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Friday, 19 October 2012


Craft Fairs, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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 skys 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.
 If you’re new to fairs, please make sure, even if you leave everything else at home, arrive on the day armed with a smile and a cheery hello for the organiser, and any customers who pass your stall – a sullen face won’t sell anything, and organisers love cheerful optimists too.

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 

( is a village event, with up to 30 stalls, and the Christmas Craft Shopping Experience ( is held in an exhibition centre, with over 100 stalls. As you can imagine, not only are the venue rental costs quite far apart, but the advertising strategy and budget for each is totally different. For the Weedon event I can think locally, a piece in the local paper, lots of leaflets in places for people to pick up, roadside signage, making sure all of the key village contacts (WI leader, PTA organiser etc) know about the event. For the Craft Shopping Experience I have to think big – I send out on average 200 press releases each year for the event – these have to go out by June to catch the magazines Nov/Dec editions. I spend a huge amount of time speaking to local and regional papers to try and encourage them to run promotional material for the event. Without divulging numbers, the total cost of the Weedon Craft Market is less than half the advertising budget for the Craft Shopping Experience!!

I’d love to see more, good craft fair organisers around, but if you’re thinking of running an event, please go into it with your eyes (and purse) open. Having done both, it’s certainly a lot easier to be a stallholder!

Finally, some good craft fair organisers in the Midlands and a place to find craft fairs:


  1. What great advice! Thanks for telling it like it is.

  2. I love fairs (as a browser and a consumer). I really appreciate the effort that both the organisers and stall holders make. There are some really good ones locally, and I particularly enjoy the Christmas fairs.

    Thanks for the guest post x.

  3. What a. brilliant post, I do wonder why sometimes there aren't to many visitors to some craft fairs, now I know.

    I went to a local one recently and was trying to speak to a lady about her beautiful knitted socks, when the rep on the next stall kept harrassing me to hold a party for her product, I walked away and didn't get the socks because of this rep! They can be a total nightmare, I hope she did get to sell some socks that day, they were beautiful.

    Dawn Hart


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