in the rain. I could barely find it. People attending other events in the building didn’t even know it was going on, you entered through a back door that looked like an emergency exit or something, and my parents, who came specifically for the fair, had a hard time finding it. Make a sign that is impervious to rain; have it professionally printed or made by someone who is actually, in fact, crafty.
4. Play games
This idea is actually from a fair that didn’t go all that well for me, but I still thought it was good: every attendee had a card and we all had a different stamp to stamp it with if they visited our table. If they talked to all of us, they were entered in a raffle or won something. Even better, I think, would be to have them write down their favorite item from each table. This really engages them with the vendor and their products.
5. Don’t be rude
This should go without saying, and for the most part, even the most inept of organizers have been sweethearts, making it very hard to tell them they’d put on a lousy event that I’d never, ever go to again. (I didn’t tell them.) The incident I’m thinking of had to do with a donated item for an auction, which is something organizers often ask for in my experience. The woman practically snorted when I told her the retail price of the item–which was competitively priced with items in stores–and, even though I saw at the end of the day that the item had no bids, I never saw it again. I didn’t donate it with strings attached, but it was irksome that someone apparently went home with it for nothing.
6. Organize volunteers for grunt work
I have only been to one place that had a troop of volunteers lined up to help me cart things in and out, but ooh, it was nice. If this isn’t feasible, a couple of dollies would be really nice, too. This is sort of a wishlist item–I wouldn’t complain about a show not having help available.
7. If it’s a juried show, every vendor should be held to the same standard.
I’ve been to a few juried shows that clearly had a couple of vendors who were friends (or more likely relatives) or the organizer. I decided not to apply to those shows.
8. Keep fees realistic
The best fee system I’ve seen required that I pay 10% of my profits to the show. I like this because I don’t have to stress out about covering my table or working all day (and weeks ahead of time!) for nothing or worse than nothing. Then everyone has an incentive to make sure that the fair succeeds; frankly, when the organizers already have money in their pockets, the incentive just isn’t as strong. They could actually make more this way! Often the fee is a donation to a non-profit, and it’s not that I mind paying it. I just don’t think it’s the best system. If you compare the fee for a day at a craft fair to renting a booth in a shop for a month, the craft fair is often far more expensive proportionally for less traffic. This is especially irksome if the organizers only expenses seem to be the dollar they paid for a posterboard sign out front.
One fair I did was in a very boggy field, and since it was a two day event, I had to leave remove anything from the display that would be damaged by dampness. Other locations have been remote, poorly marked, or just unwelcoming. Try to find somewhere bright and pleasant that will draw people in!
10. Don’t be empty
I did a show that had a number of empty tables for vendors who never showed up–you’ve got to take those down. There were still SO many vendors, but it made it just didn’t look good. It made it feel like maybe it wasn’t THE event to attend. Another fair had a sign on it’s kiosk advertising that tables were still available even on the day of the event; to me that clearly communicated “don’t bother stopping in, there’s hardly anyone here.” Don’t do that! Think it through!
I probably sound like a crab, but actually, I really enjoyed all of these events. I just wish I had made money. I really prefer to sell in person and I would like craft fairs to be more worthy uses of my time! What do you think; what would you suggest organizers could do to make their fairs more appealing to vendors and customers alike?