As the season for the Spring yarn shows approaches (big woop from Sonic Knits HQ), I wanted to share what we learned as newbies last year to having a stall at craft markets. We're very much still novices and DEFINITELY still have a learning curve to go before we reach the big shows but this might help some of you out there tempted to dip your toe in the market-stall water.
Plan in advance. Well in advance.
Did you know that the application process for Bakewell closed last week? The show isn't even until October and it closed for stall holder applications in January. You need to plan. Last year I had a hit-list of smaller yarn shows I wanted to try out - Bakewell being one of them as it is just down the road. I missed ALL of them because I didn't plan ahead in good time. Also, we only launched in May so we missed them all anyway.
In all honesty, we missed a few we wanted to do this year too because I am simply not that organised. I am now. Get a planner, get on the mailing lists and put reminders on your calendar for when applications open. If it isn't advertised on the website, email the organiser and ask.
Be prepared to be told no
Some of the more established shows, especially around Christmas, like to know that their stallholders are going to have beautiful displays and turn up ready to sell. They want photos of previous stalls and they definitely want photos of your stock. Have this stuff ready but if you haven't had a stall before be aware that they may not want to take a chance on you just yet. Don't take it personally, just find a show which encourages new businesses to apply and take lots of photos of your stall there. You might find you are grateful for starting at a smaller, local market to test your display and products.
Cost of stall can make or break your trip
Markets and exhibitions are unpredictable. You never know who is going to turn up wanting to buy your wares. When you are applying for a show or a market spend some time figuring out how much stock you need to sell to break even. If you are new then you might want to start small. High footfall doesn't always mean high sales.
We paid £100 for a Christmas craft market last year. We thought the anticipated 10,000 footfall would easily help us break even on sales and didn't expect to make any profit. We didn't break even. BUT a small stall at a local school Christmas fair took lots of sales and we didn't even pay for the table space.
Talk to other stallholders
This is the best thing you can do. Other stallholders will let you know which are the best markets to do, what the going rate is for stalls and the sorts of customers who attend each market. Generally, stallholders don't want other market sellers to fail and want their best markets to stay populated so they will let you know what works and what doesn't.
They will also give you an honest opinion of the big shows and pitfalls.
Visit your planned market
If, like me, you are a bit rubbish at being organised and miss out on all your ideal markets one year as a trader just attend them as a punter. You might find that the market isn't right for your product and you've just saved yourself a couple of hundred quid. But if you go, take flyers, talk to people, talk to the stallholders - network. Take notes on how stalls are set up, notice if people have tables or just an area at the show, see how many take card payments and check out what your competition are doing. Talk to them too, they aren't really your competition but people who can help elevate your business and you theirs.
You've paid your market fee and you have accounted for what you need to sell to cover that but there's no table, wifi, electricity or public liability insurance. All these things cost extra and will need to be added to your outgoings before you start to break even. Always ask which of these are included and make sure you have insurance well in advance. If you are planning to do a number of shows then it is probably cheaper to get an annual deal than a one-off event.
Prepartion is EVERYTHING
Now for the event itself. Time will go way quicker than you imagine, especially with setting up your stall. Practise this before hand and take photos. Decide how things need to look. Take plenty of storage boxes and label them up. Maybe even make a layout plan so when you get there you can get set up as quickly as possible.
And take a sandwich. You may not get time to grab lunch.
Other things to take
Finally, some basic bits you might want to take with you: tissues, mints, a folding stool, plenty of pens and paper, stock list and pricing, flyers and business cards, mailing list sign up form, paracetamol, water and snacks. If you are using lights or anything needing batteries, take spares.
Liked this? You might like Have You Ever Wanted To Open Your Own Yarn Store?