Monday, November 05, 2012

Craft Fair Conundrum...

This weekend we (that is me, the Little Man and MIL) had a table at a popular local craft fair - we tried to get into this one two years ago but was told in September that we had applied to late (for the end of November!) so last year we made sure we booked in August. Several people had told us it was a 'BIG ONE', a popular fair that was well supported and always busy.  So we hoped we would do well with our mix of my designs and my Mother in Law's hand knits plus some little gift items from her daughter's shop.  We sold nothing. At. All.

craft fair table display
Maybe it was a one-off. The weather was bright on the day but there was snow on the ground which may have kept people away. Everyone was lovely, the atmosphere was friendly, the home cooked food available from the hall kitchen was fab. But not one person wanted to take anything we had to offer home with them..

We thought we would try again this year. Beautiful weather (no snow this time), same lovely atmosphere and definitely a few more people. This year we sold a few items but once coffee and lunch was factored in we barely covered the cost of fuel...

And this, I'm afraid, seems to be the case with most craft fairs we attend. People look. People 'oooo' and 'aaaahhh' and comment how beautiful this is or how much so-and-so would love that, but people don't buy! It's enough to make me cry with frustration!! The matter is not helped by hobby crafters turning up with their hand knitted blankets they are selling for under a tenner . . .

Do people really not realise how much TIME these things take to produce, how much supplies actually cost? Or have they been so blinkered by stupidly cheap supermarket buys (mass produced in India/China by workers who get paid pennies for their work so supermarket profits on these items are far in excess of anything I would expect to make on my handmade items...)  that they simply do not truly value craftsmanship anymore?

beautiful handmade porcelain star
I spoke to one lady who produced the most gorgeous ceramic buttons - she actually apologised to someone for charging £1 per button! Everyone of her items was an individual work of art and she felt the need to justify what is, in reality, a bargain price (look at the price of buttons next time you are in Hobbycraft if you don't believe me!)  I purchased four beautiful porcelain hanging star decorations from her for £1 each and I very much doubt I will find anything so lovely in Tesco...

This is not the first fair I have done, I probably have a dozen or so under my belt now, and it probably won't be the last but I have yet to have a truly successful fair. One where I felt that the people browsing were actually there because they want to purchase unique items, hand crafted with love and skill. Maybe we need to move further afield. Maybe we need to pay more to attend 'premium' fairs. I don't know...

I don't know if the story is the same where you are? Have you ever set up a stall at craft fair and left feeling despondent? Do you worry that your craft simply isn't good enough? Or maybe you have had great success at the fairs you have attended. Maybe you go as a punter and are disappointed with the goods on offer or just go along to support your mate who has a table but rarely buy.

Let me know your thoughts on craft fairs - from either side of the table. 

It may make the difference to me and others as to whether the next fair is a successful one or the last one . . .


  1. I've never done a craft fair, but I have attended them and I always go with the intention of buying something. Even if it's wool for my ever increasing stash that Social Services complain about! But I appreciate all the hard work people put into the things they make. Sometimes though, I will take a business card because even if I don't need something from that person now, I may in the future when I'm looking for gifts and I have heard a lot of people say that they've had lots of business post fair from passers by who picked up their cards. It's something I'm going to do when I do Winter Wonderland in Blaenavon in December.

  2. I shop at craft fairs a lot as most makers offer special show prices and I love to buy handmade. Jewellery seems to be a very saturated market at the recent fairs but stalls selling craft supplies are popping up and doing well (I recently bought some gorgeous handmade paper). Most shows I go to charge between £5 and £10 as an entrance fee so perhaps that results in more serious buyers rather than browsers?

    1. I think you may have aa very valid point on the entrance fee thing. Most of the fairs I do are local - I don't drive and usually have to take my Little Man with me as no babysitters available - and entrance fee usually involves purchasing a raffle ticket or something. They are generally fundraisers of some sort or another. Serious craft fairs are further afield and cost more to sell at but I think it is these kind of fairs I really need to be looking into...

  3. I used to attend craft fairs regularly as a seller. The small village hall ones where pretty much a waste of time and effort. The larger ones, especially those leading up to Christmas, or at agricultural shows in the summer months were better, as there were far more visitors. I also noticed that if I smiled at people and asked if they were enjoying the show/their day out, they were far more likely to buy from me, than if I just sat quietly behind the stall. I definitely did not go for the 'hard sell' as I saw some people doing. However, my best show for takings was at someone's house. We donated 20% of our takings to charity, mixed everyone's goods together throughout the ground floor of the house (all marked with maker's initials and price) and had two payment and packing points. Lots of 'ladies who lunch' came to it and I sold almost all of my stock in the two hours or so that it was running. Absolutely superb! I must admit that I don't do any craft fairs now, as it is so much easier to sell online!


Thanks for staying this long :) I would love to hear what you have to say. Don't be shy, this could be start of a beautiful friendship!

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