Craft Show | Start Up Business | First Trade Event | Luxury Interior Products | Surface House

Selling unique handmade cushions, luxury wallpaper and contemporary lampshades at the Shrewsbury Flowers Shwo 2016 in the Craft Marquee for crafters and artists.

Selling Luxury Interior Products | Should I Sell At A Small Show

So you’re planning to do your first craft fair or trade event ..  exciting! Or terrifying??


Do not fear, I launched my business, Surface Housthis year, on my own, with little start up money. I have also recently just completed my first ever series of craft show / events. As a result, I now have a feast of knowledge and tips, do’s and don’ts to share with you.

I will also try to answer any questions you have… 

About Me (Briefly!)

 

My name is Laura Hart, I graduated from Printed Textiles and Surface Design in 2013. After taking a few years out to work and save money to launch my business, I finally left my job and started creating Surface House. You can read more about my story here.

 

Blogging


In my blog posts relating to trading at craft fairs, I will address every part of the concept in detail. There is SO much to cover..

If you are looking for advice on a particular aspect of selling at a show, please leave a comment in the box below and I will put a post together for you.

 I am a sole trader and wear the many hats of running a business, all at once. I therefore, can offer my own personal experiences, ideas, research and knowledge to you.  

 

This is a side project from creating wallpaper and luxury soft furnishings.. But I have gained so much business knowledge over the past year from other people that I feel I should and give something back!

 

Selling At A Small Craft / Arts Show vs. A Large Trade Show

Selling luxury handmade cushions, lampshades and designer wallpaper at the National Trust Handbury Hall Christmas Craft and Gift Show.
Surface House stand at the National Trust Hanbury Hall Christmas Gift festival.

Main Considerations

  • Is a small event suitable for my product?
  • Location / Price / Value / Time
  • How to stand out & avoid cliches!
  • Organisation is everything.
  • Valuable points to consider.

Craft Events. Do I Don’t I?

So maybe you are in the ‘do I don’t I’ scenario, some people give negative views on craft fairs, but the are a LOT of points to consider and a lot of positive outcomes to gain from doing one.

Perhaps the main selling point for doing a craft fair (which is why I did them) is the price point. You are looking at £200-£1000 for a stand. As apposed to a typical trade show £3,000 – £10,000 (for a small stand).


Of course, who wouldn’t want to reap the benefits of the hundreds of thousands of visitors that attend a large trade show event, the Ideal Home Show for example, bringing in 240,000 abc audited visitors. 

However, for some, (most?) of us, we don’t have that kind of capital to invest in one event…

Thats why craft shows / fairs are a wonderful ‘foot in the door’ type of experience. You get a miniature version of the whole package and get to trial run things, practice and learn what works for your business before spending the BIG money on a larger more high profile trade show.


Something to consider..

At a fraction of the cost, with craft fairs you can of course expect to see a BIG reduction in visitor numbers and potential sales but if, (like me) you run the business as a sole trader or perhaps a small collective or partnership. Things might be made to order or handcrafted by your wonderful self..

Right now, would you be able to manage and keep up with the potential surge in sales on your products / services if you were to exhibit at a large show?

On the subject of money.. 

  • If you intend to preview the show to check out the atmosphere and style, its always worth contacting the show organisers to ask for exhibitors entry. Let them know of your interests in showing your work there. This may get you in for free! Have a look across the contact page for the most suitable person. Drop them an email saying you are considering participating the event/show in the future.. They are ALWAYS happy to try and get new sellers involved.
  • Be aware to make the most of early submission discounts, if you do commit to a show or fair, get your application in as early as possible. Show organisers want to fill their spaces asap, so an early commitment should get you a discount.

 

Consider the additional costs that come with a large trade show.

 If you’re going all out with a major show, there is lighting, flooring, walls, stand price, accommodation, food, the cost of loading your stock from the outside, into the show, (some venues have strict policies about this, I know someone who was showing at the NEC Birmingham and stock was only allowed to be brought on pallets, which you were for charged of course, per pallet. 

