Crafting is a journey of discovery, where mistakes become happy accidents.

Craftastic or Catastrophe? A Deep Dive into Selling Crafts at Local Shows
Posted by: Mark Plante on: March 22, 2024

The twinkling lights, the festive atmosphere, and the chance to showcase your creations ā€“ local craft shows offer a tempting opportunity for artisans of all stripes. But before you dive headfirst into booth rentals and glitter glue, a considered approach is key. This guide will dissect the world of craft shows, exploring both the sunshine and shadows of this selling method.

Pros: Unveiling the Magic of Craft Shows

Selling at local shows boasts a treasure trove of advantages:

woman with pink hair doing handicrafts
Photo by Mavluda Tashbaeva on
  • Direct Customer Connection: Craft shows bridge the gap between you and your ideal buyer. Forget generic product descriptions ā€“ you get to personally present your work, explain its story, and answer questions. This fosters a connection and allows you to gauge customer preferences in real-time.
  • Market Validation and Testing: Shows are excellent testing grounds for new products and ideas. Gauge customer reactions, see what sells well, and gather valuable feedback. This market research informs future designs and helps you refine your product line.
  • Building Brand Awareness: Every craft show is a branding exercise. Your booth name, display visuals, and even your interactions with customers contribute to your brand image. Shows give you a platform to establish yourself within the local community.
  • Increased Sales Potential: Direct sales are a clear benefit. You bypass wholesale markups and set your own retail prices, maximizing your profit margins. Participating in shows during peak seasons (think holiday markets) can provide a significant sales boost.
  • Networking Opportunities: Craft shows aren’t just about selling; they’re vibrant hubs of creativity. Mingle with other vendors, share ideas, and build connections within the handmade community. This can lead to collaborations, wholesale opportunities, or simply valuable friendships.
  • Instant Gratification (Maybe): There’s something undeniably satisfying about seeing your creations appreciated and leaving a show with a lighter inventory. The immediate feedback and potential for sales can be a powerful motivator.

Cons: The Not-So-Glittery Side of Shows

While the allure of craft shows is undeniable, they come with challenges:

  • Investment of Time and Money: Booth fees, permits, materials for display and packaging, and travel expenses all add up. Factor in the significant time commitment required for creating inventory, setting up/breaking down your booth, and the actual show duration. Be prepared for an upfront investment.
  • Uncertain Sales: Shows can be unpredictable. Factors like weather, event marketing, and competition can significantly impact your sales. There’s a chance you might not recoup your investment, making it crucial to do your research and choose shows strategically.
  • Long Hours and Physical Demands: Shows can be physically demanding. Be prepared to stand for extended periods, manage heavy inventory, and potentially deal with unpredictable weather conditions (depending on outdoor shows).
  • Competition: Craft shows can be saturated. Stand out from the crowd with high-quality, unique products and a well-designed booth. Be prepared to face competition, both in terms of aesthetics and pricing.
  • Marketing and Sales Skills Selling at shows requires a blend of marketing and salesmanship. Hone your communication skills, develop a captivating presentation for your booth, and be prepared to answer customer questions and encourage purchases.
  • Legalities and Permits: Depending on your location, you might need permits or licenses to sell at craft shows. Research local regulations and ensure you comply with all tax and legal requirements.

Prepping for Perfection: From Inventory to Display

A well-prepared booth is the cornerstone of a successful show experience. Here’s a breakdown of the pre-show essentials:

1. Research and Selection:

  • Find the Perfect Show: Research local craft shows. Look for events that cater to your target audience and have a reputation for attracting a strong customer base. Consider factors like booth fees, show location, and marketing efforts.
  • Know Your Target Audience: Who are you trying to reach? Understanding your ideal buyer allows you to tailor your product selection and presentation accordingly.
  • Craft a Curated Collection: Don’t just bring everything you’ve ever made! Choose a well-curated selection of your best work that complements each other aesthetically and caters to the show’s theme (if applicable).

2. Inventory and Production:

  • Quantity is Key: Estimate the number of items you’ll need based on past sales experience (if any) and average show traffic. Factor in the “just in case” scenario and aim for a good selection without overstocking.
  • Pricing Strategy: Research similar products at other shows or online stores to determine a competitive price range. Consider the cost of materials and your desired profit margin when setting prices.
  • Packaging Power: Presentation matters! Invest in attractive and sturdy packaging that complements