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How to get the most for your Money at a Craft Fair

Posted by The Home Crafters on

How much would you pay for a table at a craft fair?

£5, £10 sometimes even £15 or £20? How do you put this payment into perspective?

Usually the £5 ones are for an evening session in a community hall somewhere,
the £10 for 4 hours at a school fete maybe?

The more expensive ones promise to be in a good location and are usually all day, right?

Do you ever work out how much you actually get for your money?

Choosing the right craft fair event is something that all stallholders have to battle with.
These days there are SO many happening all around the country, adverts here and there for fetes, galas, fairs, markets and fayres! Some ask for a donation contribution for table hire others ask extortionate amounts of money and demand 'silly' things like Public Liability Insurance and put you on a waiting list!

But how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

How do you know which ones are going to make you money and which will end in losses?

As both a stallholder and event organiser I have often been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in this respect. Having exhibited at all sorts of events from the local primary school fete to an international festival, I feel like I have gleaned enough experience to be able to shed light on both sides of the story. But the truth is, only you can be sure if an event is right for you, and this isn't always down to the 'cost' of the fair.

For example, what are your motivations for attending an event?
Are you in it for the money? to make lots of sales and take home loads of profit?
Or are you attending for marketing purposes? perhaps you would like to use the time and space to advertise what it is you do, put a face behind your products and meet and interact with potential future customers instead of selling all your stock in one go.

These choices are usually based on what it is you make and sell. If your items are inexpensive and can be produced quickly and in large quantities, maybe you attend fairs for the profits you can potentially make. If your items are more expensive, take a long time to produce and/or are usually only made to order, you are likely to attend a market for the exposure and future sales.

However, the location and type of fair will also play a huge part in your decision making. Do you think your hand-knitted baby clothes would go down well at an agricultural festival for example? or will your delicate jewellery designs be popular at a infant school fete? Taking these aspects into consideration is paramount to ensuring that you and your product will fit in and be successful.

So, how do you really work out if the price is right?
Firstly you must understand your profit margins. Taking items to a fair that cost you £10 and selling three things at £4 each does not mean you have 'broken even'. Those three things may have been sold at £4 each, but how much did they cost you to make? £2 or £3 maybe? If they cost £2 each you have only really made £6 after selling three of them - meaning you are still two items short of 'breaking even'
It is paramount, for all aspects of your business, to work out your profit margins. Even if you create your items as a hobby (meaning you don't pay yourself for your time!) you need to be sure you are earning some profit from the materials you have used to create them. If you attend an event that has cost £10 for the table be sure to factor in the profits you make on each item sold before deciding if you have broken even.
Likewise, you may need to factor in your petrol for getting to and from the event, any parking fees you need to pay to stay all day, your packaging and insurance costs etc.
A £10 table may sound inexpensive but make sure you work out the real cost of the event before you commit to it.

To find out how much you need to sell to break even:
Once you have your average event cost, work out your average profit on each of your items. The formula for which is usually:
sales price - cost of materials - time (hourly rate) = profit
(don't forget the minimum wage is now £7.20 per hour, are you paying yourself enough?!!)

So if you have a felt decoration that you sell at £3 which cost £1.50 in materials and you are not(!) charging for your time making it, your profit would be £1.50.
If you work out each of your items profit margins (each type of item not every single one!) add them together and divide by the amount of items (types) you will have an average profit per item which you can then use to work out how many items you need to sell to 'break even' at your event.

#example:
Diane sells felt decorations in 3 different sizes, she has worked out that her profit margins on each are: #1 = £1.50, #2 = £2 and #3 = £1.25
when she adds these together this is £4.75,
divided by 3 (size types) she has on average a £1.58 profit on each item sold
She has paid £36 for an annual policy for Public Liability Insurance and attends around 12 events a year which means her cost for this event is around £3
She also worked out that it is costing her about £6 in petrol to attend the event.
and the table is costing her £15
her total outlay for the event averages £3+£6+£15 = £24
which means she would have to sell about 16 of her decorations during the event to 'break even' (24 divided by 1.58)
This sounds like a do-able task for Diane as she will be at the fair for 6 hours and one sale every 20mins at the town hall craft fair sounds about right!
So Diane books the event!

