Craft Fair Tips: Is Your Craft Business Ready for Renegade (or another huge show)?

Renegade shoppers

Renegade Chicago was packed with shoppers at its fall show.
Is your craft business ready to serve crowds this big?

Craft business owners know there are few shows bigger than Renegade, which puts on huge events in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Brooklyn, and London each year. The San Francisco summer show alone boasts record-breaking numbers each year, topping out at around 25,000 visitors over the weekend. 

Renegade Craft Fair

Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco

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If you're a show veteran, you probably already have an arsenal of craft fair tips, but prepping for a show of this magnitude takes time and practice. I have learned through trial and error that I need about three months to prep my inventory, settle on a booth display, and secure booth help and support.  There are many decisions to be made, and if you are just starting out on the craft show circuit, many of your decisions will seem like guesswork until you have enough shows under your belt to know a bit more about what sells where and for just how much. 

Whether your craft business is just starting out, or you're a seasoned pro, here are my go-to craft fair tips to get yourself ready for a successful and amazing large show.

To share or not to share

Most craft shows will allow you to share a booth with another craft business. You can choose a friend with complimentary merchandise, or, at some shows, the organizers will offer to fix you up with a fellow vendor that matches your style but does not compete. 

Renegade Craft Fair - Muggy Tuesday   Renegade Craft Fair - Milton & Margie's

Crafters Muggy Tuesday (left) and Milton and Margie's (right) shared a booth at Renegade Chicago.

I have both shared a booth and had my own booth, and hands down, I prefer to share. Here’s why. NO ONE wants to walk into an empty booth. Craft fairs are often like a popularity contest.  Are there a lot of people in your booth?  It must mean you’ve got a great product!  Sharing a booth with another craft business draws in twice as many people. I like to share a booth with my friend and housewares designer Kristen of Pommes Frites.  Our designs do not compete and bring in totally different customers.  Our booth always looks full even if no one happens to be shopping at our individual tables.  With two vendors, you double your audience. 

Also, sharing a booth means splitting the booth fee, which can be hefty for a large show.  For me, sharing the cost means breaking even early in the afternoon of the first day of the show.  After 1 p.m., it’s all profit.  Plus, it’s a lot more fun to have a friend or fellow designer to chat with during the often long and exhausting day. There is someone else to cover for you who knows how to take credit card payments, make change, and charge the local tax rate, should you need to take a bathroom break.

Zelma Rose Booth Display

Zelma Rose Booth Display

 

Secure your supplies

One of the most important craft fair tips a crafter needs to follow is stocking enough supplies to create large quantities of your product. You don't want to suddenly realize you can't finish any more bracelets because you're out of clasps! By now you probably have a good idea of how long it takes for you to receive supplies and design components from your suppliers.  I try to work with as many local suppliers as possible and especially those who offer priority mail shipping.  Most suppliers will provide you with turnaround times and will clearly spell out shipping options to give you the most accurate picture of when you can expect delivery. I recommend counting backwards from the week before a major craft show to determine when to order supplies. And keep that date on your calendar!

Decide on inventory

Before you can order supplies, you need to decide on designs and quantity.  Inventory management systems like Stitch Labs can be helpful to craft business owners in determining how many items to bring and what price point to focus on.  If this is your first show and you don’t have a sales history at shows yet, one of my best craft fair tips is to start with the designs that sell best on your web site.  Plan on making the highest quantity of those and work from there.  There is no surefire way to determine what customers at different craft fairs will buy.  This is a best guess scenario, but having charted sales history definitely helps.  I find that it is easier for me to make a large quantity of designs for summer shows.  I know from evaluating my multiple sales channels through Stitch that I will move whatever inventory is left over during the holidays. 

Plan your booth display

Booth display is really important!  Your booth is your brand.  Think of it as a portable retail store representing only designs from your craft business.  It is your chance to give customers the full experience of your brand and tell your story.  I like to switch up my display a bit each year.  There are always improvements to be made, and I learn something new each time I set up and take down.

One of the greatest, and most challenging, craft fair tips is to find a way to display a lot of product without the booth looking overcrowded with merchandise.  An improvement I made after last year was to use a more retail-friendly display.  I scoped out how local stores were showing my designs and broke items down into groupings. Creating small groups of designs and showing only one piece per design kept my booth looking minimal, even though I was showing a lot of merchandise.  

Also, compact is key!  Keeping things easy to haul and organized will enable you to keep the general vibe of your booth at local and destination craft shows.  Consider what it would take to haul your booth long-distance to another city's Renegade Craft Fair, or another large show far away from home. Folding tables, collapsible shelves, and inventory storage bins that can then be stacked inside each other are all great ways to minimize bulk. Anything that can become flat is always a good thing. Think Ikea!

 

Handmade mosaic purse

Zelma Rose Booth Display

I spy (other crafters) 

Most craft show organizers will post a full directory of craft business owners to advertise the upcoming show.  Renegade Craft Fair lists the vendors with links to their shops.  Do your homework! Know which of your competitors are going to be there and what their price point is.  I am lucky enough to have a wide variety of merchandise.  When I can see that there is a vendor with similar jewelry designs, I might decide to push my pocket squares and men’s designs at that show, or I will prominently display my most unique piece to differentiate myself from the other similar designers.

Working a show like Renegade Craft Fair takes a good deal of hard work and planning.  Preparing months in advance allows time for great design and a fun and successful show.  Yes, it’s time-consuming, but remember, it’s a rare gift to get your designs in front of 20,000-plus people!

What are your favorite craft fair tips?

Comments

DanK

I like bringing a lot of inventory with me and have it set up. My pieces are all small jewelry with intricate designs. I have no duplicates. The longer people stay at my booth looking for the perfect piece the more likely more people will be drawn to the booth. It is also important for me to have enough room for the people to look so I prefer to have a full booth space. This I learn from experience I suppose. 1 or two people draw more people until there are people waiting in line. If the space is too crowded, some customers become claustrophobic, throw up their hands, and disappear into the crowd. This year I'm trying the low cost 8 foot table in the front and the high cost 6 foot on the side. Seems to be working well to move customers and gives me a little room to breathe. I love learning how other crafty businesses work a booth, it's wonderful how much difference there is:)

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