5 Golden Rules for Success at Your First Craft Market

Miriam Schlabach |

By Mary Savel

As someone who has sold my leathergoods at many craft shows over the years, I know what it’s like to make mistakes in the beginning. I know what it’s like to not be prepared for a market and ultimately not make the sales that I had hoped for. 🙁

But I also know what it’s like to have super successful craft shows where you sell out, meet new customers, get wholesale contacts and walk out of there feeling like you’re on cloud nine.

All of the market preparation and things that you do during the market has a direct effect on your overall success.

That is why I’ve created what I call my Golden Rules for success at your first craft market. Follow each of these Golden Rules and you will be way ahead of the game and on the best course for success at your first market.

1 | Do your research before you sign up for a craft market.

Not all markets are created equal. Not even close! And some markets are better for some leatherworkers then others.

The markets that I have participated in run the gamut. I have done some of the biggest craft markets like Renegade Craft Fair which hosts events in 12 major cities across the US and at the time of this publication, attracts an audience of 300,000 annually.

And I’ve also done small local craft fairs, hosted by a high school PTA and located in a high school gymnasium. These are 2 very different markets but at each one, I had success because I did my research beforehand.

Visit the craft market ahead of time if you can.

A lot of craft markets happen annually or sometimes twice a year. If you plan ahead, you can and should visit the market before signing up. This is important because it allows you to gauge the market in person to see if it would be a good fit for you.

If you can’t visit in person, then reach out to past vendors that sell similar goods to you. Usually, the craft market website will have a list of past or current vendors.

Ask them how the market was for them. How were the sales? How was foot traffic? Would they do it again?

Use their answers to help you judge if this is a good market to look into vending at.

2 | Know your financial break-even point.

If you’ve done your research, then you know that you’re interested in a good market and chances are you’re going to be successful, but nothing is worse then not making back that table fee which in some cases can be a pretty large upfront cost.

Before you decide to sign up for a craft market, it’s a good idea to crunch the numbers.

Make a list of all additional costs that will be associated with doing the market in addition to the table fee.

Things like travel costs, table display, extra chair rental, hiring an extra hand, even the sandwich and midday coffee that you will desperately need, are costs that you should include in this list.

For me, I’ve always done fairly local markets so the travel costs were pretty minimal. But one time I took a train from NYC to do a market in Philadelphia and that train ticket cost $100. I also had to take a taxi to the train station and that was an additional $20. So I added both of these costs to my list.

Once you have a list of all of the additional costs, add them up. This amount is your break-even point. The is the dollar amount that you will have to generate in sales to break even at the market.

To put it in perspective, even more, do a rough calculation for how many leathergoods you would have to sell to get to your break-even point.

If my break-even point is $500 (table fee + additional market costs), and my average leathergood price point is $50, then means I have to sell 10 of my leather goods to break even. That seems pretty doable.

If your average product price point is $5, then you’d have to sell 100 to break even. Is this doable? Maybe. Maybe not.

At this point, only you can determine what is doable or not and if you’re willing to take the risk.

3 | Have a good table pitch.

Once you actually get to the market and get all set up, it’s time to sell. Actively.

I don’t mean aggressively unless that’s your style, but you should have a few one-liners in your back pocket that can help to make people who approach your table feel at ease.

You could say something like, “Hi, let me know if you need any help.”

But usually, the response is “ok, thanks.” And then they walk away 2 seconds later.

Or you can take it one step further and say something like, “This one is my bestsellers. Everyone loves this one because of x y and z.” Or “This one sold out last mothers day. It makes a great gift for mom!”

This is a great way of showing the browser that

#1 other people like and buy your products (so they should too) and

#2 it’s a way to point out important features and educate your customer in a non-salesy “sleazy” way.

4 | Track your sales so you know when you’ve hit your break-even point.

When you start making those sales it is such an exciting feeling. It’s different than when you make a sale online because you’re looking someone in the eyes and making a real connection. But don’t get caught up and forget to track your sales.

You want to keep track of each sale so that you know immediately when you’ve hit your break-even point, without having to awkwardly count your money in front of everyone every hour.

I usually take a little business card or something small that I can keep it in my pocket and with each sale, I note the dollar amount. During the slow moments, I add up my total sales at that time so I know how I’m doing and can make adjustments as needed.

This can really help with your own morale and sales strategy.

If you know you’re only one sale away from breaking even and that any sales you make afterward are pure profit, you’ll get a new burst of energy.

On the flip side, if you’re not having a great day and you’re further away from your break-even point, knowing this allows you to turn up the heat on your sales strategy and do anything to make those sales!

5 | Bring the energy.

Don’t sit there with a sad look on your face the whole time even if it has been a long day. I know that you would never do this, but I see sooo many new vendors doing this and it’s just not a look that is going to attract people to come over and shop at your table.

No one likes a sad Sally.

If you’re able to, stand up behind your table. It’s much easier to talk to someone when you’re at the same eye level. I rarely sit when I’m doing a market. I just know going in, that it’s going to be a long day and that I can rest when I get home. (Obviously, there are still ways for you to be engaging and friendly with your customers if you need to sit.)

If the market is slow then rearrange your table display or work on something at your table instead of looking bored.

If you are truly bored (it happens), come out in front of your table and look at it from the customer’s point of view and do more rearranging. This sometimes does double duty of making it appear that you’re a customer which brings more people over to see whats going on.

Be happy and don’t be desperate even if you’re so far from your break-even point and you’re feeling pretty sad about it. People can smell desperation a mile away and it’s not going to help increase your sales.

Not every market is a going to be a massive success especially when you’re first starting, but with each one you do, you learn more and you get better at it.

Just keep in mind the 5 golden rules and you’ll be on track to maximizing your experience and sales at your first craft show!

Golden Rules For Success at Your 1st Craft Market

  • Do your research before you sign up for a craft market.
  • Know your financial break-even point.
  • Have a good table pitch.
  • Track your sales.
  • Bring the energy!

Just like there is a lot that goes into preparing for a craft fair there is a lot that goes into rolling out a new leathergood online. Knowing how you’re going to market it and who you’re going to market it too are two of the most important things to think about before you launch.

Which is why I’ve created a checklist that walks you through start to finish, pre-launch to post-launch exactly how to maximize sales of your new leathergood.

You can get your copy of the checklist at www.lucrativeleathercraft.com.

Mary Savel teaches people how to make traditional leatherwork and how to sell their handmade work online, at craft fairs and to stores. She runs www.LeatherBeast.com, www.MarySavel.com, and lives and works out of her NYC apt that she shares with 1 boyfriend and 2 cats.