Thursday, 29 January 2015

Some textile designers sell products directly to the public, such as scarves, bags or fabric.

Some textile designers sell products directly to the public, such as scarves, bags or fabric.
I wrote this article some years ago when I ran Crawley Craft Fair and I think it could save you money and heartbreak if you are planning to sell the the public at a fair. Some of these tips apply to selling on line too.

Successful ways to sell at a fair
Before running Crawley Craft Fair I did five years of selling my art at markets and fairs and in a small shop, I am still a self employed artist. I have collected some experience. I have also talked to a lot of people who make a living as artists or with small businesses. As I often find myself giving the same advice to new people (and even experienced ones who can always improve) I have decided to write it down. Please don’t be offended if you know everything on the list, it is intended as a gift to help.

Have clear signs. What you sell. What it costs and contact information on display.

Display things in a way that can be seen from a distance. If you put a photo, jewellery or a painting flat on a table the customer needs to come right over to your table and look down to “fall in love” and you only sell to the people who look carefully at every stall. If you get it standing up they can “fall in love” from across the fair or on their way to the loo! Some of the people who then come over may buy several other things. Once you have set up stand back and just look!

Price everything clearly. Mostly if something is not priced people don’t ask for fear of looking stupid if they can’t afford it.

Talk to the person about the thing they are interested in. Don’t go showing them all your other products. If they like the blue vase, talk and listen about the blue vase. They will buy usually buy thing they like not something else you show them and too much choice confuses things.

Collect contact information and send them stuff.  I find that people who take my card soon lose it or bin it and only a special kind of person keeps it all year till granny’s birthday or whatever. If you collect the customers contact information and send them offers and information about which fairs you are doing next or just pictures of new work you will build up a client list of people who like your work and will buy again. No one is more likely to buy a necklace from you than a woman who likes your work so much she already bought earrings. You can run a competition to win something if they sign up for your news letter and make a quiet fair into a good one with later sales. People may even attend fairs to see you again and chat about their next commission they want from you. My friend who runs the “Sussex Guild” and makes a good living as an artist says “cultivate your fans and repeat clients”.

Provide a list of where you are next. If you have booked fairs in the future list them on your web site and at this fair. Not only does this give the customer more chances to buy but it also makes them sure you are surviving and have a future, they think;  if they want a refund you will still be there to give it so it’s ok to buy from a stall.

Stay on your feet looking happy. I realise it can be cold and you have a long day but I guarantee if you lounge in a chair you have placed in the way of your stall staring into the distance and smoking no one will climb over you to look at your stuff and then interrupt your daydream to demand to buy it, no matter how lovely your stuff is. So do sit and take brakes (at my fair I can lend you someone to cover while you have brakes) but look interested as much as you can.

Don’t waste the afternoon being p***ed off about the morning. I once took £780 between 5.30 and 6.30 at Crawley Celtic Festival after a day of about £6 so far. I ran out of packaging material and had to give people art in their hands to take home. If I had been looking upset instead of enjoying the music and atmosphere I am sure this would not have happened.

Have some things that are cheaper too. Not everyone will agree with this but I think if you have some under £10 things to sell as well as big things you will do better.

Keep everything as pretty as possible. If the public leave litter on front of your stall clean up. Also stand back and make sure your display is lovely.

Try an event several times. My friend who has had two stalls at Portabello Market for more than 20 years has paid for his big house from it and all his kids went to private schools. He is so known there you can plan your Christmas shopping knowing he will be there and people do.

Prepare your kit and know how it works and what you need at every event. Just as no one will interrupt your smoke to buy they won’t interrupt you if you are holding on for dear life to a gazebo that is blowing away or a sign that keeps falling down. This means in the case of Crawley Craft Fair, which can be windy, bring lots and lots of heavy things for weights. But at other events you should know how your tables and gazebo go up before you arrive and what you will need to display stuff so you don’t spend money on events that you cannot make the most of.

I really hope this is helpful and that you are successful. There is room in the world for a lot more small businesses and plenty of public to go around so I think we can all help each other. More people come to a vibrant event and EVERYONE sells more!

Please contact me if I can help you I will try.

Very Best, Kirsteen

Kirsteen Lyons BA (Hons) Former Organiser and Founder.