Preparing for Christmas Markets/Fairs

This year marks the first Christmas were I'm not spending my weekends in freezing cold halls or losing the will to live in 2 hour long post office queue. I shut down my design studio, LH design, in September so that I could focus on my coaching/OGB and although I'm thankful I won't be dealing with the Christmas Rush this year, I'm sort of missing it! My partner and I used to have so much fun at markets, after the initial stress of wondering if you're going to sell anything/is he going to throw up on a customer (he was ALWAYS hungover because it was ALWAYS his Christmas party the night before). 

If you're a maker, craft fairs/markets are brilliant for getting your work out there, and gaining some confidence in the meantime. The internet is all well and good, but nothing beats seeing a real-life person looking at, holding and buying your wares. The one thing I used to love most about craft fairs is seeing people smile when they read the expression or quote on one of my prints or cards. Even if someone doesn't buy, it's a lovely little boost to receive great comments in person.

Of course, craft fairs can be scary if you're not prepared for those 5-6 hours. Hopefully, this post will help those who have got a Christmas event coming up and need some pointers.

The fair/market

Research the location. Is it worth it? If you know the area, and you know that the fair is in a place that isn't very busy, think again about booking it. Of course, if it's your first one and you just want to try it out, go for it. Just remember that if you only sell three things throughout the day, it's probably not you. It's the location. 

If you don't get given one, ask for an information pack from the organisers. It helps to know about parking, unloading etc so you can plan your journey to and from the fair. If it's in a busy town centre where parking is far away/expensive, ask a friend to drop you off. You might even want them to stay and help you out. 

What you'll need:

  • Good-quality stock that varies in price to cater for all
  • Tablecloth
  • Sign with your business name/logo on (you're a creative, make it yourself rather than getting it printed!)
  • Crates/boxes/any type of display unit 
  • Money box
  • £50 approx. float  
  • Stationery case/box with blu tack, pens, extra price tags, tape, scissors (just in case!)
  • Notebook for noting down sales
  • Duplicate book (if they want a receipt)
  • Paypal Reader or iZettle for taking card payments
  • Bags 
  • Price tags
  • Seller/product information- an A5 sheet that introduces yourself and your work. Not a huge priority but always adds a nice touch.
  • Business cards/postcards

Your stall

No matter what kind of maker you are, your stall should be an extension of your brand, and of course, a haven for your customers. Be consistent with your usual branding whilst making sure it all looks welcoming and touchable. There's nothing worse than walking up to a stall that you're way too scared to even touch, let alone look at, because it's all so busy and inconsistent.

Make sure to add height to your stall with display units, crates or boxes as this will encourage the customer's eyes to follow around the table and take in all your stock. I would use wooden crates upside down to put my framed prints on top, and little wire baskets for my cards to sit in (they also double up as storage for transit, so win-win!). This groups the products together, whilst keeping it easy to look at. Remember to leave a gap of space for wherever you're sitting though, they want to see your face!

Ensure your tablecloth hangs down at the front of the table so any unused stock, bags etc that are under the table are hidden.

I would try and keep my side of the table as organised as possible so sales are dealt with quickly and the customer isn't hanging around, waiting for you to find that little bag for their card. I had a little system that goes from left to right. The stock is (obviously) on top of the table. I would stand/sit on the left-hand side of the table, where the hard-backed envelopes that I put the prints in are beside my feet. The bags are to the right of them, and then, my duplicate book and money box are to the right again. My business cards/postcards were next to the money box so I could just go to the right and pop it in their bag! Does that make sense? I've probably just revealed how crazy I am. 

Another good thing to have on your table amongst your stock is a seller information sheet. Introduce yourself and your wares to customers who haven't heard of you before, and pop your business card next to it to encourage people to pick them up. Just a simple A5 piece of paper will do. If you're not cool with that, a promo postcard will do.

Heads up, you'll probably run out of business cards, as people like to take one and look at your site when they get home (weirdly, I found one of my postcards in the toilets of a fair I was selling at, but hey! At least they took one). Have a few backups behind the table, and if they run out, use gift tags with your details written on them. They've saved the day many times for me.

Practise how you're going to set your stall up at home. You don't need the correctly sized table, just measure the dimensions on the floor and see how much stock you're able to fit in. If you don't, you might get a surprise when you realise you can't fit half your products on there! It's also handy to pack your stock in the order that you'll be displaying them, this saves a heck of a lot of time. I'm not crazy, I promise.

You can choose whether you want all your products to be priced individually with price tags, or have a big price sheet somewhere on the table. I used to have one piece of card with my prices on as I'd only tend to have three different ones (framed prints, unframed prints and cards), which I eventually updated to a piece of OSB wood with the prices printed on vinyl. It would lean on the front of my table and get people looking. Also, note down all your sales for accounting purposes. That's an important one.
Take at least a £50 float for change. I would never really need the whole lot, so I'd save it for the next time, but it's good to be prepared. I also need a little extra help when it comes to change (fun fact- I have dyscalculia), which is why I would usually have someone (i.e. a hungover partner) with me to handle that part of the sale. If no one can come, then I would have a handy little cheat sheet for typical amounts of change.   

You

Be friendly! Smile! Put that phone away! If you've worked in retail before, you'll pretty much have the technique of real-life customer service down, but if you haven't, don't panic. You don't have to stand up whenever someone walks up to your stall if you don't feel comfortable with that. Just say hi with a smile, and be nice. If they want to continue the conversation, they will. The one thing I cringe at seeing other stallholders doing is jumping up when some poor soul walks pasts their table and literally pull them back, then start talking about how unique their products are/how they're made from reused tyres or whatever. Let people look and let people walk away. You're not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine, because you're going to be plenty of others! 

Remember to get public and product liabilty insurance for a one-off event, as well as if you frequently exhibit. For more information, there's a brilliant article here

If you need any more pointers, I found these articles to be very helpful:

The Design Trust- Getting ready for a craft show 

UKHandmade- Preparing for your first craft fair

Handmadeology- The ultimate craft show preparation link list