Plan a Booth for a Craft/Art Marketplace
April 27, 2016 9:37 AM   Subscribe

As seen previously, I've been working on expanding my artistic endeavors to actually selling stuff. My application to a local outdoor craft/art/vintage marketplace has been accepted so I now have under a month to get a booth together. I am at a loss. Help!

Thanks to a surprise Banner Week on Etsy, I was able to afford the required 10' by 10' tent, a folding 6' table, tent weights, and even made a sign... now what? Tips and advice from craft show veterans and shoppers appreciated!

Examples of what I'd be selling.

My issues and concerns:

My stuff is mainly printed on 12" by 12" or 9" by 12" wooden panels. How best to display them? Should I frame/hang examples then have a file people can flip through? Or should I only keep a limited stock out on display and then refill if people buy?

Booth layout:
Everything up front? A cave set up so people come in? I've read tips that conflict in their advice. I also have a limited amount of carrying capacity to get everything to the show, so building walls or dividers is pretty much out of the question.

I have 20 or so different designs I can bring. How much should I bring of each? My Etsy records show a pretty even split between the Alien and the Lovecraft stuff. The standard price for the panels would be 30 bucks (I sell them for $35 including shipping on Etsy). I have smaller pieces that would cost from $10-$20 and at least one larger $40-$50 piece.

I have an Etsy card read and a Square card reader. Which one should be my default? Is it worth setting up the Sell on Etsy app with my full inventory?
How much cash should I have at hand?
Should I do hand written receipts?

Any other thoughts you have about what makes a great market booth would be very appreciated!
posted by robocop is bleeding to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've done a lot of shows so happy to give advice.

I would set up like a U. Hanging the pieces on the sides of the U from your tent. Make sure they are hung securely so that they won't fall if there is any wind. Some brainstorming at home depot depending on how your things hang should give some results. Put the table at the back of the U with milk crates or something that people can flip through but the main draw should be all the beautiful hanging pieces. Upcharge if they want to take the frame too.

No one can really answer this for you. Bring your most popular stuff and multiples of it. My usual advice is to bring as much as you can, it can't sell if you don't bring it. You may also be surprised about how different your sales are in person vs. online. My most popular online designs wouldn't make the top ten for in person and vice versa.

I use either my square reader or my paypal reader. I don't use my etsy reader for a couple reasons. 1. if you are using the listings then you get charged the 20 cent listing/relisting fee on top of the normal processing fees. 2. it has been known to be glitchy in the past and people didn't get all their money.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

re Display, my advice would be to have some different levels on your tabletop, solid cubes or open-ended crates, and then to have your wood panels on small sturdy easels on top so stuff is upright and viewable from a few feet away (rather than laid flat on the tabletop). Some picture putty or similar to keep the easels secure.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:08 AM on April 27, 2016

Congrats! Would that be an event in Salisbury perchance?

Here's what our setup tends to look like. The wall panels are PVC frames, with wire garden fencing zip tied inside like a screen, covered in a burlap sheath. Super light, neutral, cheap, and dry fast. These things are the hooks that go through the burlap to hang on the wire, and adhesive plastic hangers can be stuck to the backs of print sleeves, or frames with hanging wire work too.

Get a white canopy for good light. Have tarps and/or buy one with walls, if it's a multi-day outdoor show, and it rains overnight. You will want weights/sandbags and tent pegs. Sharpies bungees tape scissors extra price stickers.

You'll want as many small bills as feels comfortable. $100 worth to start?

Really, so much of it is personal preference. Walk around at events and see what you like or don't like about other people's setups. Ask them, they're usually nice about it if you're not blocking traffic. I like having stuff on tables, hanging, and in a couple racks able to be flipped through, for the sake of flexibility and accommodating the most viewers/stuff in limited space. I like using old wood crates because they look neat and I can nest them and pack stuff in them.

Come to Lowell on Saturday for some field research and say hi!
posted by Fantods at 10:28 AM on April 27, 2016

If you can make them in time, I love it when artists have postcards with their art on them. I've had limited wall space for art and can't afford to pay every artist that I like hundreds of dollars for a piece, but if I can give them $10-20 and have an excuse to send friends a bit of art and an update on my life, that's something I can manage.
posted by Candleman at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

As a shopper, I'd be much more comfortable paying with Square because I've used it before and know it's a legitimate card processor.

