In Part 2 we will discuss vetting shows, price points, inventory prep, and a Q&A from Instagram answering your questions regarding art shows. Let's get right into it!
Part 2 -Craft Show Prep
Who is your target audience?
This is essential, based on what your branding and product are in part one. You should know your target demographic and average price point. Know your product, know your crowd. If you sell only fine jewelry, or mostly one of a kind pieces in the higher end range you may want to specifically look for art shows, ones that are juried, and in affluent areas.
What is your price point?
Types of Shows:
Church craft fairs - expect people to spend $5 to $30, church shows generally consist of less handmade and more community-based tables and some local artisans. You may see less elaborate displays and more weekend pop up tents of sellers that feature less expensive products. There are always treasures to be found at these shows and a great way to not gamble on an expensive booth. The problem is the crowds and buyers, in my opinion, is less than desirable. Slower traffic, and smaller budgets. You get what you pay for in some circumstances.
Large Craft Fair - expect people to spend an average of $25-60 with room for higher ticketed items to sell. You will get bodies in the door. Look for larger more established fairs such as annual fall fairs, summer fairs, street fairs, boardwalk arts and craft fairs, ones that have been running for 5+ years. Established and get an average of 5,000-10,000 people per day. Customers are looking for handmade vendors but on a budget. Depending on the area you are selling in, certain geographic areas people will spend more or less. The great thing about these shows is the number of people they bring in. You won't be disappointed in the sheer number of people but that still doesn't equate to sales. You will spend more on larger fairs anywhere from $150 to $600 for a day or weekend show.
Art Fairs - expect people to spend. This may vary from person to person and what shows you do. But attendees generally expect to be meeting, greeting, and connecting with the artist. You are more likely to sell that $385 piece without as many eyebrows raised or explanations than at other fairs. The buyers are looking for unique wares. I find people will spend $140 often throughout the day. That doesn't mean every show you will roll in the $$$ sales. You do however have a greater chance if the show is notorious for being well organized with good attendance. Art fairs tend to cost around the same or more as the larger established art&craft fairs. These shows also tend to be juried. Don't be afraid to ask the organizer how many of your category they allow in. One thing I can say is jewelry, soaps and candles are usually in abundance.
No matter if I do a large craft fair, or a juried art show, I bring a mixture of my bread and butter pieces that cost $18-$50 and one of a kind from $80 to over $400. At a craft show, I usually sell lots of $45 pieces with a few $80-$120. There is always one or two buyers that spend over $250. At an art show, I sell a mixture of all price points fluidly throughout the day.
There is no point in trying to sell only $600 pieces at a local craft fair where you will be competing with an average $40 price point. Your buyers simply won't be there (at least in abundance). If you are on the high-end side you can do local craft shows for networking, it only takes one client to make it worth your wild. But if sales if your goal, seek out shows in your target demographic. If you have two price ranges you work with, this opens up your market a bit and allows you to play around depending on the shows you sign up for. All in all, know your market, know your product.
Finding great shows will come in time. Sometimes you just have to get out there to find out what works. Doing your homework could potentially set you up for fewer disappointments and more sales!
Word of mouth is a great way to find shows that are well organized and profitable. Speaking with your local artisan community if you have those resources available. TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBORS!! Once you have done your first show you will naturally speak with other vendors. Ask them how they are doing, and what shows they love to attend. Write those down and do your research, I have found so many great shows through word of mouth!
Online festival resources
Facebook - you can browse local events sometimes you can even find reviews on past events from facebook, google, and yelp. Be sure to try and dig up as much information as you can if you haven't done the festival before.
Chamber of commerce - visit your local Chamber of Commerce website or call. They usually organize events such as farmer's markets and sometimes fairs. Discounts are given sometimes to members and local businesses.
Local newspapers - usually will list all the events going on in the season
Tips - Look for number of years run, reviews if available. Speak with other artists about the fairs you are interested in. See if you can get some insight regarding turn out. Ask promoters/coordinators how many vendors per category, if it's juried, security, set up and break down. Seasoned shows will have all this information available to you.
You know your products, customer and price point! Now what to bring/make for your event. I try to practice what I preach but sometimes it's hard we always want to make more and more and more. But the goal is to sell inventory, sell what you have rather than over-stressing and making more stock.