The extra costs of showing at a small event.

If the event is outside, often, you will be allowed to run your able to bring your vehicle into the grounds to set up with ease. Sometimes you can even have your vehicle close by for storage and easy dismantling.

Some stand fixture may be included, dividing walls, sometimes trellis, a back beam or two, to create a false wall and electric, although your plugs will need to be P.A.T tested. 

Tip. Enquire if the event has an onsite qualified P.A.T tester who can check your items for a fee on the set up days, usually around £10 per electrical plug. (Beware though, they can be extremely busy people, they might not be able to fit you in, speak to an organiser beforehand). 

 


Furniture and Props

Of course for any type of show,  you are going to need some sort of furniture. A table perhaps and most certainly a chair! Remember to work this into the cost of your stand. Just please don’t go for the ‘go-to’ pasting table they are generally not fit for this purpose, just let them be pasting tables. You will have the constant worry of whether the table will withstand the weight! Don’t fret though, in my post on ‘points to consider’ I will explain how I built a much sturdier table that can be used again and again.

Lighting can still be an issue, I went along thinking ohh it will be fine… I’m in a big bright white tent, it will be plenty bright. But when everyone around you starts plugging in and aiming their twinkly spotlights, you start to feel a little inferior. Do your research first though, I tried a spotlight lamp that works just perfectly at home for brightness levels. On trying it at the show, it was barely visible in the daylight.

Same goes for those ‘no plug bulbs’ battery operated with a little pull cord, great for under the stairs cupboards, at a show in daylight.. useless! (Trust me.)

Experience

The final point on extra costs, is to tell you not to get too worked up about all of these points if you are going for the ‘entry level’ type of show, your village hall, craft fair type of event. You won’t have to worry too much, people are going there to find a little gem, to have a nice time and possibly pick up a Christmas present or two. They are not expecting overboard displays with flash lighting and perfection, they are interested in the product, and you! Tables and chair may even be provided! Doesn’t this type of show sound easy, happy and welcoming… I suppose yes, but of course, you are probably not going to make the killer sales you hope for, but you will get a lovely experience out of it…

…which leads me to…

Visitor Numbers

The number of visitors can vary massively, from the large scale super expensive shows, with 100s of thousands of visitors to the smaller, more accessibly priced shows such as the Shrewsbury Flower Show (where I exhibited Surface House in the craft marquee). Compare that to a local craft fair in a town hall and you might be lucky to hit 100 visitors. So in simple terms, the more you pay, the more you’re going to get back. 

 These sort of shows can sometimes be indoor and/or outdoor, which is something else to consider. The SFS I exhibited at had record visitor numbers of around 50,000. 

Selling unique handmade cushions, luxury wallpaper and contemporary lampshades at the Shrewsbury Flowers Shwo 2016 in the Craft Marquee for crafters and artists.
Surface House stand the The Shrewsbury Flower Show 2016 in the Craft Marquee.

The important thing to remember is that just because it is a bigger event and more people it doesn’t necessarily mean more spending. Sometimes (very often) people are just there for the day out.

 

There are also a LOT of reports online about reduced numbers in sales and successes at craft shows. This is a great article here from the Design Doctor.

This is definitely something to consider before committing to an event. You should try and visit the show first, even speak to some of the exhibitors, they are usually friendly!

Offer your interest and feedback to them, they might be more willing to tell you some useful information after that.


Here To Help

I hope this helps in your initial research and decision making. Please do leave a comment below with your thoughts of what you would like to see in the next blog post about selling at events.
This blog is still in its infancy and in the process of being shaped into something really useful. Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list to hear about the new blog posts and Surface House news.
Remember.. I will be covering the following topics more detail.. the next time I put my blogging hat back on.
  • Is a small event suitable for my product?
  • Location / Price / Value / Time
  • How to stand out & avoid cliches!
  • Organisation is everything.
  • Valuable points to consider.

Putting my ‘Website Master’ hat back on for now!

Thanks for reading,

Laura Hart

Surface House

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