ten tips for a successful vendor market
I started selling my handmade polymer clay jewelry at vendor markets and craft fairs in late 2022, and I will admit I still have a lot to learn.
It is such a rewarding experience, but it requires a lot of time, energy, and careful planning. I am always refining the list, but here are ten tips that I have picked up during my experiences that I hope you find helpful!
1. Curate a selection of designs and price points.
I will admit I am still working on this formula, but overall I tend to bring my most creative and unique designs to markets because it helps my work stand out from the other vendors! I also try to bring a mix of my best sellers and have a range of price points so that there's something for everyone's budget.
I have had a lot of success with one "one-of-a-kind" discount rack, where I sell designs that were samples, one-off experiments, or that I am discontinuing. My customers then get something totally unique at a super fair price.
2. Work on your display, and then work on it some more!
The products you bring and how you choose to set them up are some of the most important details of having a successful craft fair or market. Here are some things I've learned along the way:
- Invest in good quality and attractive displays, because this is what represents your brand and your products! If your table looks messy, cluttered, or doesn't put your handmade jewelry in the best light, you may lose out on potential customers.
- Make sure you have signage! Everyone should be able to see your business name and logo.
- Have your prices listed or clearly marked. Customers will likely still ask you the prices, but it helps to have those on display for the people who are shy to ask.
- Choose displays that are easy to setup and can be replicate. I have quite a few pop-up displays that come apart and pack away. They are a lifesaver for loading in and out quickly.
- Experiment. Almost every market I try something new or change things around to see how it flows. I also ask my customers for feedback!
3. Engage with your customers.
Greet your customers, be friendly and available to answer questions but you don't need to push or hard sell if you're not comfortable doing that! As a shopper, I like when I am greeted and then left alone to browse. If I feel like someone is coming on too strong, I may make a quick exit from their table. I treat my customers the way I like to be treated, and I think it's been working well for me.
4. Offer multiple payment methods.
Before each market I count my float and ensure I have enough to make change. I always accept cash, and decided to invest in a card reader early on in my business journey so I could accept credit and debit cards. Many markets there will be customers prepared to pay in cash, but having both options makes it a lot more likely for me to make a sale.
I am in no way affiliated with the brand, but I use Square and have had a good experience so far with this tool.
5. Have something for your customer to take away.
I always keep my business cards in an easy-to-access location on my table, and I keep a stash behind the table so I can put them in customer's bags after they make a purchase. I have had many customer orders, new follows on social media, and requests for custom designs following events. It can help drum up business even after the market is done.
6. Help promote the event.
Post on your socials, include the details of the event in your weekly newsletter, and share about it through word of mouth. Event organizers will often do their own promotion and marketing as well, but every bit helps!
7. Get organized.
As a Project Manager by day, this one is the most natural for me, but may not come easily to everyone! Here are some of my best tips:
- A few days before the event, do a trial setup of your table and take photos so you can recreate this on market day. It will make the setup a lot easier and you won't have to make last minute decisions.
- Make an inventory list of every product you plan to bring. As things sell, mark off what was sold, for what price, and by which payment. This will help you keep track of your finances as well as get a better picture on what products are selling best.
- If you also make jewelry, keep your products in bins or containers based on how you sell them. I organize my table by price point, so I keep all of my my inventory together so I can set up quickly.
- Invest in a hand cart, rolling bins, a wagon or a mix of these for moving your displays and products. I am always trying to find ways to simplify my setup and teardown because it requires a lot of time and energy!
- Put together an emergency kit with everything you might need the day of the event. Mine includes: tape, extra pens, scissors, zipties, pliers, velcro, a notebook, and extra jewelry supplies like earring backs, jump rings, etc. in case any of my products need a repair on-site. Your kit will vary depending on the type of event you're attending.
8. Be patient.
Remember that it takes time to establish your brand, figure out your table display and to understand what products might sell best. It will also take time to build a loyal customer base but be patient, persistent, and open to learning from each experience.
Sometimes no matter what you do, a market may not have a good turnout or customers may not be interested in what you're selling. This isn't your fault! It may take some time to figure out which markets work best for your small business.
9. Take care of yourself.
As a naturally shy and very introverted person, this one is the hardest on the list for me as I can experience pretty extreme social burnout. I focus on hydrating and getting a good night's sleep before the event so I am energized. I wear comfortable shoes as I tend to stand all day, and I always pack a lunch or snacks, extra water, and anything else I might need to get through the day.
10. Have fun!
You are the face of your brand, and it's important that your customers see how much you love what you do. As a maker, I spend a lot of time alone in my studio working on ideas but there's nothing more rewarding that meeting my customers face-to-face and getting to hear their feedback directly. I am always so excited when a repeat customer comes to say hi!