Arts, Crafts and Creations

Preparing For the Craft Show

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The Christmas craft show season is upon us. This year I have reserved a table at a local show in Harpersfield, Ohio. Because it’s an indoor show, I don’t have to worry about setting up a tent and I paid an extra small fee to rent one of the organization’s tables so that I don’t have to haul in my own. Even so, if you have never sold your wares at a craft show you might be surprised to discover just how much preparation is involved.

You can’t just spread out your creations on the day of the show and expect shoppers to run up and start buying. Shoppers are a fickle lot. It takes a lot to catch their attention. It takes even more to keep it. Sometimes luck just isn’t on your side and nothing works. But preparation and planning will at least give you the best shot at having a successful sale. My upcoming show is a week away but I have been planning my set up for more than three weeks now.

Many craft fairs have a rule that tables need to be covered and skirted. It’s not a bad idea to get into this habit whether or not a show requires it. Neatness counts. I have a bright blue and green plaid tablecloth that I plan to cover my table with. The colors match my business card keeping my theme consistent. Because this is a Christmas show, I am thinking of using one of those cottony white Christmas covers —the kind that simulates snow— beneath my displays. In addition, I have a plastic lime green table skirt that will wrap around the 8 foot table. The table skirt hides all of my excess (and messy) boxes, bags, and supplies.

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On the front of my table I will hang a vinyl banner. It’s a simplified version of my business card. I also have a Christmas garland that I will drape around the edges the table. I made it from strips of Christmas fabric but I could just as easily use store-bought stuff. The idea is to  use a little bit of “bling” to draw attention to the table but by keeping it all below the tabletop it won’t interfere with my displays which are really what I want people to look at.

Because I haven’t done craft shows on a regular enough basis to have a routine, I’ve discovered that its a huge help to do a test run and set up my display at home. I don’t own an 8 foot table but I can get a good idea of how things will work by using my dining room table. I can estimate how much space I will have and see just how much space each item will use. I can decide if I need more inventory or if I need to make choices about what to leave at home. I can see how things look side-by-side. If something doesn’t work I can readjust and come up with a new plan.cropped-cropped-collage3.jpg

Because I sell a number of different things I need different kinds of displays and they all have to fit on my eight-foot table. Figuring out how to show items takes a lot of creative thinking. I purchased some wire mesh cubes and several CD racks from secondhand stores that I will use as display racks. The nice thing about the CD racks is that they are vertical, allowing my items to be seen across the room while using very little of my table space. They are also stable and I don’t have to worry about displays toppling over.

There are lots of theories about how to set up craft show displays. Some people like to show only a few items. As a seller, I like to show a lot of inventory. That’s because as a shopper, I like having choices. If your craft table only has a few products I’m less likely to stop and look. I like a table that’s filled with a variety of different things for me to look at and to choose from.

On the day of the show vendors are only given two hours to set up. I know from experience that I need more time than that and so I need to make set-up as easy as possible. I set up my displays, pricing and tagging items, and hanging them on the racks. Once I have my Christmas ornaments set just right I will wrap the entire display, ornaments and all, with bubblewrap so that they can be transported to the craft show ready to go. Any other displays that are small and lightweight enough will get the same treatment saving me set up time on the day of the show. I don’t have electricity available to me at this show so I’ve strung battery operated lights on my display pieces and installed new batteries. On show day all I’ll have to do is flip the switches.

On two taller CD racks I hang my hand painted sleds and other items. These racks would be too big and heavy to transport intact but  I do what I can to make set up at the craft show fast and easy. Each piece is priced and tagged with one of my business cards. I make sure that each has a strong hanger and hook attached before I pack the pieces away in an easy to carry plastic bin.

I make display boxes for my handmade greeting cards. I adapt a rack to hold inspirational quote necklaces and another to display bead jewelry.

IMG_3741Setting up the display reminds me of supplies I need to pack and might otherwise forget. As I set things up at home, I gather tools and supplies and pack them up right then and there.

Next, I create my signs. As a shopper I like signs. Shoppers don’t like it if your price isn’t prominently displayed and most won’t ask the price if they can’t find it. I keep my signs simple – only the name of the product and the price. They need to be big enough to be seen but small enough so they aren’t blocking view of the product. I have clear acrylic stands in various sizes that I use as sign holders. I like them because they look neat and professional. They can also be moved around as needed.

Once I have displays completely set up, I will photograph everything and tuck the pictures into my supply box. That way, on craft day, I won’t have to rely on my memory to set everything up where it belongs.

My indoor craft show supply list:

  • inventory
  • signs
  • tablecloth
  • table skirt
  • gift bags, tissue paper
  • scissors
  • transparent tape
  • packing tape
  • duct tape
  • binder clips
  • moneybox with fives and ones
  • receipt book
  • calculator
  • “Square” credit card reader
  • wet wipes
  • paper towels
  • extra price tags
  • extra hooks
  • small tape measure (you’d be surprised how many customers ask to borrow one)
  • business card holder for each end of the table
  • business cards
  • vendor’s license and other paperwork
  • legal pad
  • memo pad
  • pens and pencils
  • small clipboard
  • e-mail sign-up sheets
  • tissues
  • hand sanitizer
  • snacks
  • small six–pack size cooler with beverages

For other shows I might also include:

  • extension cords
  • power strip
  • brown bag lunch
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