Lessons from an art show

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Forum topic by pashley posted 11-23-2009 05:45 AM 2908 views 12 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1044 posts in 3916 days

11-23-2009 05:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: craft show

Recently went to an indoor craft show (not a woodworking show), and here’s what I learned.

• Woman are easily 80% of the customers – gear your stuff towards them.
• Jewelry is easily…80% of the displayed merchandise.
• Unique, outdoor decorative stuff is usually a good bet, as long as it’s in the $15 to $35 range.
• God please, no more knit stuff!
• If you have a food product to sell, you MUST provide a sample.
• Traffic usually follows a pattern in these places; being the first vendor with cutting boards (jewelry, garden items, etc) is definitely a plus – someone might buy from you before buying from the guy with similar stuff another 100 feet down the path.
• Displays are everything.
• Interact with customers, just say “hello” even. Saw a lot of people just sitting there doing something else – reading a paper, playing with their Blackberry, etc. Talking to passersby gets their attention, they might see something they want on your table.
• Dress the part. Selling wood stuff? How about wearing a nice white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, and a new leather apron – act and look the part. No NASCAR shirts, or one that says “BUSH SUCKS.” Play the role. YOU can be part of the product, in a sense.
• Business cards! Several bunches all over your table. You might be busy talking at length with a customer, and I wanted to ask a question. Oh, you have a business card with your email on it – I’ll contact you that way.
• Consider putting out something that catches people’s eyes – food. Candies, crackers, whatever. Will draw attention to your table.
• Give your customer every opportunity to buy from you; don’t make barriers to being able to take their credit card, check or cash.
• If you have some good friends, here might be a trick worth trying: have them crowd around your booth. Nothing draws a crowd like…a crowd. People think something is going on, something to look at, so they come over too.
• Trick #2. Have your friends walk around the show with some of your product, like they just bought it. If people see a few people with that product, they are going to think it’s worth buying, for some reason or other, and will look for your product. It’s a group-think mentality. What would you think if you saw 5 people, here and there, with a wrought iron Sheppard’s crook to hang plants from? It’s got to be a hot item!

So there are some of my observations…I’d like to hear yours!

-- Have a blessed day!

34 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3776 days

#1 posted 11-23-2009 05:51 AM

good observations

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View SteveMI's profile


1124 posts in 3493 days

#2 posted 11-23-2009 05:59 AM

Your next job may be business consultant and book writer after this is done. I have been much too casual in checking out shows, you were really analyzing.

I’m a couple miles behind you on this quest and really appreciate the posts and sharing.


View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3741 days

#3 posted 11-23-2009 06:22 AM

I like the 80% women part…if wifey or girlfriend likes and wants it them most likely hubby or boyfriend going to buy it. Good observation and anyone doing shows should get some important clues from your observations..I did.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18389 posts in 3875 days

#4 posted 11-23-2009 08:18 AM

People always turn to the right as they enter. Those are the prize spots, just to the right inside, the worst is to the left just inside.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3866 days

#5 posted 11-23-2009 03:07 PM

My wife keeps telling me $15-$50 is the target market. Women will impulse buy, they do not want to discuss large purchases with their husbands and then figure out how to pay for them. I can’t get past the thought of lots of stuff for little money vs a little stuff for lots of money. I would rather spend two weeks in the shop making a piece of furniture instead of one week in the shop making 200 widgits. Ofcourse, I also want to stay in the business of cutting wood.
Off to the widgit factory I guess.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3320 days

#6 posted 11-23-2009 03:28 PM

I did an indoor show 2 weeks ago & the ideas sound about right. Only change would be the Michigan factor, price range $1 to $ nobody was buying except the $5 jewlery & the knit stuff. Even the guy with the hand made x-mas tree ornaments had a bad show. I’m hoping the next 2 Saturdays aren’t as bad. I’m going to try 20% off signs on 2 shelves.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 3916 days

#7 posted 11-23-2009 03:56 PM

Copy that, rhett. I hear you about one piece versus 50. However, I had another thought about that you might want to consider.

You obviously want to make the most $ per hour (I hope). Let’s say you make a widget that will retail for $30 at the craft show. You have $4 in materials in it, and 20 minutes labor (because you made them in bulk, or a production run, you saved a lot of time on setups). So now you have 50 widgets. That means:

• You spent about $200 on materials ($4×50) and 1000 minutes (or about 16.5 hours) on these 50 widgets.
• Let’s say you sold all 50 during the local three day show, and you were there 8 hours each day, 24 hours. So you now have about 40 hours work into building and selling these – a regular work week.

The gross sales will be $1,500 ($30×50). Net sales is $1,300 ($1500-$200 materials).

