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Forum topic by JayG46 posted 222 days ago 1417 views 1 time favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JayG46

88 posts in 456 days


222 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: craft fair cutting board marketing sales

I did my first craft show today and am pretty disappointed with the results. Hopefully, some veterans of the craft show circuit could offer some advice or at least some condolences. Here is the synopsis:

Despite it being fairly close to Christmas, and receiving a lot of compliments on my work, I hardly sold anything. Just a two pens, two cutting boards and a jar of cutting board wax, amounting to $237. That’s enough to cover the show fee but not the tent, materials or any of my time in making this stuff or standing there trying to sell it.

The most expensive end grain cutting boards were $100 with some smaller cheeseboards rounding out the inventory at $30. I had some higher priced items like my guitar stool and walnut mantel clock at $400 and $225 respectively, which I thought could be reasonable to the right person since they were one-of-a-kind designs. I also had several boxes, ping pong paddles, wine racks and mallets all in the sub-$100 range, drawing many nibbles but no bites.

The idea was to have some lower priced items like pens and bottle stoppers (both $25) to drive some smaller sales and possibly move some of the more expensive stuff if the stars aligned. Needless to say, like a $50 table saw, there was little alignment.

To be fair, this is a somewhat slow time slow time here in Naples, FL because a lot of people head north for Thanksgiving and Christmas but return in January. Still, I thought that would be offset by those still in town looking for Christmas gifts.

I did my best to engage people if they showed interest in my display, but I was not pushy in trying to convert that interest into sales. Are there some subtle (non-obnoxious) techniques for getting someone to take that plunge?

Should I be thinking of this as an awareness-building marketing opportunity instead of an inventory-moving one?

Some other observations:

- I kept my guitar stool in the front of the display and it did get a lot of attention. People didn’t know what it was without a guitar sitting on it, so it did lead to a lot of conversations and even prompted a few people to take business cards. People constantly ran their hands over it, which I felt was a positive as well.

- Fellow woodworkers and relatives of woodworkers were very willing to chat, which was nice but sometimes blocked potential customers from getting my attention.

- People tended to come through in waves, and my booth really only accommodated two or three people at once. Some others were left on the outside and moved on instead of waiting to see things up close.

- Some of the people who said they would come back actually did, but one couple who seemed ready to buy several items never returned.

- Lots of people told me I was talented, which I know they meant as a compliment but I don’t really enjoy. Talent is part of it, but there is a ton of hard work and patience that goes into creating any finished product out of rough cut lumber.

Anyway, has anyone had a bad experience and stuck it out to get better results down the road? Have you heard from people who took your business cards? Are these types of shows a waste of time unless you find a perfect niche? Should I just stick to furniture making and find alternative means of marketing myself? Should I just quit woodworking and take up f_ing needle point?

Any advice would be appreciated :)

-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL www.swallowtailwoodcraft.com "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi


26 replies so far

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1315 posts in 365 days


#1 posted 222 days ago

Don’t be discoursed. A lot of people go to this things to buy $4 items. You are much better than that. Take your talent somewhere else by creating your own website, ebay, etsy or something else.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1481 posts in 1703 days


#2 posted 222 days ago

I can sympathize as I have had shows like that. A few things come to mind. Your booth space is too small. I have two shelf units that are 15” wide x 5’ tall x 6’ long. I have a double sided cutting board rack that is 6” tall x 6’ long and about 8” thick. One side holds boards in trays and the other has hooks for those boards with holes for hanging. This leaves a lot of room in the tent for customers. I have non-sales conversations outside this space if possible. Your work looks good. You might have too much variety of stuff to sell rather than making a few things, but out of different types of wood. I only sell cutting boards and boxes, but have a lot of variety in wood, shapes, and sizes, as well as prices. I do get of lot of compliments that do not lead to sales, but I also usually sell quite a few items as well. The photos don’t show many customers in the area. You really need a lot of traffic to do well. Good luck with future shows. It is a hard way to support yourself. I kept my day job!

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and so little time!

View Jesse's profile

Jesse

25 posts in 224 days


#3 posted 222 days ago

Man, I feel your pain. My wife and I have gone to tons of these shows over the years (we make wood toys) until we had a large enough following online to no longer need the shows. The shows did several things for us including getting good and bad feedback about our original designs. I didn’t like hearing some under their breath type comments that I overheard but knowing that a certain item was overpriced in their eyes was helpful for me. I learned what items needed a lower price and some I had to stop creating because I couldn’t afford to sell them for the price that people were willing to pay. That sucks some times but it keeps you from wasting time. Make sure your items are competitively priced, don’t let tunnel vision keep you from moving product at these shows. I’ve seen a lot of guys with empty booths because they wanted a firm $100 for that item when they could have made a tidy little profit at $75. People only bring so much money to these shows and spending it all in one booth is normally not something they are going to do. Keep brining your higher priced items, you will sell them on occasion if they are worth the asking price, but as far as craft shows go I would try and find some items that you love to create that can bring you a profit with a lower selling price.

