Friday, May 22, 2009

Part V -Marketing Series on Craft Shows - More Display Info

Announcing a new weekly feature: “Working the Shows Wednesdays

This is the second part of my discussion concerning craft booth displays and set-up. These are just the basics. There is so much more to talk about that I’ve decided to begin a weekly feature dealing specifically with the how-tos of doing shows. At the moment, I’m planning to run those posts on Wednesdays each week. They will not be part of this Marketing Series. As I mentioned the other day, there will be one post specifically dealing with displaying and showing jewelry. I will try to present that to you next Wednesday.

Part V of Craft Show Marketing Series : More Display Info

This is yet another set up done by Charm City Soaps. Check them out at

So, have you come up with some display ideas for your upcoming show yet?

Stability should be a primary consideration. Your table or display WILL get bumped and leaned on. Never underestimate the power of a “light breeze.” Your display has to be able to stand up to a fair amount of jostling. Otherwise you’re dealing with a house of cards and we all know what happens to them.

Remember, a collapsing booth display may not just effect you. In many shows, we are set up close enough to our neighbors that a falling display can have a domino effect. You don’t want to destroy that beautiful stained glass display next door.

I’m a big believer in using weights. I always weight my tables with homemade sandbags. I simply sewed two 20” x 8” rectangles of canvas together. I folded the rectangle in half end-to-end and stitched across that line. I then filled each end of the rectangle with 4-5 lbs of playground sand. They’re easy to pack and carry. I simply drop the sand bags over the rungs of my tables for 16-20 lbs of extra support to keep that table secure. They are hidden from sight by my table covers. Many folks use plastic jugs filled with water as weights. Again, inexpensive and easy to make.

I do NOT agree with tying all of your tables and display pieces to each other for securing them. In my experience, a good wind can then take the entire display over with one strong gust. This is not to say, I have never tied one lightweight rack to one table for extra support for the rack. Remember, my tables are weighted individually.

Are you using a canopy or tent? Do you know how to put it up? Can you do it alone or with the help that will be with you? You cannot count on a Good Samaritan or your neighbor for assistance with this. (I know this is a problem for me as I am fairly short and cannot reach the joints to snap everything into place.)

Be aware that canopies can easily grab the wind and take off like a giant parachute! I have seen them fly and roll several aisles away, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Again, you must consider weighting or staking the canopy itself. Do not assume you can use tent stakes just because your space is on dirt or grass. Many shows prohibit stakes for a variety of reasons, underground sprinkling systems, soil damage (I have been told this one!) and, the most common reason, tent stakes tend to create hazardous conditions for pedestrians near the tent.

You should ALWAYS carry weights for your canopy regardless of whether you notice a wind or not. There are many commercially available weights and there are numerous inexpensive homemade weights that can be made. Sand bags and water jugs tend to be the most common. Many folks also fill pieces of PVC pipe with concrete and hang them for weights. I also believe canopies with additional cross-bar supports are best. I feel most of the “cheaper” (under $75) canopies are not good choices for craft shows as they tend to be flimsy and really need to be staked.

If you are making do this time around, a nice beach umbrella with a solid stand should work well. Be sure you are able to handle the base to get it to your space. You may not be able to drive right up to your location.

If you are sure you can put your canopy up on your own, a second issue becomes, can you do it in a timely fashion?

Once you have figured out how you plan to set up your booth, do it. If it is an outdoor show, set it up in your yard. Indoor show? Try your basement or garage. Mark out the assigned space size and set it up. Do it several times. Time it. Be sure you can set the entire display up and be ready to sell in 2 hours or less. Often, you may have more time and, frequently, less. It is vital that you be ready for business when the show opens.

Setting it up and breaking it down will also point out any problems you may encounter. It gives you a chance to resolve difficulties or eliminate problem pieces. Fix any problems you come across now, BEFORE you are at the show without tools or supplies you may need.

Take pictures and make notes while doing these dry runs. Note what tools you need for set-up. Add these to your Must Haves list. The pictures will help you remember how you did it.

Finally, load the display in and out of your vehicle, several times. Figure the best way to put it in. I try for the reverse order from my set up procedure with the tables going in last and coming out first. Remember to leave room for you actual merchandise, cooler and anyone who may be riding with you.

Keep in mind, that many shows require you to pull in, dump your stuff and move your car out as soon as possible.

This great display is one done by Avocado Creations. She has hung her fabric shopping bags from a "tree" she made by using sturdy branches from her maple tree and " planting" them in a plastic pot of concrete. Definitely an attention getter. (A bit hard to transport though.) She has a folding wire rack on the left that folds flat for traveling and the pots of flowers add a nice inviting touch. She has a clear and visible sign and her table display is neat and pulled together looking. The booth is inviting us to enter and look around. (You can check out this merchandise at www.

Oh, one more thing -- Be sure you are prepared for the weather, even if it isn’t forecast. Carry enough plastic drop cloths and/or tarps to throw over your display in case of a sudden storm. They can come out of nowhere without warning. Do not count on your canopy being enough to keep your work dry. It usually won’t. I also usually carry a box of yard and leaf size garbage bags. There have been times when all I could do was drop my merchandise in those bags as quick as possible to prevent damage and loss.

Be aware that water will collect on top of your canopy. Know how to dump it without drowning those around you.

There is so much more to say about displays. Please watch for those Working the Shows Wednesdays posts in the weeks to come.

Part VI of this Marketing Series will help you make your Must Haves list (everything you should have with you to do your show.) There will also be a few pointers about the merchandise you plan to sell although you are on your own to design and produce that!

Have a great weekend, y’all!!


Tins and Treasures said...

I enjoyed reading the part about using weights for your tent. Last year at the Pig Out, it was so windy that my hubby and his buddy had to park their cars by the tent, and they tied the tent to their vehicles!! Have a great weekend. ~Natalie

Debbie said...

Thanks for all the great info. Check out my experience at my first craft booth last weekend. There was rain in the forecast and we were prepared but we got a lot of rain!! No items were lost or destroyed but we were too wet to stay the rest of the the day to sell. Check out the story "And then it Rained"

Hollyrocks said...

I'm still loving these! I wish I would have read this particular post about a week ago, before a windy outdoor craft show I did. We made a mad dash to the nearby home improvement store for a way to weigh down our tent and managed to set up on time, but I would have done the concrete-filled pipes if I would have known about them before. I saw another vendor using that method, and it seemed to be very effective. Thanks for the info!

Little Dickens Designs said...

This is a great series! I love that story book chair too.

Lenox Knits said...

Great series. I'll be watching for you ideas.