Monday, November 30, 2009

How to set up a booth for a craft show

We had the Designer's Downtown Market here at Ornamentea this last weekend. It was fun, the weather was a bit cold to begin with but warmed up nicely. I enjoyed seeing everyone and bought some lovely gifts for family and friends including a scarf from Flamboyant Scarves that I wish I was keeping.

During this craft show season I get so many requests from customers for tips on setting up their booth at a craft show. While I do teach a class at Ornamentea called Crafting For Money that class doesn't go into great depth about booth set up. We just don't have time with all the other business details we have to talk about. With that in mind, here are my tips for making your booth work.

1. Bring enough product. There are two reasons to bring enough product. One reason is that a full booth looks more interesting to browsers and makes them want to see what you have. An empty booth looks picked-over or amateur or worse. You can fill up a booth just a bit with more props or signage, but product is what sells.

The second reason to bring enough product is economic-you want the show to be worth your time. How can you know if you have enough product to do a show? Think about it from a percentage standpoint. You will have a good show if you have a 30% sell through, a great show if you have a 40% sell through and a fantastic show if you have a 50% sell through. Anything over that is in the once-in-a-lifetime realm*. Keeping that in mind, look at the amount of product you are bringing and do the math. If you feel that the show will be worth your time if you sell $1000 worth of merchandise but you only bring $1500 worth than you are anticipating not just a fantastic show but a once-in-a-lifetime, quit-your-day job kind of show. Artists who do shows on a regular basis know that you need a full booth with lots of selection so you can make sales.

2. Create a line. Look at what you are selling. Do all the items look like they were made by the same person or do they look like the contents of fifteen different artist's studios? Yes, you need to experiment but not every experiment should make the show. Too many different crafts in too many different colors and shapes and sizes is just confusing. If shoppers can't decide if they want to come into your booth or just lie down with a towel over their eyes they will keep walking.

If you do create more than one grouping of work than keep them separated. Put your quilted pillows together on one table and your resin belt-buckles on another.

3. Define your space. If you are showing outside, get a tent. Inside or outside, get table coverings and use simple, repetitive props. Make sure folks know where your display ends and the other displays begin. I like rugs or other floor coverings if the show allows them and one of the simplest ideas I have ever seen was to use checkerboard squares of Contact paper on a concrete floor in an indoor show. The floor was eye-catching & cheap and at the end of the show the squares were peeled up and tossed out.

About props- I am a big fan of using props in a single color scheme and even a single shape if possible. Mixed up tables with cuff-links in a vintage pie plate, a crystal bowl of earrings and two different department-store looking necklace bars make me crazy. I get so distracted by the props I can barely concentrate on the artwork. Repeat shapes and colors and edit, edit, edit.

4. Communicate with your customers. Of course, you should talk to your customers (duh!) but you should also use signs to communicate with them. Do you take custom orders? Have free gift wrap? Ship? Have a website or etsy site? Do you teach classes or are you featured in a book? Make signs and put them in your booth. Print your signs out on a computer, use a large legible font and use all the same colored paper. Signs are props!

Do you have any booth display ideas you'd like to share? Post a comment here or email me...I'd love to pass them on.

*If you have had one or more of these 'once in a lifetime' shows than you, my friend, need to post some tips at the end of this column! Come on, share!