how to sell stuff at a festival?
December 12, 2012 4:57 PM   Subscribe

We have a tiny online shop and we managed to score a stall/stand at a large festival. This is our first "event". Can you help us plan the practical details of selling stuff in the middle of a drunk crowd?

We will be selling LPs, CDs and some tshirts. We would like to take cash and cards. The festival lasts 3 days and is in a not very safe area of a not very safe city. The festival grounds are protected, but the surroundings are not. Our hotel is one block away. We are driving 3 hours to get there so we will have to haul all our stuff in boxes and we can't afford to go back home if we forget something.

Things we are asking ourselves:

-Should we get an amount of small denomination bills and coins to give change? How do we get that? This will be our first time with cash transactions.
-Where to keep our cash????? (a little safe? a shoe box?) Do they rent registers?
-Should we do regular trips to our hotel room if we find we have too much cash in our hands?
-Do those credit card reader apps work? We have ordered Paypal and Square readers.
-How do we keep track of sales? Should we write them down somewhere? Should we give any kind of receipt or what have you?
-How do you physically make a stall, other than having a tent and a table with boxes of stuff? Is it wise to have products all around even though we are only two people, or should we just have stuff to the front?
-Are there any major details we are overlooking?

Additional detail: Our shop is really just a fun thing we do and not a profit making business. In the 8 years we've had it, we never EVER made a profit, so our tax lady literally counts it as a hobby. We aren't hoping to make $$$ from this festival, but if we at least break even it would be nice, and part of that would be not having our stuff stolen or ruined.

posted by Tarumba to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
1. Absolutely. Figure it out based on your price points. If you have stuff priced at $16 you're giving out a lot of singles. You get money from the bank, get lots beforehand you won't have time/they won't be open on weekends. I usually bring ones and fives but my price points are low. Assume people paying cash will be paying with twenties.
2. On your body. Apron or fanny pack.
3. Sure, if there are two of you and you have the time.
4. Absolutely, I usually do at LEAST 50% of my sales through my square reader, my last show was easily 80% of my sales.
5. Get one of those carbonless receipt books. Then you are only writing info down once.
6. Debatable. You can easily go simple, that may work with your items' aesthetic anyway. Think "up" if you can, get things at people's eye levels. Hang shirts from your canopy. Bring some white sheets then you can throw a cardboard box on the table, cover it when a sheet and voila instant stand. Some people like booths people need to walk into, some people don't. You aren't going to make everyone happy. I usually do an L shape with two tables and things hanging on the open end.

Things I bring with me to every show (besides stock/change/displays):
- business cards
- scissors
- twine
- calculator
- at least 4 pens (ball point so they work on the receipt books)
- at least one sharpie
- binder clips
- hand sanitizer
- snacks
- water
- chair or stool
- clipboard
- stapler
- chapstick
- ibuprofen
- small hammer, wrench, screwdriver
Have I needed everyone of those things at every show? no. Have I been super duper happy I had each of those things at some point? Hell Yes.

Wear comfortable shoes that you can stand in all day. Wear clothes that you can move easily in.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:18 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

I always deal with cash at fairs and festivals so I can answer some of your questions.

Keep your cash in a fanny pack. If it's not a very safe area, I would keep the cash as close as possible to your body and keep a hand over it at all times. Use post-its to keep the bills separated and use a separate compartment of the bag for change.

I would not do regular trips to the hotel room. Hotel rooms are not safe places to keep cash. I would make trips to the bank. If this is not possible, go to the bank and switch it for a large bill and then hide it in your bra if you're female. If you're male, go to the travel store and buy a money belt or something that can keep your cash hidden.
posted by cyml at 5:22 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

magnetsphere and cyml have it pretty well covered. To their tips I will add: Bring a wheeled dolly for schlepping your stuff to your stall in the morning and back to your vehicle at the end of the day. Especially at the end of the day when you're tired. Depending on how many other vendors there are and what vehicular access is like, breaking down can be a chaotic traffic jam, and you don't want to potentially be carrying all of your boxes to a parking lot 1/4 mile away.

The Square reader is awesome. I recently discovered that you can also log cash transactions through the Square Register app - presumably these show up when you log into your transaction history through the website, but I haven't verified that yet; we usually keep a simple running list of sales on a pad of paper. I picked up a carbonless receipt book before our last show just in case somebody asked for a paper receipt, but not a single person actually has. The Square app lets you email or SMS a receipt to the customer, but the majority of people just say "eh, don't worry about it."

Have fun & good luck!
posted by usonian at 5:38 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you going to have power? Will you need lights? Do you have spare batteries for your phones? Cooler for drinks/food. Security camera or two. First aid kit. Paper towels. Plastic bags. Duct Tape (I usually just wrap a few yards around the sharpie)
posted by Sophont at 6:18 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going to be using Square, make sure you'll have a good strong signal. Nothing like running around your venue, waving your tablet above your head, trying to get a purchase authorized.
posted by Lucinda at 7:14 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone, and magnetsphere, wow! We are printing your list.
posted by Tarumba at 4:17 PM on December 13, 2012

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