Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What I've learned about farmers markets, craft fairs, and holiday bazaars.

Hi All!

I've had a wonderful fall and winter so far!!  I finished my farmer's market circuit this summer and learned SOOOO much!!  Some of what I learned helped my during my craft/bazaar circuit this fall and winter... but as is normal for me, I apparently had a LOT more to learn!

So here is a partial list of knowledge gleaned:

Farmer's Markets:
Walls up because it was pouring rain!
  1.  If you live in the Pacific Northwest (or ANYWHERE with damp summers) - make sure you not only have a canopy, but also have sides for your canopy!
  2. Even with sides on the canopy - in the rain, your items WILL get damp - and damp equals warped papers and possibly even damaged items. 
  3. Farmer's Markets are usually very long days with few breaks - but lots of lovely people to talk to!
  4. I was at smaller Farmer's Markets and did not realize that most people that come to those markets ONLY come for the food and flowers.  They loved to look, but rarely bought anything.  (I rarely sold more than $20 more than the Farmer's Market Fee.).  I would advise trying to get into larger Farmer's Markets that specialize in having artists and crafts there - although.......
  5. .... smaller markets are a GREAT place for you to try out your display set-ups, to get feedback about your products, and to get a better idea about your prices and which products will sell.
  6. I worked VERY hard at creating an inviting and eye-catching display and received a LOT of wonderful compliments about it - but again, rarely sold products (which was partially based on price, but was also at least partially based on my displays - which apparently were great to look at but didn't invite people to want to touch ...and no touching means - no personal or emotional attachment to my products - which in turn meant no sales...more on that later).
  7. It's super-important to have a display set-up that one person can easily set up by themselves (unless you are a big business and can afford to hire additional help).  Mine was not hard to set up, but was super-time-intensive and exhausting.
  8. Be open to new ideas and trying new things.  After my first couple of Farmer's Markets, I realized that I had a LOT of little kids walking by but I had nothing for them to buy.  I quickly whipped up some hair clips and hairbands that were cute and inexpensive and quickly became my best-selling items!  Which brings up my next item....
  9. ...Be sure to have a few items aimed at kids - and located on displays at their eye-height!  When the kids are drawn in, so are the parents!
  10. Get a Square or some other credit card device so you can accept credit cards as well as cash!  So easy to use and there are a lot of people who just don't carry much cash AND....
  11. ....POST signs that state what types of payments you do accept.  People often won't ask - and I didn't have it posted at the Farmer's Markets... but did later at craft shows - and I made a LOT of sales from people who made comments like "oh I am so glad you accept credit cards because I didn't have cash to buy anything and was going to leave until I saw your sign".  
  12. Bringing something to do is a great way to kill time between customers - but keep it oriented towards your business. Reading a book, playing on your phone, or doing something not related to your business looks like you really don't care about what you're selling!  On the other hand, working on one of your products gives you something to do, makes more items for you to sell, and gives you another opportunity to chat with your customers about what you're doing/selling. 
A tiny space (4x4 table) at an Elementary School
Which brings me to Holiday Bazaars and Craft Fairs:
A larger booth at a high school

  1. Verify your spaces!  And IF they are not the same size as your "normal" set-up, PRACTICE setting up your displays in the size they are giving you.  Most Bazaars and Craft Fairs have strict rules about the size of your booths.  Farmer's Markets don't seem to care much if your tables or displays stand outside the perimeter of your booth - but the fairs and bazaars do - often because of fire code rules.
  2. Along with verifying your spaces, verify what they provide!  Many offered to provide tables for a fee (which makes your set-up easier --- but then you're stuck with their sometimes-crappy tables) and most offered to supply chairs for free (which meant I didn't need to lug around mine!)
  3. If possible, try and visit bazaars and fairs the year before you start - so you can get a real idea of how the booth spaces work, what kind of other vendors might be there, and how many customers you can expect.  I had tiny booths and super-low fees at some places and actually made more money there than I did at the places I had big booths and high vendor fees!
  4. Know when you need to apply for the Holiday Bazaars and Craft Fairs!  What I didn't realize is that the more popular ones often take applications 6 months in advance (and I wasn't thinking of applying for Christmas Bazaars when I was working my tail off at Farmer's Markets!)
  5. Another thing to know about the booths is that many of the booths I was at were squished together (and I had several instances where other vendors actually crowded my space, then when I was setting up and trying to move things - I was bumping their items and actually ended up breaking one thing - I felt terrible ...but it was an accident that could have been avoided if they hadn't been crowding me).
  6. Displays are important... very important... but while I had eye-catching displays, I found that people responded best when many of my items were in piles or bowls rather than up on the walls or screens/displays.  I sold a LOT more of my necklaces when they were just lying on the table instead of hanging on my wall displays.  I sold a lot more of my floral hair-clips and my holiday gift tags that way too!
  7. Having items for males is an important thing too!  MOST booths are oriented towards women.  I listened to a LOT of men commenting how bored they were and I watched many roll their eyes when the women they were with wanted to go into another booth.  I had a LOT of guys wandering into my booth because I had a wall of items that were unique, eye-catching, and attractive to males as well as females... but I didn't have enough smaller items that were attractive to males (and especially younger men and boys)... I did quite a few shows at schools and probably could have sold a lot more if I'd had a few more masculine items. 
  8. I found that time flew during Craft Shows and Holiday Bazaars.  I didn't have time to do much more than restock and sell while I was there - which is fabulous but if you think you're going to get pricing done (or other little chores done) between customers - I wouldn't count on it! 
With their heads buried in food or books, this booth rarely had customers.  

      9. Be engaged, SMILE, and look at your potential customers!  If you do have down time, try not to spend it on your phone or with your head down too much. STAND UP, move around, and try and look busy (even if you've neatened-up your stall 40 times, do it again! Being up and moving is more inviting that sitting and giving the appearance you're not engaged.  I had several vendor/neighbors who did that and I heard a lot of comments from customers about how those vendors looked bored or grumpy.  And after chatting with those vendors, I know they didn't sell much!

The biggest thing I've learned is - if you're not having fun at the markets, bazaars, or fairs (especially during down-times) - then you shouldn't be doing it!!   
Personally, I don't think Farmer's Markets are for me.  Many of my items are easily damaged by water, I didn't make much money - especially for the amount of time I was there), and the days were long and hard.  I enjoyed being there and it was hugely educational for me... but I doubt I will do them again.  But I did love the Craft Fairs and Holiday Bazaars - they were fun, busy, and I did ok financially.  So yes, I will probably do those again!

I hope you found this somewhat helpful - I'd love to answer any questions you might have.
Happy 2014!

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