So you’ve made about $32.50 an hour for your trouble. Nice (dreamtime: if you did this for a whole year, that would be over $67,000 a year!). I don’t know if that is clear of taxes – that’s up to you. Even so, that would be about $20 an hour – still nice.

Let’s contrast that to a big piece you’ve made. I see you recently made a A&C glider chair. Let’s assume:

• You have $150 in materials in it.
• You have 40 hours of labor into it. I assume that’s fairly accurate once you take glue curing time and finishing time into account.

IF you sell that at a craft show, you’d want, what, $600-$800 for it? That would leave you a net sale of $450 – $650, or about $11.25 to $16.25 an hour – IF you made the sale. I don’t see a lot of high end items like these going at craft shows – unless it’s a really upscale show, at a big venue in say, Dallas or Los Angeles, where people have money for this kinda thing. Not to be a wet blanket, I’m just pointing out an observation.

So you see, the money IS in the “widgets”, at least for local craft shows. If you wanted to make the same money, $32.50 per hour, for the chair, you’d have to sell it for something like $1,450. That’s a tough sell, unless you have a product that is extremely high quality (like Kevin Rodel). I’d like to know how many a year he sells! Maybe quite a few, since he has a good reputation.

It’s got to be kept in mind that local craft shows are a much different breed then huge high-end shows in high-money venues. I think a lot of the buying is impulse-based, though I’m sure that some people go in thinking, “I hope I can find a good cutting board for mom”, or “I’d like to get a nice bracelet for that dinner party”.

So what you want is obviously, an item that has a high price/production cost ratio and something women will impulse buy. In the widget example, that ratio is 78:1 (net sale per hour of labor). I don’t include time at the show, because that would be a constant for anything you sell.

You also want an item very likely to sell :)

-- Have a blessed day!

View OhValleyWoodandWool's profile


970 posts in 3319 days

#8 posted 11-26-2009 12:44 AM

Pashley the advice you give is right on. You also have to make sure the show that you’re attending is geared to your audience. Is it more the flea market demographic? Then keep your items VERY CHEAP. My son is raising money for an ambassador trip to China this summer, he sells candy bars at a flea market he NETS about $35 an hour! I wouldn’t be able to sell one of my pieces ther in a year. I tend to stick to higher end juried shows with an admision price for the folks just to walk in the door. Might mean lower trafic but those that are there have a much higher probablity of actually parting with some money.

-- "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure." Mark Twain

View Zelbar's profile


74 posts in 3740 days

#9 posted 11-26-2009 01:16 AM

I have been doing a number of Farmer’s Markets and craft fairs and what has worked well for me is I have two items that sell for $5.00 and $8.00 respectively that are made from scrap materials from my larger projects so costs are low and they are very quick to make. I sell about 25 to 30 of each per show. This nets me a base of about $350.00 per show. This pays for my costs of the show and some extra profit on top. Then all the larger items I sell at the show round out the sales for the day.

I also make sure everyone who stops by my booth walks away with my information. Even just a home printed brochure is enough, you don’t need to spend a lot here. I get a number of calls for orders and special custom jobs from them that it makes it worth the cost.

-- With more power you can make toothpicks faster

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4138 days

#10 posted 11-26-2009 02:00 AM

Very good and useful observations. Unfortunately, too many craft shows are filled with what I refer to as “Bored Housewife” stuff. Many of the shoppers are looking for something quaint. The shows where folks are willing to purchase higher quality product are few and far between, as well as expensive and difficult to get into. It’s not an easy niche.

-- Working at Woodworking

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4327 days

#11 posted 11-26-2009 03:44 PM


We’ve done 18 to 20 craft shows per year for more than ten years.
I now only do juried craft shows – no more hobbist events.
Also, we don’t sell low end items to pad our time.
We focus on our core products that sell well with a big profit margin.

Note: My cost of materials seldom exceeds 20% of the retail selling price.

-- 温故知新

View SteveMI's profile


1124 posts in 3493 days

#12 posted 11-26-2009 04:06 PM

Randy – What travel distance from home do you end up with in order to attend that many show? Is there any online source for juried shows or was that just word of mouth over time?


View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4327 days

#13 posted 11-27-2009 04:03 PM


Don’t over-think it. Just do it!

-- 温故知新

View SteveMI's profile


1124 posts in 3493 days

#14 posted 11-27-2009 06:15 PM

Randy – I am going to do it and making the products right now. Just looking for insight on needing mile radius (100 miles?) to have enough shows and how to find the juried events.


View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3445 days

#15 posted 11-27-2009 08:55 PM

Try this link to get you started.
There’s also a magazine put out that lists art fairs and such. I can’t remember the name fight now. I contains good info on the shows from the year before. Things like how much entry fee, judged entry, type of items sold and average sold per booth. Some eve break it down into average sales by type-wood, glass, jewelry and art.

It’s worth finding a good show first, then worry about distance.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

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