by Claire of Lady Luck Jewellery
It’s hard to know where to begin when writing an article about craft fairs, as both an exhibitor and organiser, I ‘wear both hats’ as it were. This time of year is just bursting with fairs, from local school gift shopping evenings to massive extravaganzas like the Country Living magazine fairs, and all of those hundreds that fall in between.
After 5 years of running a jewellery making business, and 4 years of running fairs, I’m both afraid, and glad to say I’ve pretty much seen it all, from poorly organised fairs with virtually no visitors, disinterested stallholders and some quite odd product offerings, to bustling, exciting fairs and exhibitors with some of the most beautifully made products I’ve ever seen.
When you’re looking to book into a fair, be aware of the difference between handmade only craft fairs, and craft andgift fairs, or local ‘shopping events’. You’ll usually find with the former that the organiser will at the very least want to see good quality photos of your products, and will make sure that there are a good variety of stalls too. The latter will see bought in products, and sometimes, quite pushy reps for party plan companies – I was once stuck next to one at a shopping evening, and she harrassed all of the browsers close to my stall with her sales pitch. Needless to say, I didn’t sell much! Having said that, not all handmade craft fairs are good, not all general gift fairs are bad.
The motto of the story is, check each fair out carefully before booking, try to find out if it’s been run before, how many visitors they’re expecting, what advertising they’ll be doing and who had stalls there in the past - there’s nothing like a good word of mouth recommendation from another crafter.
I’m often asked, what is a reasonable price to pay for a fair, that really is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question as it depends on the fair, but to give a very, very rough guide, here is what I would expect to pay for the following types of event;
- A small village or school fair – up to £25, plus a donation of a product for a raffle.
- A craft fair in a medium sized venue e.g a hotel, conference centre, large town hall, small National Trust property with 30+ stalls – between £30 - £100 per day depending on the track record of the fair, and the promotion done by the organiser.
- A large country fair, shopping marquee based event or higher end design fair - The sky’s the limit, I have heard of £1000 stall fees, but if an event brings in enough of the right kind of visitor, it can be worth it.
Have a good think about how to display your products, try a trial run at home with to see what looks good, and where possible try to cater for a good range of budgets – people might fall in love with that original painting that’s out of their price range, so they’ll buy the card or print of it instead – think laterally about your product range and how you can make it work for you at every event.
There are so many articles on the net about stall set up, how to get ready for a fair etc, so I won’t go into that in detail, but here are a couple of articles that I’ve found interesting in the past
You might be reading this article, thinking, ‘I could run my own fair, surely it’s easy’. I’m afraid to say, you’d be wrong to think that. It is hugely rewarding, and something I’m passionate about, but the one thing it’s not, is easy. Well, you could just rent a hall, sell some spaces to local crafters and sit back and wait…for no shoppers to turn up. Rinse and repeat with the next bunch of unsuspecting stallholders who might not have read any useful articles about fairs, and how to choose them. You’ll do that twice, taking a lot of deserved flack along the way before word spreads and you struggle to fill the spaces. Unfortunately, I have met organisers who do this, and their attitude is quite openly “there’s plenty more fish (crafters) in the sea” – this is why, especially if you’re new to fairs, to visit a few, and ask crafters who they would recommend. If you’re planning to run your own, think about what kind of organiser you want to be.
Organising a good quality handmade craft fair isn’t a difficult task, like brain surgery, for instance, but it does require a lot of planning, patience, diplomacy, thick skin, motivation, and that word no-one likes to talk about – money. It saddens me when I hear crafters saying that the only people that make money at fairs are the organisers, when sometimes it’s simply not true. Of course, there is money to be made, we wouldn’t do it at all otherwise but as with making products to sell, if you realistically work out the hourly rate you come out with after spending hours planning, researching, emailing and the hours pounding the streets shoving leaflets through doors it can often be more like pence than pounds.
As an organiser, you have to pay out for the venue rental, organiser insurance, leaflets, advertising, signage, event website etc from my own pocket, before you might have even filled the event with crafters. An event can be run on a budget, but you must be realistic. For example, the 2 that I organise are at different ends of the size scale, the newly formed Weedon Craft Market
Finally, some good craft fair organisers in the Midlands and a place to find craft fairs: