Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Part IV of Craft Show Marketing Series

**NOTE: Part V of this series will also deal with Displays and will be posted on Friday.

So, you’re now officially about to do your very first craft show. You’ve done your research, asked all the right questions, been accepted and paid your money. You now have a goal date looming out there in front of you. Now, you need to prepare.

In addition to producing as much merchandise to sell as you can, you need to think about your display and gather what you will need to show off your work to its best advantage.
Since this article is geared toward those doing their first shows, I will not suggest you go out and a spend a fortune on the perfect display rack. Such commercially available racks and stands are quite costly and should only be invested in when you know you will be doing a large number of shows and you have determined that the item will truly show your products off in such a manner as to “pay for themselves” in sales. Many great and effective booths have consisted of a very basic, single table display or with a few basic display pieces that were found around the house.

If time permits in the weeks before your show, visit a large craft show specifically to look at how folks are displaying their wares. Look to see what displays attract your attention and why. Which ones seem to get the attention of the shoppers? What pulls the customers over to the tables? Will any of these ideas work with your merchandise?

Many craftspeople will be glad to discuss where they purchased a display rack or how they made it, as long as you approach them when they are not busy getting set up or waiting on customers. **Never interrupt a sales pitch or approach a seller who seems to have a booth full of customers. Wait until there is a lull in traffic. Also, do not simply take photographs of a booth you like unless you have spoken with the seller and asked their permission.

(You can check out Seaside Quilts' merchandise at

Now, armed with some ideas, take inventory of what you have to work with and then beg, borrow or make do. Aha! You thought I might say “steal,” didn’t you? I can’t condone that. However, if a great piece is sitting out at the curb with somebody’s trash or hanging at the dumpster behind the mall… Well now, that’s just up for grabs.)

At an absolute minimum, you will need some sort of table, a chair, a sign and a tablecloth.

Determine which and how many tables you will be using for your display. Be sure they are solid. Customers will bump, lean on and otherwise shake your table. Wobbly displays will fall over, damaging the merchandise and possibly injuring a potential customer. If the table is not solid, figure a way to stabilize it or find another table. **Remember, you need to be able to transport and handle the table. Keep size and weight in mind.

Table Covers
Once you have selected your table(s), find appropriate tablecloths. Tables should have floor length covers on all selling sides. (* Many shows actually require this.) In most cases, solid colors are preferable. A busy table covering will usually detract form the merchandise displayed on it. There are, of course, exceptions. I have seen crazy quilts, camo or other themed cloths work well with specific products. You will need to take an honest look at your table and determine if your creations “disappear” on any such print.

Many people use flat sheets or pieces of inexpensive fabrics for their covers and simply pin or tape them in place. (*When draping the table, remember to pin the corners flat as a loose drape can create a tripping hazard for customers which can spell disaster.) Whatever you use, they must be clean, unstained and pressed to look professional. If using multiple tables, they should be matched, or at least, color-coordinated. (*If you choose to continue doing shows and will be using the same tables, I suggest making fitted cloths for your tables. They are simple to make and save loads of time during set-up.)

You will need something to sit on at your booth. It is unlikely, you will be able to stand throughout the entire show. Your chair/stool should be neat in appearance, somewhat compact (space is always at a premium) and should be something you can get up and down from easily and quickly.

You really must post some sort of easily viewed sign telling folks who you are. They need to be able to remember whose booth they saw that perfect gift at so they can come back and get it before leaving the show! You are a craftsperson. You can make a sign. It can be fabric, tag board or wood but it needs to get your name out there in front. It should be large enough to see from a short distance and clear enough to read easily. It should not resemble the daily Jumble. Most of those sellers in these pictures have done this well.

Making the most of your table space:
Most of us need to use very inch available when setting up our displays. It is both eye-appealing and effective use of space to create multiple display levels on top of your table. This can be accomplished by adding shelves, table top racks and building up levels with the use of boxes.
Charm City Soaps, has one of the most effective, basic displays I’ve seen. She uses one small table with several low shelves supported by solid boxes to create some height. The display is neat and pulled-together and looks inviting. She has visible signage so we know who she is and there is a price guide posted. She can keep extra stock under her covered table and even has room to display samples. (Interested in seeing more about Charm City Soaps? Check out

Avoid simply plopping your merchandise in flat piles on your table. They won’t catch the eye of a passer by and lots of customers will do just that - pass right on by. Flat fabric creations can be difficult to display but there are simple ways.
Rachel of Seaside Quilts uses baskets to create visual interest on her tables. This picture shows her creative display of burp cloths. (Check Rachel's wares out at

What if your merchandise is not table-oriented?
A lot of merchandise simply doesn’t show well on a table. Some things need to be up where they can hang and be seen. Some folks have found a simple clothing tree works well for this purpose. A simple clothing rack like many of us use at home can be used for displaying clothing. (This pic is from Others have figured ways to string a clothesline (This works especially well if you are using a canopy. You can run lines from one support leg to another and then simply use clothespins to hang items.) (More on hanging displays in Part V of this series on Friday.)

Don’t have a tent or canopy?
While some shows require tents/canopies, they remain optional at most events. (Tents will be addressed further in Part V of this series on Friday.) While they are wonderful additions to help protect against the elements and provide all kinds of display opportunities, there are other solutions if you don’t have one. An attractive beach umbrella can create a simple and cute effect while still protecting you and your merchandise from the sun. Sara has also used hers to help display her purses (Extra stock and other colors are displayed flat on the table but there are eye-catching hanging pieces.) She has also designed and built a very simple stand-alone stand to display her purses in an easy to view manner. (Sara does not have an active online sales presence at the moment but can be contacted through Craftster using the member name of Dishwasher 182. I’ll keep you posted on when and if she sets up shop in the near future.)

This is just a start. There is so much more to say about displays. Part V will be posted on Friday and will discuss more display issues. Jewelry display is a subject unto itself and I will address that in a separate post. I will also discuss some really unique, more involved displays in a separate post. These will not be part of the Marketing Series but will run in the next week or so.

Display Rules to Keep in Mind:
1. Be sure whatever display pieces you use are stable. You do not want them to fall over when bumped or if the wind blows.
2. Keep the appearance of the overall display neat and put-together. Color coordinate your display. Avoid a cluttered appearance.
3. Be sure you can handle the equipment. Keep weight and bulk in mind as you need to be able to transport and handle these pieces.
4. Keep your set-up flexible. While billed as 10’x10’, a space may not be perfectly square or there may be some other factor to consider and you may need to juggle a bit.

Be sure to check in on Friday for more display information in Part V of this Marketing Series.

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