If you have a line of finished products then focus on highlighting these with your display and merchandising. Play up your booth and give these pieces the boost they need to sell.
Write a list!
What you have
What you will make: make extra bestsellers (for me stacking rings, small gemstone necklaces, and post earrings) You don't need 50 pieces of every style, this usually is overwhelming, and it will be hard to sell every piece. Unless you are seasoned in doing shows and you know what sells make a few of each style that is a best seller online. See what sells for future shows and continue to make more as you go! You can always build stock but selling extra stock can be tough!
Specialize in quality over quantity, you are a handmade booth after all!
Make sure you stay organized, write out inventory spreadsheets of all your products, this way you can account for everything and what sells. Tag and pack your items away to stay organized. I keep my jewelry stored away in my rolling cart so its always ready for a show or I can pull for shipping pieces for my online stores. It acts as a two for one for me. Every business has different organizational needs.
Expectations vs Reality
No matter the expectations we set, there is always reality. Weather, show promoters/organizers, number of people attending, or our own display. There are so many reasons why a show can be a success or failure. You need to take notes on every experience. Every one of them is a learning experience. We always dream of big money the night before a show, but then self-doubt comes plaguing! So you say "I will prepare to make a few hundred bucks worst-case scenario". Just relax and let it be what it will be, prep, organize and show up. That is your job. You cannot help the weather and other circumstances no matter the planning or vetting.
What will I take out of this experience? Pay attention to what people are looking at, looking over, and purchasing. Gather your data for future shows. You should be able to make good money at a show. What is good money well that all depends on our business/personal goals, where we live, the cost of living, etc. I want to make money at shows, I want to meet clients. If the show is right and the weather is good I find myself wondering why I haven't incorporated shows more regularly sooner. The bottom line try not to get frustrated!
A few people asked questions on Instagram. I will be addressing these below. Some of the information has already been answered above, I will try to not be redundant.
"How do you pick what shows will have people attending that are your kind of client base?"
As explained in types of shows, and vetting shows above. I want shows that have a track record of being high volume or specific to the art community. The amount of work that goes into shows I really try and focus on ones that will generate results. I spoke with many of my neighbors at the last few shows and were able to get solid information on upcoming hot shows. Also, I have a local artist community so I am able to speak with people that have attended shows for many years. Start researching!
"How do you pack and transport inventory for easy setup/tear down?"
I went over this in Part 1 a bit more. But essentially having a wheeling cart, dolly, storage bins, and jewelry cases. I have this all set up in my studio ready to go for shows at any moment. My average time spent setting up is 1 hour and breakdown is about 45 minutes.
"So you really end up making money after you pay for space and set up?"
Yes. Of course, when you first start doing shows you will have to recoup the money spent on the displays, tent and so on. But once you do a few you should be able to profit on each show. Starting smaller and not overextending your budget is important in the begining you can always add more! Again it's all in the vetting process and good weather (if you are doing outside shows). If you have a great show, great weather, great booth, and great attendance, you should be making good money. I usually triple my booth fee, and more if it's a two-day show. There will always be shows that aren't as lucrative and we just have to mentally prepare that not every time is going to be a winner.
"Do you try to chat with customers (other than saying hello) it's so awkward?"
Yes, it can be so strange to strike up a conversation with clients that walk into your booth. You don't want to come off like a salesman yet you don't want to seem disengaged. My goal is to greet every customer. To be polite and welcome them into my store. Some people will naturally be chatty, compliment your work, or talk about the fair/weather. I just roll with the conversation and let them guide me. If someone is quiet and likes to browse I let them be. What I do tell every person that walks in (and by the time the show is over I am so exhausted from speaking all day) I explain everything in my booth is handmade, soldered, and polished with recycled sterling silver. It's enough to gauge their interest and always sets the tone for my price point and offerings. I am naturally not a shy person and I bartend part-time which really helps me engage with all different people and different interests. Just be proud, humble, speak about your work with people who engage, and be yourself!
I hope this two-part series was helpful to someone out there looking to branch out and expand their customer base beyond the online world. I absolutely love the internet it has afforded me to grow my business and reach thousands of people. But putting your eggs in one basket is never a good idea when it comes to sustaining and growing your sales. Always look for alternative options for expanding your client base. Please comment and let me know if you like seeing blog posts, I would love to do more in the future on all sorts of topics! Go get em!