Some people don't attend an event for the profit and sales. They will view the event as a marketing strategy and an opportunity to connect with new customers and contacts.
If you are not too worried about selling all your stock in one hit, it may be best to view your attendance as a opportunity to advertise your goods... and yourself!

There will be lots of people at the event, not just customers walking through the door. Take the opportunity, if you do get a quiet moment, to make new contacts, find out about other stallholders, their products and what they do. Discuss with them which fairs they like to attend and learn about other local events that may be good for you.
Use your time frugally, it isn't great practice to sit there gossiping while customers pass you by. You are the face of your product; sit or stand behind your stall with pride! Make eye contact with everyone who passes and interact with them in a friendly and welcoming manner. If you've attended many events, you should instinctively know if they are there to buy or not, but either way it won't hurt to be courteous. Strike up conversations where you can, not just about your products but about the weather, the reason they are shopping or what they are planning to do for the rest of the day! Be open and honest and real and you may find they respond with cash sales!

You may be lucky enough to have friends and family visit you at the fair, perhaps to bring you much needed sustenance or to just support your venture. It's nice to see a familiar face, but make sure that you don't miss other, more lucrative interactions while you have visitors. Remain vigilant at all times, your next big customer could have just walked through the door!

I have attended fairs and seen stallholders set up their table, sit back on their chairs, raise a newspaper in front of their face never to be seen for the rest of the day! Needless to say they do not make many sales and, my, my! did they moan about it to other stallholders at the end of the day!!

If all else fails, take some work with you and use your time to create some new, exciting products. If the fair is quiet, the attendance is poor and the other stallholders are hiding themselves behind newspapers, learn from your experience and try and make the most from a bad situation. There may be many reasons that the event isn't 'working', some are not always down to the event organiser; weather plays a massive part in successful craft fairs and outside influences like other events happening nearby may also have an impact.
If you're not making any sales, use your time productively, hand out as many business cards as you can, network with as many like-minded people as possible and account the costs as 'advertising & promotion'!

One of the best things you can do, after you have committed yourself to attending an event, is to promote it as well as possible before you attend. It is likely that the organiser has advertised in papers, social media and with posters but they may not have hit your 'corner' of town. If you are travelling to a fair, be sure to tell other residents of your village about it before you go? Post on your facebook pages and groups. Tweet about the event in the week leading up to it. Let your potential customers know what you will have on sale, where you will be and at what time.
Imagine if everyone at the event did this? the potential footfall and sales that could achieve!

So, what is the true cost of a craft fair & how do you really work out if it's worth it?
If you don't want to be throwing your hard earned money down a drain, do your homework. That includes working out your real costs and profit margins as well as investigating if the location and type of event sits right with your product range. But also, bear in mind the event's potential. A £5 table at a 3hr evening event may sound ideal compared to £25 for an all day fair but when you work out the cost per customer which one really is the best option?

#example
Pamper and craft evening event
time - 6pm til 9pm
venue - village hall
demographic - preschool mums
potential maximum footfall - 50
cost per table - £5
cost per hour - £1.60
cost per customer - £0.10

School summer fete
time - 11am til 3pm
venue - school
demographic - school parents
potential maximum footfall - 200
cost per table - £10
cost per hour - £2.50
cost per customer - £0.05

Craft Fair
10am - 4pm
venue - town hall
demographic - locals
potential maximum footfall - 500
cost per table - £20
cost per hour - £3.33
cost per customer - £0.04

time - 9am - 4pm
venue - shopping centre
demographic - town centre shoppers
potential footfall per day - 500
cost per table - £4 (per day)
cost per hour - £0.57
cost per customer - £0.008                             


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