Thursday, December 10, 2009

Retro Revival's First Craft Fair

          I showed my Retro Revival wares at my first-ever craft fair this past weekend. The fair was part of the Dr. Phillips High School theater department’s winter festival where about 50 vendors were invited to set up shop for festival goers. I decided this would be a good first fair for me to participate in because I anticipated a relatively small crowd – something I could manage with no experience and a somewhat depleted inventory of product because of the run on Christmas/holiday sales on, and In the two weeks leading up to the fair I sewed like a mad woman and showed up with about 100 shower caps, 60 aprons and 30 tote bags.

          When I arrived at the fair I was nervous…would people like my creations? Would I have enough product? Would I actually sell anything? Would people be friendly? To stave off severe disappointment, I conditioned myself to low expectations; if I sold a mere $50.00 (enough to cover my vendor entrance fee), I’d be happy and anything above that would be frosting. The entire experience was really fantastic! People seemed to love my things and they bought like crazy! I sold almost all of my aprons, many of my shower caps and a few tote bags – way beyond my expectations!

          I also met some incredibly friendly and helpful people – other vendors! When I mentioned I was new to the craft fair scene, almost everyone was eager to share advice and tips and offered words of encouragement.

          Having had a couple of days now to reflect on my experience, this is my top 10 list of lessons learned; other new crafters may find this helpful:

10. Limit nonessential stuff. I brought a few Christmas decorations to add to my table and decided that although I thought they looked really pretty, they distracted from what I was trying to sell.
9. If you’re selling clothing, wear it! Many people approached to compliment me on the apron I was wearing and this was the perfect opportunity to show them all of my aprons for sale.
8. If you can, take a lamp and turn it on. Having a pretty, vintage lamp not only added a little ambiance but added to the retro feel of my entire set up and as the sun began to set, it really helped illuminate my product.
7. Have a pair of comfortable shoes handy. I must admit that I couldn’t bear to ruin my look with tennis shoes – had to wear my fabulous heels – but while lugging my product to and from the car and while taking breaks I did slip on my comfy shoes. Oooh, did that feel good!
6. Prep your bags ahead of time. On the first day I brought with me shopping bags (paper with twine-like handles), Retro Revival stickers and tissue paper so that I could wrap each purchase for my customers. I soon realized that pulling out the bags, placing a sticker and fighting with tissue paper, all while the customer was standing there waiting patiently, was just too nerve racking and a time waster. That same night, I placed tissue in the bags, stuck on the stickers and refolded them. The next day I was able to quickly whip them out – no fumbling and much quicker.
5. Stay busy. Fortunately, this was not a challenge for me because during much of the show customers were browsing or buying at my booth, but I did notice that some other vendors who did not have customers sat behind their tables appearing to do nothing or reading a book. I am convinced that activity draws customers. Even when no one was at my booth I took those opportunities to straighten my items, restock low inventory, anything to draw attention to my product.
4. Share a cookie! On the last day of the show I was set up next to a delightful woman who extended a plate of homemade cookies at everyone who walked by her table. She greeted them with, “Would you like a Christmas cookie?” Most people accepted her treats and almost all of them stopped to admire and/or buy her jewelry. Fantastic idea and I’m definitely going to do this at my next show.
3. When a potential buyer approaches your table and says something like, “Your aprons are pretty,” don’t respond with just a thank you. Instead, respond with “Thank you. I make all of my aprons from vintage 1950’s tablecloths; let me give you a closer look.” Or insert some phrase that explains why your product is unique, or a good deal, or whatever will entice them further; a simple thank you will likely end the conversation and your opportunity to sell your product.
2. Test out all of your systems. Before the show I was very excited to find a reasonably priced credit/debit card service designed for micro businesses like mine. Although a vast majority of my customers paid with cash, a couple used credit. On my first day, I picked up my cell phone to process a customer’s card and realized (by the recording on the other end) that I hadn’t set up a pin code online. Darn! Lesson learned – always test out your systems, whether phone, lamp, credit processing BEFORE your show.

1. Get to know your neighbors. I noticed almost immediately that about half of the vendors sat quietly behind their tables throughout the show and never mingled with other vendors. I decided to meet the other vendors to see what they were selling, look at pricing, get ideas for setting an attractive display, make contacts, ask questions and learn new tips. I am so glad I did this! I met some very nice, intelligent and helpful women who were enthusiastic about answering my questions and giving me advice.

          Since the fair I am back at the sewing machine in preparation for my next show – I’ll keep you posted.

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