Navigating the craft show scene

December 2014 was a very busy month for GSDC. It was the first time I sold my accessories offline at a craft show and basically started from scratch with my display and building inventory. Now having had more than a month removed from the events (and finally caught up on sleep), I’ve had time to edit some of the photos from two of the shows I participated in and reflect on the experience as a whole.

First off, it was A LOT of work (see Craft Show Newbie post for some of the things to consider). It was also a huge learning experience. At the end of both shows I’d say that the experience was good – not excellent, not terrible. The two shows were very different from one another: in different cities with different customers and at two very different venues. Although this meant I had to change my set up from one week to the next it allowed me to figure out what the pros and cons are of both.

My sales were okay overall but getting positive feedback from customers and other vendors was encouraging. I also got a sense of the items that were most popular and can focus on those in the future and was able to hand out quite a few business cards.

Something that was challenging in this experience was deciding which shows were best to apply to and then accept. I would highly recommend participating in a show that isn’t in its inaugural year. Organizers with a few years of experience under their belt is important as they’ve likely developed an audience and have good marketing and promotional materials. I would also recommend researching the venue. Figure out things like: Is the venue only accessible by car? Will there be any foot traffic? How big is the space? What is the lighting like? These were all questions I wish I had found the answers to before writing a cheque and confirming my participation.

I’m not also 100% sure if December is the best month to participate in a show when it seems that most people have already done their Christmas shopping. It’s a busy time for people traveling and visiting family and friends (myself included) so perhaps a show in November would make more sense. Also, for people who take a business card and want to shop online, they still have time to do so before Christmas.

One of the goals of being part of a show was to get photos of a table set up/booth to include those with applications for bigger shows in the future. Some of the shows at larger venues require some previous selling experience and want to see what your set up will look like. I probably spent more time than most people paying attention to the really minute details to make sure everything was presented well and looked purposeful and cohesive.

Overall I’m happy that I participated and put the work in because I have a clearer idea of what to expect, what to aim for this year when applying and what to do differently to make it a rewarding experience.

Here are a couple of links that I found helpful for finding out about shows and sales:

  • Toronto Etsy Street Team (there are other Etsy team sites for different cities – try a Google search for one in your region). Each site includes links to upcoming shows as well as tips for selling on Etsy.
  • BlogTO – Try searching for blogs or websites that have reviewed ‘top craft shows’ in your area or city to see which ones might be worth checking out as a vendor
  • Kijiji and Facebook – Try doing a search on both of these sites for craft shows in your city and you’ll likely find pages with a ‘call for vendors or artisans’

Here are some photos from the first show:

craft show 1

craft show 2

craft show 4

craft show 5