08 Jun 10

Fair Game: How to Maximize Your Craft Fair Profit

With the spring/summer craft fair season well under way, you might be wondering, "Is it worth it to do art and craft fairs?"

We interviewed successful craft business owners and an event organizer to find out the real costs of doing local fairs, how much money a vendor can expect to make, how to judge the success of an event, and how to maximize results. Read till the end, and you'll get a handy summary of 7 Strategies for Craft Show Success.

How to Maximize Craft Fair Profit

The full cost of participating in craft fairs is something a lot of vendors don't think about when calculating their net profit.

Yes, there's the cost of the booth space, which typically ranges from $30 to $250 for smaller shows, and up to $800 for multiple-day events and juried shows.

But what about promotional materials, marketing costs, booth/table decorations, tents (for outdoor shows), signage and displays? It all adds up.

The best strategy for getting a return on your investment is to plan on doing many craft fairs – don't hang your hat on the success of one. Participating in several will allow you to find the craft fairs that work for you, and get more value from all the gear you bought.

For example, if you do 12 shows a year, your signage and pop-up tent will cost 1/12 of its initial cost when you calculate the return on investment for each show. This means the percentage of profit you make for each item you sell is more.

How Much Are Craft Fair Vendors Really Making Per Show?

Based on feedback from the vendors I spoke to, profits vary greatly from show to show.

"I have done shows for a $30 booth fee that grossed more than 10 times that, and also shows that barely broke even," said Meilin Chan of Two Eggplants handmade soap company. "Pick your show wisely. Go to the show as a buyer [first] and see if the merchandise fits your style and chat with vendors."

There are a lot of variables to think about here: a business owner should not expect to just set up a table at any show and watch the dollars roll in.

"While show organizers typically do promotion for the entire event, it's up to you to activate your network of friends and family members," said Lish Dorset, one of the organizers of Handmade Detroit. "From Facebook to blog postings and word of mouth, make sure your friends know to check out your show."

Choosing a show that suits your product and prices, actively marketing your attendance, and keeping booth/attendance costs low are all factors that will influence your craft show success.

Aside from making money, are there other benefits to participating in craft shows?

All of the business owners I talked to said being face to face with potential customers can give you valuable insight on your product – the kind of rich market research that can help you build your business.

"I launched my business in November of 2007 at my children's elementary school craft fair, said Tina Hill of Kidzsack. "My initial costs were around $200 and $75 for the craft space. With the help of two other moms, I made up about 100 Kidzsacks to display at my craft table and sold out of my inventory.

"It was then that I realized that I have a good idea and one that moms and grandmothers will buy. I believe that the craft fair was the best market research that I could have done. In my first year of business, I generated $30,000 in sales and in my second year of business, I did $60,000 in sales – all this started with a craft fair."

Also, for products that have a "touch and feel" factor (natural skin care products or soaps, for example) offering samples is a great reason to do craft shows. "My products are really something that need to be tried and tested," said Melanie Downey, founder of Wilava: For Premium Skin.

"Meeting people and letting them try my products at shows has been the best way [for me] to attract new customers. If I can get someone to try my products, they usually become long-term, loyal customers." This is the kind of crucial customer interaction that cannot be replicated online.

How Can You Tell If You Have Had A Successful Craft Show?

Almost all of the creative entrepreneurs I spoke to stressed the importance of setting concrete sales goals before the show to measure its success.

Some calculate a goal based on booth fees to keep it simple:
"If shows are local, grossing 8 times the booth fee is acceptable," said Meilin Chan, owner of Two Eggplants.

"My goal is usually to make 5 times my booth fees for that particular event," said Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes, MKC Photography.

Others look solely at profit after costs per show:
"For me, a very successful show isn't measured by how much profit I've made that day," says Melanie Downey of Wilava: For Premium Skin.

"I try to keep the cost of my products affordable, so I have a very small profit margin. Even though my booth is always busy, and other vendors always think I've hit the mint with my sales, I try to offer a variety of sample-sized products ... so my profit usually just covers the booth fee, my lunch, and maybe a small hourly wage for being there. But every show I've done, I've considered a great success."