Perfect example: I will sell 1 or 2 $80 rocking horses at a show but I will sell over 100 baby rattles at $15 a piece. That is $1500 in sales for baby rattles and I can make 25 an hour with my shop setup.

Also, use “deals” to sell your items. We offer toy cars for $12 each or 2for $20 and we sell a lot of pairs that way. Do a little research on google and look at other craft fair booths. There is a lot more to the setup and look of a booth than you would think. For instance, I learned that having a full looking booth is important. When your booth looks half empty people think it has been picked through and will not bother to stop. There are lots of little hints like this. Let me know, I can tell you more of the little things I have picked up over the years if you are interested. Sorry for the short book I’ve posted here!

View Pezking7p's profile

Pezking7p

840 posts in 249 days


#4 posted 222 days ago

Sorry to hear your first show was kind of a bust. But, take it as a learning experience and not a discouragement.

One thing I’ve used at shows is featuring some of the pieces by actually using them: set up some knives with vegetables and stand out front cutting up snacks on a board. Set up a cheese board. It gives people an image of themselves using the items you’re selling, and provides instant interaction that might not otherwise happen if people are just walking by. Remember, you’re not selling cutting boards, you’re selling an image of how people see themselves when they use it (or hang it on the wall, or serve cheese/wine at a party, etc).

Cheers mate. It takes practice and time. If it was easy, we’d all be millionaires.

-- -Dan

View JayG46's profile

JayG46

88 posts in 456 days


#5 posted 222 days ago

Thanks guys, this is good stuff so far.

Robert, you’re probably right that my space wasn’t utilized as well as it could have been. I went with a basic set up and made sure that I could fit almost everything I had in it, as well as in the back of my 4Runner. For what it’s worth, the pictures were taken when we first got set up before the show had started which explains the lack of traffic. According to the other exhibitors, this was a fairly slow show compared to the ones in January – April.

Bannor, no need to apologize for the length of the comment, it’s great information. Do you have your prices prominently displayed at your booth? I started off without anything since it’s hard to put a tag on something with no holes or small parts. But I started adding tags as the show progressed since sometimes people seemed reluctant to ask and might have been assuming that stuff was more expensive than it was.

I didn’t get a lot of feedback on the prices. It seemed like people thought that they were reasonable, they just didn’t want to pay that much or buy something that nice to cut on. I was have been willing to work with people on the price, particularly on multiple items but no one even bothered to bargain with me.

Edited to add: Pezking – I like the idea of staging some of the boards. I had thought of it, but wondered about the sanitary aspects and didn’t want to come across like an infomercial salesman demonstrating. But next time I might go for that.

-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL www.swallowtailwoodcraft.com "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi

View Picken5's profile

Picken5

117 posts in 1290 days


#6 posted 222 days ago

Jay, you might consider checking out Pashley's blog on Lumberjocks. He’s put a ton of thought and experience into selling woodworking products via craft shows and the internet. He also has a blog on his own website that discusses some positive ideas about selling at craft shows.

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

View Jesse's profile

Jesse

25 posts in 224 days


#7 posted 222 days ago

Yes, you will want to display the price. I find that most people are too timid to ask or think that no price equals high price. Having the price displayed also allows you to use a neat little trick to determine how they feel about your price point without having to ask them. Most people actually stop to look at an item if they like it, if they look at the price tag and then casually but quickly move on then it is too high for that person. Bascially, if they seem like they like the product but stop acting interested or asking questions when they see the price then that is the issue for them. Most people won’t bargain with you, you have to offer it. Either put up a sign or if they are deciding on two items offer them a deal to sell them both if you want to.

Also, you mentioned that people come in spurts… that is how it always seems to happen. It seems like people don’t want to miss out so if 2 or 3 people are admiring or buying from your booth then more will join so they don’t miss out. Something in the shoppers head that makes this happen but it is well documented in craft show books that this happens to us all. Just say hi to everyone and tell them to let you know if they have any questions. Keep up as best as you can.

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

954 posts in 732 days


#8 posted 221 days ago

I stopped traveling to do shows and only do and occasional local show these days. Main reason not inclined to do shows, as much is cost of insurance and lack the ability to take credit cards.

Have had several shows did not make expenses, just made expenses, and did outstanding. Saw where ability to take credit cards might have increased sales.

Looked into a Square account, cell phone or tablet and decided not for me. If were younger probably would, had a lot of fun and met some outstanding people.

