What Did I Learn At the Fair?
How does one prepare for a holdiay craft fair? With my kitchen remodel almost over, I hit my first holiday craft fair of the 2017 season at St. James School, Stratford, Ct. on Saturday. As the installers, electricians and finishers were completing their final touches on Friday evening, I secreted myself in the the spare bedroom that housed my yarn and finished pieces. Most of the goods for the fair would fit into two large rolling suitcases and one large bin. I needed to pack strategically and make educated guesses as to what would sell at this particular venue. The big questions were:
What items should I pack?
Which items should I leave out?
How much of each style and size should I include?
Which small items would entice young children and their parents?
How should I display my pieces?
This was my second season at the St. James Fair, and so with last year's experience as a reference, I decided to leave out the baby afghans and larger luxurious shawls. Last year, I noticed that there were many vendors who sold the blankets at half of my asking price. Customers would touch the luxurious shawls and say how nice before moving on. Needless to say, the precious surface area of the table could be put to a more profitable use. Instead, I decided to take some newer shawlette designs that I could mark for a more affordable price for my customer base. As it turned out, a couple of these pieces were snapped up. One particular sale really made me smile. An attractive, slender young women in a camel hair coat had tried on a couple of pieces when she came to my new assymetrical, multiculored, striped shawl complete with shawl pin. I had modeled this piece for an earlier article for this blog. However when she saw her reflection in the mirror I brought, she beamed. I priced these pieces slightly less than I wanted, but I needed to move merchandise as my yarn room storage bins were bulging with finished pieces. I was thrilled to see my knitted work look the way it was supposed to. She paid me in cash and continued to wear her new accessory as she walked though the fair. The picture below is one of me, not the lovely young lady who bought my shawlette.
.My fingerless gloves were a strong seller last year, and so I packed a variety of colors and styles of crocheted and knitted pieces. My mismatched coordinated gloves that are crocheted with self striping yarn are an original design. I noticed that I was running low of this particular style, and packed most of my inventory. These gloves make me smile as I love the way the colors play themselves out in executing the gloves. The flower with the pearl and silver embellished button are the perfect accent. My decision was right again. One mother even wanted a pair of gloves for herself with a matching fingerless set for her daughter. I threw in a flower hair clip and that cinched the deal. These child gloves have not been a big seller. I might follow this merchandising idea of mommy and me gloves in the future. From one skein of Sweet Roll, I have enough left over to make a pair of child's gloves.
There is always one item that should have been cloned and recloned. As an experiment for my rustic knitted blog, I used one skein of Appalacha self-striping yarn with an original pattern. The fiber was 80% acrylic and 20% alpaca. Also many different colored strands were interwoven to create a unique and interesting and soft set of gloves. I had to do some cutting and adding of the different bands to create a more integrated use of the colors. The customer who eventually purchased the pair was interested because her dogs' hair would not show on the glove. Other customers who wanted to think about the purchase returned to find the gloves were gone. Unfortunately, I could not convert their interest to another pair. There are 10 days before my next fair. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, I do not know if I will have time to purchase the yarn and make the gloves in time.
Crocheted and knitted hats have always been craft fair favorites. This year I was particularly excited about my Pom Pom designs. I had invested in a Pom Pom maker to make colorful and playful beanies. Also this was my first season with faux fur Pom Poms. At this fair, there were several vendors who included hats in their displays. I thought I had a good spot for my table, but customers had stopped at tables before mine on both sides to purchase their hats. Also, these vendors had furnishings that could display their hats individually and at a height above the table. I guess it does not matter how lovely your workmanship if you can not catch the customers' eye. I have to decide if I want to invest in these set ups if I only do a few fairs a year. I will keep on the lookout to see how I can get height for my display at a reasonable cost.
Since this fair was held at a school, I wanted to have several items that were just a few dollars each that would appeal to the elementary age child. My girls' crocheted purchases were a big hit on the internet, but did did not garner much attention at the fair. I have completed a variety of crocheted hair accessories that I had expected to be popular with this age group. First, there were my flower accented ear warmers that I had featured for several years. There were also scrunchies, hair ties, flowers on elastic bands, chair clips and bobby pins with cluster flowers. I missed the boat on this one. I had to smile when a little girl held her dollar tight in one hand as she move through the box of clips with the other. I was selling the clips at 1 for $2 and 2 for $3, but I told this sweet miss that there was a special for young girls who were spending their own money. Her friend got the same deal, and they, too, walked away, proud of their purchases.
Other vendors were doing well with their stuffed animals, and so I thought my lovies would hit the spot. A lovey consists of an animal head and arms attached to a 12" square blanket. Mine were colorful and beautifully decorated, but did not attract as much attention as some larger, but plainer pieces from a neighbors booth. My question is do I expand my line to include some of these colorful stuffies? I just tried a crocheted sleepy head doll which is cute, but takes up more time than I am willing to give toward it.
Despite a slow start, by the end of the fair, I had taken in several hundred dollars, about my average for a holiday fair. The fair organizers had done a wonderful job in advertising and organizing the space. I was pleased to have an upstairs table in a well lighted room. At only $50 for an 8 foot table, I did not have to sell as much to pay for my table. The school provided a complementary breakfast for vendors and had student runners who took and delivered orders for lunch. Vendors were made to feel welcomed and valued. The customers who bought from me appeared to be delighted with their purchases.
What are my takeaway thoughts and insights?
My next fairs are on December 1 and December 3. Wish me luck.
11/23/2017 09:19:31 am
Thank you for sharing ! Never sold my things at a Fair. Learned a LOT !
12/5/2017 10:49:21 am
Your work is absolutely gorgeous.I have made a few scarfs and hats not anywhere as pretty as yours are.My mother made blankets and could sell them for hundreds of dollars.I wish I knew where and how she did it so I could help you sell some of that gorgeous work you do.I hope you do better at selling some of that wonderful work you are able to do.
12/5/2017 05:52:19 pm
Thank you for your uplifting comments. Due to involvement in kitchen renovation, I could only participate in three fairs this holiday season. Success was mixed, but I learned a lot and met so many interesting and positive people. A few larger pieces sold. Almost no small hair accessories went. By far the biggest attractions were my fingerless gloves, especially in grey. Hats were popular too. As I prepare for next season I will have to decide what to make that sells while feeding my creative side. I will still make a limited number creative larger pieces as I explore my art. I guess I will be using up all of my grey, black, navy, and possibly brown yarn this summer.
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