Artists, makers and creatives selling at craft fairs have a unique opportunity to reach potential customers in person throughout the year. There are literally thousands of fine art and craft fairs, from local venues in your town to juried shows like the annual Smithsonian Craft Show and the American Craft Council. However, being successful selling at craft fairs requires adapting your sales strategies to accommodate their different locations, set-ups and audiences. How can you make sure your investment in participating in fairs will be worthwhile? We spoke to art and craft fair organizers and producers to get their advice on how to make the most of these popular events.
Engage Customers with Stories
Going all in and selling artwork and handmade goods in at art and craft fairs is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are three key elements that can make or break sales potential at a fair: research, presentation, and attitude. Laura Kandel, Director of crafts fair company Artrider Productions, has some important advice for creatives new to selling at craft fairs based on over 20 years of experience. “Be prepared to do the research and take the risk of trying events that may or may not be your market. Also, be patient and prepared and get ready to interact with everyone that walks in the booth, even if just saying a quick “hello.'”
Kandel says an artist’s ability to tell the stories behind their work is critical for selling at craft fairs. “Shopping directly from an artist is part of the reason why a lot of people come to craft shows,” observes Kandel. “They want an experience to go along with the item they purchase.” Providing a unique, personal story to accompany the art objects on sale can be the deciding factor for customers on the brink of making a purchase, so give them something they can share with the recipient of the gift – or admirers of their purchase!
Keep Your Booth Stocked with Inventory
Making the best impression and netting a potential sale starts even before casually chatting up potential customers. Creating a presentable and attractive booth area for prospective buyers is crucial to achieving top sales marks. It is important from a sales perspective to not only keep presentation neat and tidy but to also make sure that all products for sale are easily seen. Handmade Business notes this essential strategy can make or break a fair vendor. “The key ingredient is visibility.: it may seem obvious, but if the customer doesn’t see the product, and see it quickly, then it doesn’t exist.”
While acknowledging that different artworks and objects can demand different presentation styles (for example, 2-D artworks versus 3-D objects), another key tenet for meeting top sales goals is to keep display shelves and tables full. “It’s a strange element of show psychology, but customers who see half-empty shelves are not impressed by how well your product has been selling. Instead, they will glance at your nearly vacant display and walk on.” Don’t give potential customers a reason to pass you by – instead, keep displays sparkling clean and brimming with arts and crafts objects!
Capture Customers with Easy Transactions
A customer is ready to pay with a credit card, and wants their purchase gift-wrapped and handed over along with a receipt right away – they needed to go meet a friend for lunch five minutes ago. As important as planning merchandise layout, and selecting what which art objects will be laid out for sale, it is equally vital to be prepared for sales! Have everything organized so that a customer’s payment can be finalized and guests sent effortlessly on their way in a heartbeat. Maintaining a pain-free, convenient setup will ensure a steady queue of customers and ensure the highest volume of sales.
Indiemade sums up key ingredients for craft and fine artists to assemble a successful fair presentation. “Get as organized as you can ahead of time: fill out price tags and get a notebook to track payments.” Noting perhaps the most salient sales point, they add: “Make sure your craft fair display ideas are fresh in your mind.” By instinctively knowing where to find the sales point device, stapler, gift bags and receipt pad, customers purchases will run more conveniently.
By preparing effectively and being able to translate the story behind the works for sale, artists can be sure to guarantee a seamless and fulfilling experience for visitors to their booths.
What has your experience been selling at craft fairs? What has been successful and what you have learned to avoid? Share your feedback here!
Audra Lambert is a curator, arts marketing consultant, and editor.