Think your booth looks great, not sure could anymore to what has been said other than some shows are like that. Keep at it not every show is like that.

-- Bill

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

1640 posts in 1520 days


#9 posted 221 days ago

I sell only at street fairs and festivals here in West Texas. High traffic is necessary to get much in sales. (1000 or more). I do well selling $20-$30 items. I also offer $40- $125 items but they seldom sell. Low prices and lots of shoppers is what works best for me. I always make my space rental and usually ten times space rent or more in total sales. I do 7-25 sales a year. After doing this for six years and lots of folks taking business cards, I am finally getting word of mouth orders. Hang in there and good luck.

-- In God We Trust

View zeebro's profile

zeebro

5 posts in 223 days


#10 posted 221 days ago

I grew up in the antique business. we specialize in decorative furniture. I’ve been to thousands of flea markets, craft fairs, antique shows etc. That guitar chair you made is great and underpriced. How many people do you think showed up today looking for a guitar chair? How many pro guitar players were t the craft fair? not many I would guess. There were some rock and roll guys here in maine that were looking for a guitar chair. they went online and couldn’t find one for under a couple thousands dollars and they were all in europe. They ended up starting a woodshop and now when you search online for music furniture…....Katahdin Studio Furniture. And they dont offer chairs like the one you made. Just a thought. Your stuff is great, you’ll figure it out.

View justoneofme's profile

justoneofme

616 posts in 1078 days


#11 posted 221 days ago

Well Jay, you have my complete sympathy because I know just how disheartened you’re feeling after this first taste of craft fair sales!!

I’ve read everyone’s advice given to you, and there are very good tips to help you succeed. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen over night … and to be truthfully honest, the majority of craft fair shoppers seem to be looking for bargains! Seldom do they understand the time, energy and expense incurred just for setting yourself up. And unless it’s another woodworker viewing your exceedingly beautiful work Jay … they don’t equate the $ value either.

My first craft fair many years ago was dismal! The following year I still displayed my $50 – $250 Marquetry wall hangings, but came well equipped with smaller mass produced Marquetry items … pen and pencil holders, baby plaques and door plaques … I could personalize by using indelible pen to insert names, dates etc. These items ranged from $5 to $20, and I was kept busy throughout the fair. It made me feel much better … but the higher ticket items remained just admired. The following year the same smaller items with a few different additions were great sellers, and surprisingly people were taking more interest in the Marquetry itself. The larger items started selling.

So it does take time to become entrenched in the craft fair scene … where people get to know you, and what you do. Personally I found it too time consuming working so hard to prepare, then sitting around watching people show interest … not show interest … talk your ear off. Yada, yada, yada!!

My 8th craft fair was my last, after realizing the worst there is rewarding all that work. There’s nothing worse than a potential client showing extreme interest, walking away … only to return when it’s time to pack up the show, wondering if there’s a ‘closing sale’! Or having a woman checking out the beautiful earrings from the booth across the way … admiring herself in my Marquetry Mirror without even realizing the artwork surrounding that mirror!! You meet all kinds of people!

So my advice to you is don’t give up … if it’s the craft fair scene you really want to do. But be prepared for disappointment. That is part and parcel of the craft fair life. That, and the stagnant feeling of boredom that slowly seeps in while you sit there (no matter the interesting chats) ... as your mind and body would rather be in the workshop playing!!

Solutions … Commission work that stems from putting your work in gift shops … or open house weekends where people come to your shop. All time consuming no matter what. I’ve never ventured into the web scene, but in this day and age … why not give that a try! Good luck Jay!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

View justoneofme's profile

justoneofme

616 posts in 1078 days


#12 posted 221 days ago

Well Jay, you have my complete sympathy because I know just how disheartened you’re feeling after this first taste of craft fair sales!!

I’ve read everyone’s advice given to you, and there are very good tips to help you succeed. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen over night … and to be truthfully honest, the majority of craft fair shoppers seem to be looking for bargains! Seldom do they understand the time, energy and expense incurred just for setting yourself up. And unless it’s another woodworker viewing your exceedingly beautiful work Jay … they don’t equate the $ value either.

My first craft fair many years ago was dismal! The following year I still displayed my $50 – $250 Marquetry wall hangings, but came well equipped with smaller mass produced Marquetry items … pen and pencil holders, baby plaques and door plaques … I could personalize by using indelible pen to insert names, dates etc. These items ranged from $5 to $20, and I was kept busy throughout the fair. It made me feel much better … but the higher ticket items remained just admired. The following year the same smaller items with a few different additions were great sellers, and surprisingly people were taking more interest in the Marquetry itself. The larger items started selling.

