WHAT to sell at a craft show - I'll tell you.

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Forum topic by pashley posted 11-23-2009 04:40 PM 21754 views 6 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1044 posts in 3953 days

11-23-2009 04:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: craft show

Everyone interested at doing a craft show to earn some cash wants to know – what to sell? What should I make that will sell well, and make a good profit for myself?

That’s the $64,000 question.

In fact, how much would you pay me to tell you exactly what to make? LOL. I can’t do that, but I think I can provide some guidelines, based on what I’ve observed.

• Uniqueness. Buying pressure is put on the consumer when they find something at a retail venue that they haven’t seen elsewhere. Their thought is, “This is great! I haven’t seen this anywhere else, I should get it.” You shouldn’t be selling something 25 other vendors are. Keep in mind, that quality and/or style figures into uniqueness as well. If my cutting boards are uniquely styled, and/or have better quality than the other vendors, that’s helpful.

• A low price point. I hope this is obvious. Are more people likely to shell out $20 or $50? Having a high-end item, in the $300 range might be a good idea, to get people to come in, and the small $20-ish item lets them spend without sweating about it.

• Geared toward impulsive women. Women are about 80% of the customers, in my experience. They like to buy decorative items, especially for the outdoors. Why outdoors, especially? My theory is, they don’t get to garden stores that often, where outdoor decorations (bird baths, wind chimes, brass sprinklers) are usually sold – so they don’t have the chance to buy those type of items. In contrast, they can buy indoor decorative items in any chain store – Target, Wal-Mart, etc.

• An item that can be easily carried. Would you want to lug around something heavy for the rest of the show, or run it back to the car? That can be a deal breaker for some. Sometimes, I have seen where a large heavy item, such as stones that are etched, or rustic baskets – all that are heavy – can be left in a “corral” the vendor provides with a paid for tag on it, so the customer can pick it up on their way out. Alternately, you can pay some kid to be your mover and take it out to the car for the customer.

• Food. Hey, everybody needs it. Probably not an option with LJs, but perhaps the wives might be interested. The hassle is, (at least here in NY) you have to have certification to sell food products. That probably involves a kitchen inspection, and all kinds of insane rules for the kitchen – such as shelves have to be at least 12” off the floor. I don’t know if there is a huge hassle for small time craft show people – you’ll have to look into it. There is a vendor I see at every show – and whom I buy from every time – Nunda (“nun-day”) Mustard. They sell flavored mustard. Here’s their website. Awesome product – unique, easy to carry, cheap – about $4.75 a jar. They always have samples too, which is a MUST.

•A “green” item”. “Green” – that is, environmentally friendly – items are a feel-good product. When you buy, why not buy green, and help “save” the environment. You can make it a point that all your products are from reclaimed wood, for example.

Hope these suggestions help.

-- Have a blessed day!

7 replies so far

View mynoblebear's profile


722 posts in 3343 days

#1 posted 11-23-2009 07:25 PM

You just laid out a banquet of information thanks.

-- Best Regards With Personalized Rocking Chairs And Furniture On My Mind,

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3482 days

#2 posted 11-23-2009 07:54 PM

Lots of good stuff. For non LJ selling, might consider selling food/snacks. Most of those shows have someone selling nachos or hot dogs type food. And every second person is eating or drinking something. Don’t necessarily need a whole cart or special set up for it either.

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

View KellyS's profile


78 posts in 3468 days

#3 posted 11-23-2009 08:07 PM

I took a consumer behavior class last year that was really fun. There’s a lot of little subtle nuances that can really “make it” as far as buying experiences goes. These are really good points. There’s a book on the whole subject by Paco Underhill “Why we buy, the science of shopping” It’s interesting to read, not too long. Anyways, maybe a couple more points.
I know that most craft fairs are limited on space, but try to make sure you leave enough space in the aisle for the ladies to shop. There’s a theory called the “butt brush” theory that states if the aisle is too close, and a man or lady gets jostled or brushed up against, they’ll abandon what they’re looking at and move on post haste!
If your booth is geared toward the men..I know a craft fair is different that the tool store, the women can browse on, but you might want to consider having a place for the ladies to wait…or the men if it’s geared toward women. See, this way, the spouse can feel a little more at ease to shop and take their time and not be worried about their significant other standing and waiting. And if you put out magazines, make sure they’re fairly new, not old and sticky!
Laides like to touch things, if you ever watch them, they pet all the clothes when they shop. I know wood is different.
If they’re small nicknacky items, have a basket…or better yet offer the basket with the purchase. Like mentioned above, you can only hold so much in your hands. If you give them a basket, they’re apt to buy more….
Hope these help!

