Top 5 tips - for attending markets and Craft Fairs!
Updated: Jan 30
Markets will always be Wraptious' first love. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Manchester market scene, especially Altrincham Market, Levenshulme Market and the Makers' Market crew, where without them, I doubt Wraptious would be in a position today of supporting hundreds of artists.
I've attended over 350 markets with Wraptious and lost count of the number of times I've nearly given up, when it felt like nothing was working. But that is the beauty of markets too - they allowed me to evolve Wraptious by trying things in a relatively safe environment. No two markets I attended were ever the same - if something didn't work I could change it quickly and try something else. You just can't beat real-time feedback and sales!
For me, there's something authentic and tangible, especially in this day-and-age of the Internet, of selling one's wares at an event with money in your pocket at the end of the day. The thrill of the public buying your work! If you're thinking of giving markets a go or have been doing them a while already, I hope my Top 5 tips for attending markets and craft fairs may help.
TIP 1: BE READY FOR A FULL DAY
You've paid for the market, so make sure you attend all day. The early bird catches the worm - often you'll get first choice of which position you want your stall to be in. I can't emphasise enough how much the right (or wrong) position can impact your sales. Even if your location is set in stone by the organisers, you will still have more time to sell to the early attendees. But get to know the organisers too and you'll soon find you can wiggle into better positions at future markets.
Equally, it surprises me when stalls leave early. I was always the last to pack up and I would do it slowwwly, often making £100s more in sales after official closing time to the late attendees and those that have had a bit to drink! Make the most of the full day.
Markets require a lot of energy too, so bring plenty of food and drink. You'll probably want to stand and engage with your customers so wear comfortable shoes. Potentially cardboard on the floor too, which can act as an insulator between the cold floor and your feet. Also make friends with your neighbours, especially if you're alone and need someone to keep an eye on your stall while you pop to the loo!
TIP 2: KEEP YOUR STAND FRESH AND ENGAGING
It goes without saying to have a great display, but what does that actually mean? You want it to be visually appealing to force passers-by to stop in their tracks. It should be clear what you’re selling and what you’re about, and be original too!
Use all the space available to you. Markets usually provide a table, but I always brought three extra to provide more depth and breadth. Consider adding some sort of shelving or stands to your table(s) to give height. Crates, ladders, Ikea units, buckets all work great on the floor in front of or to the side of your stand also. Washing lines to hang product up high can be fun too. And remember clear signage and pricing. Play around with different ideas!
Remember to pop round to the front of your stand every now and then too to have a tidy. The public has a wonderful knack of messing up a display quickly. This will also keep you active and moving about. Even if you’re shy, try and chat to everyone. It’s worth having a couple of lines you can confidently preach about how you make your products, or what’s awesome about what you’re selling and you. People love a good story and supporting businesses and individuals they can get passionate about!
TIP 3: GET YOUR PRICING RIGHT
Try and have a range of price points to suit all budgets. Some low-priced items around the £1-£5 mark are perfect for impulse buys when the public has spent all their money on food and drink! Some mid-tier items and then some higher-priced ‘Wow’ items. You’ll of course have fewer sales from your Wow items, but they look awesome, should make great talking points and if you do sell any are a lovely bonus.
Consider having offers too. The hardest job is attracting customers to your stall in the first place and tempting them in purchasing, so make the most of their interest and upsell - if you can - to increase their basket size.
Ask yourself why you are doing the markets. For instance, is it to earn a living, as a hobby or for market research? Price your products accordingly to cover all your costs and don’t forget to factor in the cost of your time too, not just in making your products but in attending the market.
Inevitably you’ll have some people asking for a discount or wanting to haggle. It is up to you if you want to engage with this – never feel pressured; it’s ok to simply saying “No thanks.” It can be infuriating at times, I appreciate, when people don’t grasp just how much time, love and skill has gone into making your wares, not to mention the years you have probably spent honing your craft. Usually however a customer just wants to feel like they’ve got “something”, so even the smallest of discounts can often be enough to appease. Or alternatively, throw in a small extra item for free if you can – the cost to you of this extra item is likely to be a lot less than any discount the customer is trying to ask for.
To take a specific example briefly: You sell a mug for £10. The customer tries to haggle you down to £8. Instead of giving them a £2 discount, you could throw in a free greeting card. You sell these on your stand for £2.50 so the customer is getting an even better offer, but the card only costs you £0.90 to make, so the customer goes away happy and it’s only cost you 90p rather than £2.
But whatever you decide, be honest with yourself about what you can offer, and don’t feel pressured into going ahead with any sale you’re not comfortable with.
TIP 4: BE PREPARED FOR ALL WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
We all wish for blue skies and no wind, but in Manchester where I’m based, that is a rarity. I remember my very first stall nearly blowing away. It was a disaster! If you have lightweight items, have ways to hold them down if it gets windy – pegs, clasps, even duct tape hidden from view can make all the difference. Similarly if it is likely to rain, make sure your items are protected and bring lots of kitchen towel. It may sound silly, but be mindful of very hot weather too when your products are in direct sunlight. I’ve had prints destroyed by moisture building up inside cellos and seen traders’ products bleached from sunlight.
If you are bringing your own gazebo, have your weights with you also. I have lost track of the number of gazebos I have seen flying across a carpark, often taking half a stall’s product with it! A good market organiser should notice these things, and if a gazebo is provided by the market you’ll most likely be ok, but don’t take this for granted.
If your market is indoors or outside after dark, consider bringing your own lighting - never rely on the venue to provide adequate lighting for your stall. Extra lighting will also help your stand look more inviting than your neighbours’. LED technology has improved a lot recently, allowing powerful, long-lasting, battery-powered lighting to be available at a very reasonable price.
TIP 5: MAKE IT EASY FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS TO PURCHASE FROM YOU NOW AND IN THE FUTURE.
As I mentioned earlier, the hardest challenge you’ll face is attracting people to your stand in the first place, so make the most of their attention. Don’t give a customer any reason to not purchase: have a decent float, and also a means of taking card payments. I recommend iZettle, which has always been brilliant for us.
Try and have everyone who visits your stall leave with something, even if it's just a flyer or a business card. Even better if you have a newsletter signup form on your stand so visitors can leave their email allowing you to contact them with your news and where you’ll be next.
Finally, have a presence on social media and preferably a website too – it doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but if people can’t find you online after visiting your stall it’s a wasted opportunity. Often it can take someone seeing you a few times before they are tempted in buying, so announcing online where and when your next markets will be can make a difference in building relationships with your customers.
What markets are you attending? Do you have any other advice you’d offer? Let me know!