So it does take time to become entrenched in the craft fair scene … where people get to know you, and what you do. Personally I found it too time consuming working so hard to prepare, then sitting around watching people show interest … not show interest … talk your ear off. Yada, yada, yada!!

My 8th craft fair was my last, after realizing the worst there is rewarding all that work. There’s nothing worse than a potential client showing extreme interest, walking away … only to return when it’s time to pack up the show, wondering if there’s a ‘closing sale’! Or having a woman checking out the beautiful earrings from the booth across the way … admiring herself in my Marquetry Mirror without even realizing the artwork surrounding that mirror!! You meet all kinds of people!

So my advice to you is don’t give up … if it’s the craft fair scene you really want to do. But be prepared for disappointment. That is part and parcel of the craft fair life. That, and the stagnant feeling of boredom that slseeps in while you sit there (no matter the interesting chats) ... as your mind and body would rather be in the workshop playing!!

Solutions … Commission work that stems from putting your work in gift shops … or open house weekends where people come to your shop. All time consuming no matter what. I’ve never ventured into the web scene, but in this day and age … why not give that a try!

-- Elaine in Duncan

View Puzzleman's profile

Puzzleman

328 posts in 1542 days


#13 posted 221 days ago

At my first craft show I made $300 and I thought I had hit the mother load. Now when I do a show I expect at least $5k from sales at the show and about $2k in follow up sales. Hang in there and it will get better by listening to all of the customers and focus on what they are saying. Follow their lead to where they are at and develop your product lines to follow. Go to where the customers are at. If having a slow show, engage customers and just ask them what they are type of items that are looking for, how much they want to spend, what do the dislike and like about your products and set up. The worst that can happen is that they won’t talk to you and don’t buy. The best is that you gain valuable information that you can use.

Signage is very important. Signs tell people that this piece is so special that I have sign here explaining everything about it. And always display the price of each piece. Don’t you hate it when you go the store and the price is not on the item you are looking at? Same idea applies to you but now you are the store without the prices posted. Try to find articles about merchandising for stores and use those ideas for the craft fairs. Basically all you are doing is setting up a store for a couple of days. The retail industry has a new idea going across the country which is pop-up stores. They set up a store for a week or few and then go away. That is an old idea and it is called art & craft shows.

Concerning people wanting to talk shop. I will talk to them but when a potential customer comes in, I excuse myself and take care of them. I am there to make money. Chit chat is nice but I am there to make money. I have told these chit chaters: “Excuse me, but I think I have a potential paying customer to take care of. If you wan’t to wait till I am done with them, I will be happy to continue this chat.”

Did you have cards to hand out for people to follow up with? Do you have a website, Facebook page or Etsy store where people can follow up online? When you give people your card, do you point out to them on the card how to get in touch, website, etc.?

There will be shows that don’t work for you. I can’t tell how many that I have tried that didn’t do it for me. Even though I didn’t make any profit, I learned something at every show. Sometimes I learned what it is about the show that didn’t fit my product line. I then applied that knowledge to other potential shows.

I have taken from starting out doing shows part time to doing shows full time to now where I do shows part time and now do mostly wholesale selling my product lines.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler, http://www.hollowwoodworks.com

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

603 posts in 533 days


#14 posted 220 days ago

I was at a craft show last night and really thought some of this through. I don’t think it is really reasonable for us to expect a large portion of consumers to spend that much at craft fairs. Just last night, I was in the consumer position, looking at some beautiful woodwork and I didn’t buy it because I couldn’t afford it. That is exactly what most people think when they see expensive woodwork. “Wow, those are beautiful. But, I cannot spend $150 dollars on that right now”. I mean, when we go to fairs as consumers, we all look for bargains, right? We get on craigslist and look for great deals and haggle for them. We bid low on stuff on ebay. So, we can’t really expect a whole lot of people to dish out much money at craft fairs because we don’t do it either.

I am not trying to be a sour puss here, but I don’t go to craft fairs with more than $20 or $40. Usually, I don’t buy anything. Seems to me that these fairs are more suited to smaller, cheaper items. Not necessarily bad quality, but smaller things that take less time to make and sell for cheaper.

I just wanted to throw that out there. We always look at things from our side, but often neglect to think about how the consumer is thinking. It isn’t that they all think our stuff is junk or overpriced. I believe it is mostly that they just didn’t plan to spend that much money and they are sticking to their plan.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View lunn's profile

lunn

206 posts in 907 days


#15 posted 220 days ago

When i attend a craft show i don’t expect to sell anything. I make larger things pie safes, hall trees, cabinets ect. Buyers whould have to be driving a truck to take them home. The one thing i do sell is my work. I get calls afterward saying i saw you at the craft fair can you build a ???? for me. So you may have not made any money but one or two calls may be worth it.

-- What started as a hobbie is now a full time JOB!

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