Where I muse about just about everything...
From the weather in Texas, to my kids, pets, travel and friendships. Basically, about life. And oh yeah, about my Coquette Bath & Home™ products, too.
Originally posted online on October 30, 2010 to my (now defunct) blogger site.
Although I do not pretend to have ‘all knowledge’ as a former biz owner, and a veteran of years of craft shows, I’d like to offer some advice to anyone contemplating hosting a craft show. Great shows are diamonds. Bad shows are…well, a total waste of makeup.
First, why do you want to have this show? Yeah, I can see the grin from here. Money. Of course. You want some funds to help your school group or outside organization with trips, awards, parties or the like. No problem. I would much rather see someone work for money than to get a gift. My opinion is that money worked for is spent with more intent than money simple given (or taken…and I”m NOT going to turn this into a ‘government spends my tax dollars crazily’ so don’t fear).
A good craft show CAN bring a nice chunk of money into to your coffers, enabling you to do what you want to do. But like all endeavors, doing it well doesn’t mean doing it fast or easy. There’s a lot more to taping off some spaces on the floor. It takes time and dedication to putting on a good craft show. But even a first year show can be fabulous. Just don’t make the mistakes below.
We already know you’re doing this for the money. Okay, but here’s tip #2. So are your vendors. None of them really want to work a 40 hr a week job (cause for most folks, their show ‘self’ is very different from their Monday thru Friday person). If they’re giving up their weekend, all or in part, they are doing it to make some money.
And–this is very important–they probably do not care even the slightest about your organization! Yeah, I know, shocking huh? But they really only care about how much money is in their bank bag at the end of the day. Your job, should you choose to take it, is to become not only the type of show vendors want (because of traffic) but a show that really caters to what your vendors need.
THAT, my friend, is the difference between a show and a SHOW!!!!! And yes, I did mean to use that many exclamation points. Seriously, a show worthy of that many is one that puts the vendors’ needs at the top of their agenda.
So, to make this easy, here’s a list of stuff NEVER to do at a show (from a vendor’s point of view).
Have no one available to help them load in (and especially OUT) of the venue. Yeah, we may prefer to cart our intricate glass works of art ourselves (or in my case, breakable glass jar candles…and yes, someone HAS dropped a case whilst helping me…not nice) but it is always nice to ask.
Showcase every single ‘imported from somewhere’ or resale type of biz you can possibly find. Listen, everyone can find that stuff at the mass merchants. And you just have to google to find anyone selling a major line (home party sales types). It really isn’t hard. Make your show an event, and that means finding vendors who aren’t hopping on this or that bandwagon. But those who really make a quality product…yeah, I’m taking artisan handcrafted items. If you MUST have some of the other, make it a minimum. Thank you.
Play loud music during the day. Listen if I have to yell to be heard over your ‘entertainment’ while I’m trying to sell a product, you can be sure that both myself–and my customer–aren’t having fun. And no fun means lower sales.
Not pay attention to duplicate vendors/putting same type vendors too close together. I had an experience once. A show did about everything wrong. I had specifically asked ‘how many folks are going to sell candles at your show?’ and got a ‘oh just one or two’. Out of 45 vendors, that is a tad high, but okay. I went. Only to find 18 different people (out of 35, not 45-50 like promised) with candles. Needless to say, I was not happy. Talked to the organizer and got this. “OH but you’re the ONLY one with your line.” Umm, yes. But that isn’t what I asked, was it?
Sending your kids to try to hawk raffle tickets. I’ve paid to be at the show. While a door prize is okay (but again, I’ve PAID) i do not want a bunch of kids (note that I primarily do school based shows due to the horrible case of most craft shows at other organizations/churchs (save one…which is a fabulous show) coming by to shill raffle tickets. Save that for the folks who are shopping.
Making me BUY tickets to get food. If you don’t trust your people then you don’t. But here’s the deal. I usually do shows alone. If I have to leave my booth to stand in ONE line for a ticket and then go into ANOTHER line for food…well, that’s sales I’m missing out on.
Not pay attention to comparable value. Your personal group is important to you. But charging 2-3x what a normal show in your area charges (for attendance…and that means buyers…and that’s the ONLY reason I’m doing your show is to get in front of those buyers…) and give me the excuse well it is to support your church/school/cause is unacceptable. Sorry. This is a financial thing. If I want to donate, I will.
Give no care to the creature comforts of your vendors. One great show I do every year actually sends folks to ask if you need a bathroon break, or change or a step outside for some fresh air. This person will stand in your booth and watch your items while you go and handle these needs. Fabulous. Actually the only church show I do also does that. How kind and considerate. Tell me a lot about the people behind the show.
Sorry for the novella, but seriously, the old adage about ‘walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins’ is apt for shows, too. I respect the desire to have one (I”m actually thinking of hosting shows myself beginning in 2011…) but if you want to be successful…you have to do more than provide me a taped off space to set up.
This did not cover advertising (which is critical). A show cannot help if the weather doesn’t comply or if your local team finally makes it into the World Series (and a huge game is scheduled for the same day as a show). Stuff happens. But if you do have control over it, make it the best you can.
If you want advice, let me know. I may want a free booth space out of it, though!
Update: June 24, 2017!
Long time since I wrote this initial post and, yet, nothing has changed. Well, not really. All of the 'don't do this please' comments are still valid. Unfortunately, being a single parent, life (and new shoes...etc) made it impossible to start up my own craft show in North Texas. However, I still do them each fall, as a vendor. I've moved out a bit from 'my side' of town (Fort Worth) and have begun doing a few over on the Dallas (MUCH more expensive) side of town.
Comparable value is really true here. On the Dallas side, the organizers come with significant amount of 'shrug'...so any comments one makes about improvements falls on deaf ears. On the Ft Worth side of things, it is a tad different. Everyone runs their show as they want to run it, but I've found that organizers really want a great show. And are very much tuned in to what their vendors need. After all, no one wants to struggle to fill slots every year. And yet, so many of them are doing just that. I see signs the week before a 'big' show saying 'vendors needed' in quite a few areas of town.
And you can't go 'oh well that part is town is affluent, should be a good show'. Nope. Sad to say but that while socioeconomic status does create more visitors to a show, some shows never bring in buyers. They bring in lookers. They bring in 'oh we've nothing better to do today so let's go to this free craft show, and if we see someone, we'll stand in the middle of the aisle blocking everything and everyone, and totally ignore that we're being a pain.'
Okay, maybe no one says that, or thinks that, but that's how it comes off. Unfortunately, as well, I can't comment on blog comments, which is weird. So, if anyone has any other questions, please drop me a note!
Creative. Witty. And usually somewhat wise. Mom of 2. Heritage: French & German. Born in the UK and raised in the USA.