Learning from failure- craft fair

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The craft fair I’ve been talking about lately was on Thursday. This was my first craft fair, and my first experience to try to sell any of my sewing in a retail setting.

Let’s just say that by any standard, it was a failure.

I was there four hours. I did not sell a single item. Granted, it was my first craft fair, but I did a lot of research. Let’s break this down into things I did right and things that went poorly.

  1. Signage- I used a good amount of signage. I made all prices clear.
  2. Pricing- I think I had fair pricing and good pricing on most items, although I think I priced my quilts too low, because several people commented on that.
  3. Preparation- I had plenty of change, I ordered a Square (which I highly recommend- super cool and allows you to take credit cards), I had my display prepared and ready.
  4. Unique items- There was one item that people always stopped and talked to me about- mug rugs. The Oklahoma mug rugs- although none sold- were very attention grabbing. I also had another one (I don’t have a pic, oddly) that was quilted like a piece of notebook paper and had embroidered in script- “You are my sunshine”. People loved that! Standing out is good.

Here were the blog posts I found most helpful.
How much cash do I need for a craft show?
Your First Craft Show: Selling at Craft Shows Made Easy

Here are some things that were problematic for me

  1. Introvert! I am not a chatter. There is a reason I work in web marketing. Since I was there alone, there was no one to talk to, so I think customers felt a little odd if they browsed while I sat there 2 feet away. I tried reading my kindle to alleviate some of that tension, but I think it made me seem aloof. Next time (?) I will take some embroidery or something to work on, so it seems like I am engaged with my craft, but not staring down anyone who comes up. I also can’t do a sales pitch for my own stuff. Too introverted.
  2. Height- My booth needed more height. That is one thing I knew intellectually, but just didn’t get done in time for this show. I need a better way to display table wares. Maybe a 2nd rack like I used for my aprons.
  3. Specialize (?) if i were to to another craft show, I might do something like a booth that was just kitchen goods (aprons, pot holders, etc). Maybe just a booth of mug rugs and gifts like that. I think it’d be better from a marketing perspective.

So there ya go. I cried a river of tears after the show on Thursday, but now I’m feeling better. You live and learn. I’m glad I tried. I don’t know when I’ll feel like doing another craft show, but I think online sales may be the way to go for me.

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17 thoughts on “Learning from failure- craft fair

  1. My first craft show turned out exactly the same . . . except the lady who owned the quilt shop that sponsored it kindly bought two of my pillows to cover my table fee.! But then I bought things from other vendors because I didn’t want THEM to feel bad, so it definitely wasn’t a lucrative day business-wise! 🙂 I decided I don’t have the right personality for this . . . but that’s okay! I tried it, and I learned from it. Your work is lovely, and you’ll find your perfect niche!

  2. My town has a local farmers market on Saturday and they are always looking for more people to sell stuff, I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I keep putting it off because I have no idea what I’m doing. Thanks for posting about what happened, it’ll help me out when I finally have enough finished products to display.

    • Thanks for the comment! I say it’s worth giving it a go. The reason I took the plunge this time is that it was free for me because of staff week at my university. I’m glad I had the chance. My biggest recommendation is read read read and plan plan plan, and then take a chance! 🙂

  3. I’ve only done it once & I’m not keen because it’s really hard to sell your own stuff. But here are my thoughts anyway.
    I agree that it’s best to have something to do – I took a hand cranked sewing machine & sewed. That got a few conversations going.
    The other thing that helps is to have small, inexpensive things to sell as well as the big ones. People who like what you do & want to support you will often buy small items.

  4. Oh. My. GOODNESS! I am so glad I’m not the only one like this! Not that it does you any good, but just know that you’re not alone. My first one I sold one item – and I coerced him into buying that one for his wife! Luckily I knew them or I never would’ve even sold that. But I didn’t give up. The next one I sold two items – things are looking up! 🙂

  5. I had a few of the same problems! Too much variety in my booth, poor displays (need to be eye catching from a distance).

    I love your idea of crafting while sitting, I hate that tension too!

    In the end I bring a friend and use it as a research opportunity to see what everyone else is making.

  6. Poor you! I’m about to do my 5th craft fair next Monday. Still haven’t got everything right. I’ve learnt that you can’t expect everything to be perfect first time out. I too had great dreams about taking home a tidy profit, but here in the UK few have spare cash to spend on luxuries.
    Your stall will change and progress at every fair you do. You’ll soon feel more confident. Definitely take some craft with you. A nod and a smile and sometimes a hello is all that is needed. Introduce your self to your neighbours. Look as though you are having a good time. Enjoy the day and take on board all the positive comments you receive. Treat that first fair as a rehearsal. Good luck!

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  8. My first craft fair was awkward, not the right venue for a first timer – at all – and I went home feeling like I’d never do one again. My second one just went by, you can see my post about it on my blog if you want to pop in real quick, I included a couple of pics. It was really a fundraiser for my daughter’s band and I hurried making things just for the sake of having something on the table in time – I sold a couple of little items *enough for lunch. I am not defeated though! I take heart from posts like yours that outline things you feel you could have done differently and things you felt you did correctly. When folks talk openly about our experiences, we never know who we are helping and you are helping me today 😉 I found you by searching to see what I should price my mug rugs yet and though I have not finished reading through your post, I wanted to thank you and wish you much success going forward! Also, what is this “square” you ordered and do you need to be a bonified “business” to get one just to use at craft fairs? Thanks Again

  9. Still licking my wounds from my first ‘Holiday Fair’ and, I have to admit, your post made me feel better. I have learned that I am not cut out for face-to-face sales, no matter how much I rehearse I will still stumble through descriptions of my products because I am uncomfortable speaking in public, and NEVER, under any circumstance, be positioned beside a food/sweets vendor! People follow their noses to the confections, eyes glazed and bodies resolute in their mission; not even glancing at your display! My biggest stumbling block was my hurt feelings. When they picked up an item I worked so long on, barely gave it a once over, put it back and walked away, my heart broke as if they’d called my baby ugly! Better for me to sell online, where I can email a well thought out answer to an inquiry and not have to bare witness to them turning their noses up at my hard work. My heart would fare better that way. Oh, I also fought tears for the last hour of a painful SIX HOURS of torture, finally allowing the dam to burst once home and alone in my misery!

    • I absolutely feel your pain! But I think we both learned our real strengths and weaknesses from the experiences. We will live to craft another day! 🙂

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