So, to recap all that, here are 7 Strategies For Craft Show Success:

1. Keep Costs Low
Design your booth to attract attention, but don't break the bank at the beginning. You can always add to your booth later as you make sales.

2. Market your attendance before the show
Use your mailing lists, your Facebook followers, the local Chamber of Commerce list, and any other marketing channels available to you to market your attendance at your local show. Include a booth number and location if they are available to you and even consider offering an incentive for anyone that visits your booth.

3. Pick Your Show Wisely and Price Appropriately
Attend shows as a buyer before you ever sign up to do the show as a vendor. This will give you a good idea of what people are buying, what price points they are comfortable with, and what your competition is doing.

4. Gather And Share Contact Information At The Show
Plan to have an email sign-up sheet, business cards and sales sheets in your booth. This can be a fantastic opportunity to grow your marketing list and follow up with new contacts who were interested but didn't convert to a sale at the show.

5. Stay Active
When you are at the show, don't jump on passers-by to get them into your booth – instead work on crafts in your booth to draw attention. People love to see how things are made and that will bring people to you.

6. Plan to Attend Many Shows
Too many small businesses only budget for one show and if it doesn't work out, they never try it again. If you go into doing shows knowing that some will work for you and some will not, you can plan a budget that makes sense over time. Your initial costs will be the greatest, but if you do many shows, you will come out with a profit.

7. Set Sales Goals
Setting specific goals for your attendance will focus your efforts and make sure you know whether this is a show you should continue to do in the future.

Tell us about your craft fair hits and misses! Can you share any strategies for success?

Molly Fisher has more than 10 years experience building brands and social networks for leading companies such as Schooldude.com and Burt's Bees as well as several other clients. She currently runs Craft Ideas Weekly Facebook Community, the Craft Ideas Weekly Blog, and works as an eCommerce and Social Marketing Consultant in Chapel Hill, NC.

Photo courtesy of adiything

Posted by: Molly Fisher

Posted in: selling

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1 Courtney commented on 06/09/2010
This post is a great resource for those of us who are trying to build expectations around art/craft shows and helps to answer the internal questions one should ask him/herself in order to decide what to participate in. Love it, thank you, I'm bookmarking it now!
2 Dionne_C commented on 06/09/2010
That's great advice to visit the market first as a buyer to scope it out, before applying to be a seller!
3 misspop commented on 06/09/2010
thank you! i love all these articles! (did the format change, its a little tricky to read in a long narrow column, or is it just my computer?)
4 Favor Creative commented on 06/09/2010
Thank you for this post! I am gearing up for for the first craft fair of the season next weekend and starting to think about how make it successful. I just ordered my first banner, so visitors can see the booth and what it is all about from a distance.
5 Meredith commented on 06/09/2010
I had so much to say about this that I just wrote a post on it http://smallerbox.net/blog/growing-your-business/craft-show-economics-do-the-math/
6 Margot commented on 06/09/2010
I don't always make a large profit at shows, but it is a great place to sign up people for classes that I teach.
7 Samantha Blood commented on 06/15/2010
Thankyou so much for sharing such helpful information. I have only done a few markets and I was really encouraged with the ideas like the sign up sheets and posting out what markets you will be at before you get there and your site location at the market. Great ideas.
8 Kris weyrick commented on 11/19/2012

I just participated in my first craft show. I'm happy with my result of 10x the booth fee minus the cost of lunch for my friend for helping that day and buying Hubby a beer after he helped break the booth down. I think it helped that I had a cohesive product line, but a deep cost point, from $5 to $80. I noticed that some buyers were hesitant to come all the way in my booth so I might try having a more shallow L setup or maybe just table frontage. Anyway, I'm exhausted and low on product, so won't plan another one until next Spring.

9 Raghavi commented on 09/20/2013

Hi. This is Raghavi From Chennai. i am working in Ramee mall as Asst marketing manager, We have space in Mall to have Expo, and to conduct events, you can conduct Expo in Ramee mall, so i would like to talk to your marketing manager, as well as you can contact me @ 9840059901

Thank you

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