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Craft Fairs - Tips for buying and selling

I do love a good craft fair, both as a vendor and a customer. I see craft fairs as an opportunity to buy unique products that I just wouldn't find in any other setting. Online marketplaces are all very well when looking for something specific, but at a craft fair you can browse, meet the maker, touch the products and really understand what exactly you're buying. The company I book my stalls through is Mynt Image - I love that they use wonderful buildings (Guildhalls & Town Halls etc.) and have people outside throughout working hard to get customers into the fair.

While I don't claim to be any sort of expert I think I've picked up a few tips over the past couple of years which may help you get more out of a fair, whether you're buying or selling.

I'll start with buying tips, since lets face it, even sellers tend to do a fair amount of buying!

Obviously personal tastes and values will differ for each of us but I think that if you approach a craft fair in a slightly different way from usual 'shopping' you'll get much more out of it.

Look at every stall. I know this sounds silly but it's really easy to meander around and accidentally walk past a stall because you were looking the other way. Go around twice to make sure you saw everything.

Don't assume the vendor is an amazing salesperson. Many artists and crafts people are rubbish at selling their goods, or they assume that people don't want to be 'bothered' while they're looking, ask questions and engage them. You may discover that the products are so much more than you initially assumed.

Don't be afraid to look with no intention of buying. Most makers love talking about how products are made or where they come from. They don't expect everyone to buy - everyone knows that browsing is the best part of shopping!

For sellers there are definitely some things you can do to to increase sales. These generally centre around getting people to look. Buying begins with looking! Not everyone who looks will buy, but once customers are looking you've got a chance of making a sale.

Make your stall attractive. This seems really obvious, but I'm frequently amazed by stalls that seem to have very little thought behind the overall aesthetic. Practise setting up at home, think about adding height and look online for tips. There's so much advice out there! Don't be sucked into buying lots of expensive stall products that you don't need though. I use a duvet cover for a table cloth and an upturned plastic box covered with a bit of sheet to add some height. IKEA provided a couple of inexpensive wooden boxes and a children's book stand which make great print racks. I use a couple of port boxes donated by family members as card racks. Depending on what you sell you might like to have lighting or specialist displays but only invest in this once you know it's worth it. I recently invested in a couple of mesh panels to hang prints on which adds a little more height and means I can display more framed prints now that I'm more confident about selling them.

Stand, don't sit, and greet every person who walks past. This is probably the most important advice I can give! I try to tell every person who passes that "these are handmade cards and prints that I've made myself". I'm always amazed by the number of people who clearly had no intention of stopping, or who hadn't even noticed my stall, but on hearing that I made everything then pause and have a good look. This is despite lots of clear signage stating that everything is handmade!

Have business cards or something similar. These serve two purposes: obviously to hand out so people remember you and have your email/website/social media details, but also they give people who don't want to buy anything an easy way out. Having these in a prominent position on the stall may give some customers more confidence to come and chat since they can see an easy way out in case they don't want to buy anything - they can politely take a card and leave. You never know, you may then get a later sale or they'll follow you on social media or come to the next fair to see you (I've had repeat custom at fairs this way).

Pull everything together with branding or a theme. I bought stickers from Eco-Craft which have a downloadable word template so I can easily pop my logo and the price onto each sticker to print out. I also have a banner (which cost under £20, I use strong magnets to hold it in place), pop my logo onto all signage and use the logo colours throughout. This gives my stall a theme so pulls it all together, I also try to stick to one colour for all the containers on the stall, again, just making it more visually neat and attractive.

Make sure your prices are clearly displayed. People hate being unsure what the price is and often won't ask which puts them off looking. Make sure your prices are visible and any multi-buys or discounts are easy to understand, but don't be shy to point out multi-buy offers while people are browsing - its amazing how many people just don't see even the clearest of signage.

Have a range of price points. Even if you just have one thing at a lower price (cards are a great example) it gives people who want to buy but can't afford or don't have a use for the more expensive items a way to support you. There are always several people at craft fairs who try to buy something from as many stalls as possible, even if it's just a card, as they want to encourage and support the craft fair, a few card sales can quickly add up to cover the cost of the stall.

Finally, just be yourself and be friendly. Smile at everyone and try not to make assumptions about the people who are more likely to buy. It's highly likely that the people who looked like your ideal customer will be the ones that smile and walk right on by and the least likely person will become your biggest sale of the day (like the time a ten year old lad pulled out a bank card and bought three prints from me) ... you can just never tell!

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