Yesterday, I explained my process for finding good craft shows .... but I missed a couple points that I think I should share. And I have some observations for other types of venues.
The size and attendance of a craft show can be a factor to consider. I have no hard and fast rules about this because it hasn't seemed to matter. One of the best shows I ever had was an Oktoberfest with only 10 or 12 vendors. The festival was brand new and there were only a few hundred people in attendance -- but because there were so few vendors, my sales were excellent. Another excellent show I've done has about 150 vendors but they must have had close to 7-10,000 customers and was a benefit for a school. Obviously the greater the ratio of customers to vendors, the better my potential earnings ... but it's not guaranteed. I like having an idea when I apply and I'm more concerned about these factors so that I am adequately prepared with supplies like business cards, etc.
The last factor I look at is whether or not there is an admission fee for customers. When I first saw that some shows had such a fee, I avoided them but I've come to like those shows best, especially in the early fall. This might sound odd, but we came to realize that for a lot of people, craft shows are not only a form of entertainment, but a lot of home crafters attend with an eye toward "shopping" to find craft projects they can copy... they have no intention of purchasing and when they do buy, their purchases are very small. An admission fee, even a small one, seems to help weed out some of those non-buyers. There's something about the mental attitude that if they are willing to pay a couple dollars to get in to a show, they're also willing to drop some dollars shopping.... they are more serious buyers.
Some seasonal notes -- I tend to do ok at summer craft shows and those into the early fall. My best shows are usually in late October and November. The saturday before Thanksgiving is often one of the best shows of the year and if the opening day of deer season falls the saturday before that, it's a great show -- while the guys are out hunting the wives are out shopping. And people are looking for Christmas gifts. I've done a couple shows in early December -- found them disappointing. We figured that most people were at the mall.
There are several others types of venues for selling crafts and they all have pros and cons.
I did a winter flea market while on a project in Florida -- it was ok but I'm not sure I would do it again.... at least not regularly. People going to flea markets are looking for great bargains on cheaply made junk -- not the best venue for handcrafted items. The price wasn't bad -- my booth fee was only about $15.00 so it wasn't a huge investment but I didn't see great sales either. However, I heard from some other vendors that there are the occasional summer flea markets in the north that cater to a more high end shopper. I would want to check out a flea market before getting involved .. and would want to talk to vendors about it.
In some places, farm markets allow handcrafted items from local artists and crafters. Farm markets can go either way. I've attended some and went away feeling that it wasn't the right venue for me. I don't want to sound snobby but there are some crafts that have a lower price point and appeal to a less spendy group of customers -- some of my items are out of that price range. Last summer, though, I was involved in a farm market that was a pretty good venue for me -- it was in a town that has a lot of summer homes for big city executives. Those customers love the small town feeling, the fresh local produce and most of the craft items were of a more artisan nature.... and they weren't afraid to spend money on items they liked. I would want to attend a farm market before I applied to be involved. One other note -- most farm markets are a weekly event. Crafters need to be aware of how quickly they could "saturate their market". If you don't sell something that's "consumable" you may run into problems with sales dropping off, either toward the end of the season or in the second year. I have one friend who makes beautiful miniature scrapbooks -- she did great her first year but very poorly in the second. But another friend who sells handcrafted soaps does well all the time. Just something to consider.
Women's expos can be a great venue although there are some differences from craft shows. Expos generally are open to all the home based sales companies as well as local small businesses, not just crafters. Most juried craft shows are only open to crafters while some open shows are also open to a few home based sellers. In my experience, the craft show customer is less likely to shop online, less likely to use a credit card and more likely to be older. The expo customer is more likely to be younger and does a fair amount of internet shopping. Most expos have looser display restrictions than a juried craft show but the more professional the display, the better.... the crafter is "up against" some home sales marketers who have fairly professional "boutique" displays. Expos usually offer "gift bags" to customers so most require a supply of samples, business cards, catalogs, or other promotional items. I've seen fees range from $50 to $500 -- have done several with the lower fees, none of the pricey ones. Factors to watch for in choosing expos are organization and location. Is it well put together and well advertised? Is the location familiar to the community and easy to find? Is it clean? I did one expo that ended up being on a road under construction -- poor attendance resulted. My last expo wasn't bad but it wasn't good for sales .. except for the wedding jewelry order I got from a bride-to-be -- her order equaled my sales for the rest of the show. Made my day!!
Because I sell jewelry, and because I can make a design in custom colors, I'm hoping to expand to include Bridal Shows -- I can make any of my styles in colors to match a wedding party. I'm currently researching and have made some observations. The fees are quite a bit higher than craft shows -- I've seen fees run from $275 to $1000 to participate. With other types of shows, the profit is more instant -- at a Bridal Show, I may not get orders for several months afterward. So, it will be a larger investment and a bit more risky ... but a better market with greater potential. It will require a more "long range" view. And displays definitely need to be more "boutique". Professional promotional materials are also important -- rack cards, brochures or catalogs are critical. The investment is greater but the potential for return is also much greater. Bridal shows could also be a great way to round out my show year -- most farmers markets are in the summer, craft shows (in the north) tend to be summer and fall but the biggest bridal shows tend to be in the winter and spring. So they could fill some of the gap in my show year. Working on it!