Gotta go and get back to work before they catch me…If you want more, let me know.

-- He who dies with the most tools wins!.....Just wait, I'm going to win!..ERR my wife will at least.

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3357 days

#4 posted 11-24-2009 04:11 PM

I was given a cd about selling at craft shows. it pointed out 2 things that stood out to me. first even though its a tent or table & racks indoors people still want brick & mortor treatment as in bags & protective wrapping. I found some good bags with rope handles & wrapping tissue cheap on Ebay. Second was not to say anything except hello when they entire your space. let them ask you something before talking to them about your product and never use the word no or a negitive term when answering them. even if you dont have what they want or what they mentioned as in type of wood is wrong, answer them in a positive way.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View SteveMI's profile


1128 posts in 3530 days

#5 posted 11-24-2009 04:59 PM

To the element of uniqueness and craftsmanship, I have seen variations of the following phrase constantly in articles over the years;

“Two paths to success – do something uncommon or do something common, yet uncommonly well”

It can apply to a corporate day job as well as products.

So unless its selling due to being very uncommon, you need dovetails with tong oil instead of mitered 45 degrees with shellac to set you apart from the masses and normal retail offerings. It also needs to be coupled with a product that the person looking at it can picture themselves using, showing off or enjoying.

I remember a person at a show that had jewelery boxes and to make his point cut one from a retail store and one of his into several pieces. He had nicely lettered text with arrows that described the differences written on each of the pieces and segments. He wasn’t shy about his price being twice the retail store price. This isn’t always practical, but a bit of education at the sales table can put the person over the edge. Have a couple pieces of your wood for them to touch, display the type of finish you use, have a cut away of a particular joinery or example of other elements they may not visually appreciate. This guy had the wife interested in the quality and the husband nodding his head over the craftsmanship.


View KellyS's profile


78 posts in 3468 days

#6 posted 11-25-2009 04:06 AM

Going back to what Bill1352 said, SELL IT BABY! The customer asks ” I’m looking for a Sapele Jewelry box.” Don’t just “NOPE, AIN’T GOT ONE.” Say “Well, I have a really nice Longleaf pine, quartersawn and finished all naturally with Beeswax and Boiled Linseed oil” A negative response really leaves them with nowhere to go but out the door. Some people will never sway from what they’re after, but some might! My wife called about a set of USED tires for her car, the guy didn’t have any and left the conversation at that, never tried to sell her something else or nothing. DOOH! Another excellent point, say hello, let them look at your goodies, and respect their “moment” let your items grow on them. This is not to say you don’t need to be “inviting”.. Be inviting, don’t act like they’re lucky to have the chance to look at your goods. Especially in this economy, I still don’t get that “aire of indifference” treatment one gets at most fast food joints and even some department stores. I also agree about the bags and wrapping paper….Did you know that in Japan, the care taken in wrapping means almost as much as the gift itself. I’m 95% that is true.

SteveMI makes good points too. People like to touch things. Ladies like to pet the clothes and I like to touch the tools! I still think it feels really cool to touch a board that someone has taken a pass at with a good sharp handplane and I like the look and feel of a french polish. Have some items that people can touch, that they can feel how smooth the finish is or will be. Some items they will be afraid to touch maybe you don’t want them to touch some things, but by inviting them to handle something similar, a sale might just be made off of that.
Fun topic.

-- He who dies with the most tools wins!.....Just wait, I'm going to win!..ERR my wife will at least.

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3813 days

#7 posted 11-25-2009 04:22 AM

Lots of great tips

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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