Things I learned from our art fair days:

* Have a way for people to sign up for your email list. You don't have a list? Collect addresses anyway & set one up ASAP.
* Bring twice as many business cards as you think you need.
* Put a tablecloth on that table. (Even a nice flat sheet will work.) It looks more professional & gives you a hidden space to hide extra prints/snacks/etc.
* If you set up your tent more like a U shape, people will spend more time looking at your art. Definitely hang things to catch the eye of people walking by, rather than *just* having prints in bins. Some people will want to buy already-framed art and some will prefer plain/matted prints, so offer both options.
* Art fairs can be exhausting and it is often hard to get away from your booth for anything beyond a quick bathroom break. Bring a folding chair if you can & food/beverages for the day so you don't have to leave the booth to find a food tent.
* Duct tape & bungee cords are lifesavers. Make sure you have some just in case.
posted by belladonna at 11:22 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pinterest is just chock full of articles about every aspect of selling at events. Booth design, sales tactics, display's all there.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2016

It does make sense to have some things out towards the front of your booth to catch peoples' eyes (a simple tall easel/sandwich board sort of thing you can hang some pieces on, for example) but I think it's better to draw people inside to look at more of your things than to just have a table right across the front of the booth. Pulling people in out of the hustle and bustle for a few moments increases the likelihood of some interaction and hopefully sales.
  • Nthing a U (or L) shaped table setup if you can beg, borrow or steal another table or two.
  • Nthing bungees, clothesline/paracord, maybe zip ties, scissors, marker and cardstock for making the various signs and labels you inevitably wish you had with you, pen, tape, paper towels, scrap paper, chair, and food/drink! I'm terrible about remembering to bring emergency rations, and there's nothing worse than being stuck in your booth, dehydrated and light-headed with hunger as people stroll by with sno-cones and turkey legs. You may not need all of the other stuff at every show but it's so nice to have it when you want it. Also, a couple of empty bags for trash.
  • Finding ways to make the most of your surfaces is the name of the game; with strategic stacking, old crates can give you a tiered display on top of your tables. Or even just cardboard boxes, if they're stable enough & you have a roomy enough table cloth to cover them.
  • Wind is a pain in the ass. If you've got stuff propped up or on little display easels and your booth is oriented just wrong on a breezy day, you may have to improvise a bit (or spend a lot of time putting stuff back upright.)
  • the PVC wall panels Fantods describes are pretty handy, although admittedly bulky in terms of cargo capacity. (I've been contemplating trying a variation using a few PVC cross-members instead of the wire fence, and skipping glue; that way the whole panel assembles like tinker toys and breaks down small. Would need to find or make hooks that fit the bigger diameter of the inner PVC, though.)
  • I think I've been asked for a hand-written receipt exactly once, and did have to scramble a bit to find a suitable piece of paper. I bought a receipt pad after that show and have not ever been asked for one again. You can send email/SMS receipts with Square if the customer wants (even if you're just logging a cash transaction IIRC,) but before I do I always inform them that Square hangs on to their contact information and associates it with their card; meaning the next time they make a Square payment to someone using that same card, it will prepopulate it in the receipt field. Some people find it understandably creepy/offputting when I tell them I already have their email address from a previous transaction they did with somebody else.
  • Change can be hard to figure; I've never observed a consistent pattern. (Some shows everyone seems to have exact change, other shows everyone keeps using you to break twenties,) but you can never go wrong with having a ton of ones on hand if nothing else.
  • Bring as much variety as you think you have room to display, with extra stock of your popular online items and/or items you have a hunch may be more popular at a given event (because of where the event is, the event theme, etc.) But agreed that it's always sort of a crapshoot trying to predict what's going to sell well and at which market.
  • Lately I've taken to not leaving a pile of business cards out on the table; we have a friend who also sells at shows and she theorizes that being able to grab a card "for later" and sneak away makes it too easy for people to talk themselves out of an impulse purchase. I know I've done the "grab a card for later, get home and throw it in the junk drawer for eternity" thing myself, so she might be on to something. I'll still happily give a card to anyone who asks for one, but I like the idea of there being a tiny "cost" (in the form of an interaction) for someone to get a business card.
  • Definitely look at other vendors' booths, borrow and adapt for next time around!

posted by usonian at 4:17 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have a person to go with you? Because just as usonian (husband) mentions a bunch of stuff I forgot to say, so also he always remembers a bunch of stuff I forget to bring. Granted we both make stuff to sell, so we both know how to answer questions and such. But the crowds ebb and flow, and you'll go from no browsers to a mob all at once for no discernible reason. It's helpful to have two people instead of just one person answering questions and managing purchases, not to mention packing while someone goes to get the car at breakdown or whatever. Usually shows allow for an extra person at the booth and give you a vendor ID for admission/parking if you mention it before the show (usually on the app, but not usually a huge problem with notice.)
posted by Fantods at 1:36 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

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