After having our little woodworking (and more) shop for just over a year, we finally got to attend our first in-person craft fair. We did a virtual one last year, but it is very different than the in-person version, and we were really excited for the opportunity.
For the last month and a bit, I have been building and preparing for the show, with not a clue what people would really be interested in buying at the show. Sure, we sell items on Etsy, but people have time to look at their options, ponder their decisions, and then come back to our webpage to make their purchase. Craft shows are a little different in the fact that the decisions are made much more quickly. The good thing was we had quite the variety between the three of us and what we make.
I had cutting boards, charcuterie boards, lazy susan’s, charcuterie knives and wood butter. I also had the advent calendars that my mother-in-law and I have made together as well as one that I made with my dad. My dad had an assortment of his beautifully carved wooden spoons, serving utensils, ladles, holiday decorations, cribbage board and some carvings on display. My mother in law added some quilted bags and handmade cards to the mix. Lots of variety and lots of price-points which I thought was great.
In planning, I made sure to make the business cards that I have been meaning to make for the last year. I also made some thank you cards that had a promo code (M2C1THANKSYOU) on it to use at our Etsy store for 10% off. Might as well try to get a few extra sales right? Those that needed some more time to make the decision could have a chance to go onto our store and make the purchase. We ended up giving out a lot of business cards, which was fantastic.
After adding price tags to all our items, my dad and I realized we had a lot of stuff to fit on a 6′ table, so we decided to get together to do a test setup at my house. Dad brought all his items over, and I had all of my mother-in-law’s items as well, so we could figure it all out. I had looked at a lot of woodworkers pages on Instagram who I follow, for ideas on setups. One of the ideas I ended up moving on was a rack to hold the cutting boards. I angled it to help display the boards better, but should have put a steeper angle as it didn’t quite work out how I wanted it to. No worries though, now I know.
We added a shelving rack next to our table as I have attended this event in the past and had seen a lot of vendors adding shelving to their booths to help maximize on space. We were not allowed to bring extra tables, but shelving units were permitted. It helped with displaying the advent calendars since they are large and take up quite a bit of space. We were also able to hang the bags on the corner to help display those. Dad also decided to make a stand to hang a bunch of his spoons on and to add a little more height to our table. In the end, we were happy with how the table was going to be setup.
On the day of the event, the three of us had all grabbed a float since we had no idea what we would need. I had to work the morning since the fair was taking place in the Conference Centre that I work at. I had planned to be off at 9:30 am when the fair started so that I could be at my booth. Things don’t always work out the way we plan, but I’ll get to that.
Since I was in early, I registered our booth, and setup my stuff as soon as I could. Dad arrived a while later and added his items to the setup. I was still working so I left him to tweak the table and carried on getting ready to open the doors for the show. This is where my plans and the actuality of the event diverged. We figured it would be either really busy or it would be super quiet because people would either be excited to have some “normalcy” to this Christmas, or they would still be staying away from events due to COVID. We ended up with the former, it was smoking!
By the time we opened the doors, there was already a lineup outside. The organizers of the event were so excited since they had thought worst-case scenario of little to not attendees. I trained the staff that were checking vaccine passports, and went to do a tour to ensure everything was in order before I went to work my booth. Everything was good and the vendors were ready to start selling their wares.
After about half an hour, I noticed it was getting quite busy, but still within our capacity limits. I left my dad and mother-in-law to go do another walk-around to ensure it wasn’t too crazy. Kurt and his dad had come by when the doors opened to check it out, and on their way back out to the vehicle, Kurt had sent me a picture of the lineup of people outside. That initial line waiting for the doors to open had only grown. Since the rush wasn’t looking to slow down, it was time to go take an assessment of the building. My boss also stopped by at this moment to check out the fair and instead did some reviews of the spaces. Although we weren’t over our capacity, it was feeling “full”, so we started only allowing people in as others left. We kept that in-and-out practice for the rest of the day since there was a lineup consistently for the day.
At this time, you would think that things settled into a rhythm and I could go back to working the booth with my mother-in-law and my dad. Nope. I ended up swinging by the booth every now and then to check in on them, but didn’t really actually get to enjoy the fair as a vendor. It ended up working out since 2 people at a booth was good, but 3 became a little crowded.
The fair was a success both on the grand scale, but also for our booth. We were one of the only woodworkers there, with one other booth having wood-turned bowls, and a couple bird-house booths. Most of our items were unique to the show, which I think was a benefit. I sold a cutting board, a lazy susan and a bunch of wood butter. Dad sold a pie server and a ladle. My mother-in-law sold an advent calendar and a quilted bag. For our first craft fair, I think we did pretty well. We more than covered the cost of the table.
Some lessons learned. More levels. We want to add more levels to the table to help break up the items and make it less overwhelming to see all the different products we have. Display stands. Dads spoon display stand was beautiful, but no one touched the spoons. He wanted people to pick them up, so part way through the fair, he removed them from the stand and laid them out on the table to encourage people to pick them up and look at them. My cutting board display stand also needs to be at a better angle to allow for more of each board to be seen. A banner. We need a banner of some sort that will show the name of our shop. It helps people remember who you are. Marketing. Some of the items need more of a marketing twist. It would be worth having a few items to put on a lazy susan (spice jars or food) so that people can relate it to what they would use it for. For dad’s coffee spoons, a little bag of coffee to sample would make it a complete package of a gift for someone and also help people understand what the wooden spoons are meant for. Candy canes or other little trinkets in a few of the advent calendar boxes to show people how things fit in there, or ideas on what to put in other than just candy.
I am sure as we do a few more we will get better and better displays rolling. I also got a chance to chat with a few other woodworkers who do platters, trays, cutting, boards etc. and a few of them had some great suggestions on other styles I could potentially work with. It is always nice to hear feedback as it gives perspective to what people are looking for and what might sell.
Next year, I would also like to do a few artisan markets as well as craft fairs. I think we would do well at an artisan market as well. The price-point may also be better expected at an artisan market. Although we had a good variety of price points, I think a lot of our items were higher than some of the attendees were expecting to spend at the event. It doesn’t mean they didn’t, but perhaps we would see more sales at an artisan event as the expectation for cost is higher. I also like the idea of a variety of styles of events to join in on. Next year, we will aim to be part of at least 2 fairs or markets. See how that goes for us.
Now that the fair is done, I will putter in the shop on a few Christmas gifts, but I will have a bit more time to enjoy the fire inside, curled up with the dogs and Kurt, enjoying holiday movies and treats.
If you are holiday shopping, we do have some great gift items left to choose from in our shop.