Craft shows used to be the corner stone of how many artisans made their money, but with the advent of the Internet it has opened up new possibilities to artisans who want to trade in other ways. In fact some would say that trading has become much easier because of the internet.
But what about craft shows, do they still hold relevance today?
I wager that most successful artisans would say that showing your craft in person still has a far reaching effect on long term customer relationships and sales, than selling on-line alone, whether it be; in a studio setting, a gallery (or boutique shop), or at craft shows.
So today I wanted to discuss with you the idea of taking your crafts on the road and looking at the reasons why this could be a great idea for your brand to run alongside the launch of my new ‘Your Best Craft Show Yet’ Course.
Why Not Set Up My Own Studio?
Most people will not have the space to create a studio at home, so renting space is the only option here. It is absolutely do-able if you have the turnover and business model to sustain it, but that is not the case for most.
Selling from home is another option, but you will have the increased fees on household insurance. Oh you didn’t know that? Read the small print on your building’s insurance for example there are strict regulations for using your home as a trading premises. Even if you make the smallest of sales at home, or run workshops you could be voiding your insurance if your insurance company is unaware of how you are using your home.
However if you have your own studio, or the funds to sustain one, then absolutely make the most of it and build it as a revenue stream for your business. There is no reason why this couldn’t be very successful for you on its own, or as part of an online business.
You could still try craft shows as well and many do.
So Why Crafts Shows Instead of Wholesaling?
Wholesaling your crafts is the natural alternative if you cannot fund your own studio for customers to visit. Wholesaling allows you to make use of someone else’s space and selling expertise with little risk. The main draw back for many artisans though is the smaller income they make from the same amount of hand production. So it doesn’t fit every business.
Craft shows however, allow you to make full retail price on your products and generally have smaller fees over time compared to the margin percentage lost to wholesale customers. So financially they have a big advantage. To strike that balance though, it is important to stress that attending and selling at shows is not easy. They will take time and require good selling skills… having said that they can be an absolutely wonderful thing for your growing craft business and are much easier to get into.
THE 4 Reasons Why Crafts Shows are Great for Your Brand
An Added Revenue Stream
The biggest reason to want to take your crafts on the road is for added revenue.
Whilst there is a lot of work and expense involved in showing at events regularly, they can potentially generate income aside from your online business and be profitable in their own right.
I showed at around 100 shows with my previous yarn dying business, over 9/10 years and each time I took my yarn to a show I could estimate ahead of time how much I would make in profit. Those sales did not hinder my online efforts, because I had planned my production carefully and kept my online store open, although sometimes with limited stock. Shows helped generate income I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to make.
Over time I have found that craft shows often bring in regular custom and interestingly custom from people who never shopped with me on-line. Their reasons for shopping with me in person varied, but came down to connection and in-person selling techniques which we will discuss later.
Selling online becomes increasingly harder as the years pass. Back when I started my craft business in mid-2006, forums such as eBay, Etsy and even Amazon made it very easy for me to trade, partly because it was a new phenomenon and partly because competition was smaller. Today it is much more difficult to stand out online and sell in the same way, unless you have honed your offer and really grown your following.
Being very strategic about which craft shows you attend can still be a very powerful thing and really help you to turn over more in a few hours than you can do in say, a week, or even a month online. For example I have sold at very small niche ‘guild’ events where the selling window is just one or two hours. If I have the right stock with me I can turn over as much as I do in a week or two online. Equally I used to do some very large ‘national’ scale events in which I was really particular that I was one of the minorities that sold my product, if not the only ‘hand dyer’ there. These shows would make profits higher than I made in a month of online trading, because I stood out.
It is important to say though that high-trading shows aren’t available every week of the year necessarily and so if you choose to trade at markets for a weekly income you may find they can be a little different in estimated turnover and some weeks you will do far better than others.
From every craft event I attended I gained a wider following, because I was able to reach those who didn’t even know I had product that they wanted. I gave workshops, demonstrations and had plenty of examples of how my product was both beautiful and very easy to use… it opened me up to a world of people who would have never thought to look for me online.
Craft shows also made me accessible to customers on their door-step and on their terms, as a pose to having to hunt down a particular shop that stocked my product, or my own studio on the other side of the country. So my exposure was naturally wider, than my home base.
Organised craft events can bring marketing opportunities too. As companies promote their shows they promote their vendors, therefore extending your reach.
Journalists and bloggers also use shows as a way to find new content for their readers, so putting yourself out there is a great way to get seen by other potential leads.
People like to buy from people.
Selling at shows however can foster something deeper than that, connection and connection can be a powerful game changer for your business.
Customers invest in handmade because they enjoy the connection you (the artist) have with the product’s provenance and that, that provenance is rich in depth and meaning. If you are there to sell it to them and show them that passion, then they will love that product all the more, because they feel in a short time they have made a meaningful connection with you.
One of the first shows I sold at I demonstrated a hand felting method that my customers could try at home with just a few supplies from my range and at low cost. That demonstration got lots of viewers and made me lots of sales. I sold out by the end of the first day in fact and had to spend the evening hand producing more fibre for the next day. One of the customers I met during that demonstration really fell in love with not only the method I was teaching, but the products and my passion for what I did. I showed her how to create some very simple things that day and off she went with a bag full of products from my stall. Two years of trading with her later and she invited me to her first craft show, selling these beautiful horses she hand felted from my hand dyed supplies. Not only had our connection spawned a trading relationship and a beautiful friendship, but it also sent lots of recommendations my way. You see for as many horses as she sold, she was asked if she would teach and through those lessons she promoted me as her trusted supplier.
It’s true that you can foster those connections online (whether you sell supplies or not), but being there in the flesh allows your passion to become truly infectious and that will always make connections much more instantaneous.
If you do not sell supplies, but handmade finished pieces, then connections made at shows can be just as powerful when it comes to commission work. I met an artist at one of the shows I used to do and he was a nature photographer for the main part of his job, but would pick up work drawing and painting people’s pets to help give him variation in his day to day and a side income for bigger photography projects and trips. Although he had a website the vast majority of his commission work came at shows, because he was able to talk to his client in a way that his website couldn’t. The connections and friendships he built gave way to work from recommendations that those connections made.
In Person Selling
You can sell your products and your brand like no one else. You know the stories and you are the passion behind what you create. So it’s easy to talk about and easy to sell.
Sometimes that’s really hard to achieve online. I don’t think web copy, or social content can extend every virtue of a personal relationship and conversation with your customer and as I’ve said people like to buy from people.
Craft shows are still an easier way to sell because of that.
So make sure you get into the right shows and that you have a great stall set up with great customer service. Doing this will make you far more likely to sell even at a slower paced event.