Vending handmade creations at craft fairs for many years has taught me so much, but not just about selling. It’s also taught me how to shop at craft fairs! So – if you want to get the best possible shopping experience at (particularly holiday season) handmade events, here you go – my best tips!
1 – Get There EARLY
Yes – I really mean that. Early as in as soon as a fair opens. Why? A couple of reasons. Firstly, parking. Some of the bigger craft fairs here in Colorado Springs get extremely crowded. They have thousands of people attend and the parking lots can be chaos. So, if you get there early, there is less of a problem finding a great spot close to the action so you don’t have to carry any larger purchases too far. Secondly, because crafters have limited stock and they do sell out.
I have a friend who sold out of everything she had at one event. Everything. She didn’t even have display models left of items she could reproduce. I know for my items, I only have limited quantities of items available, so, once they’re gone, they’re gone. Sometimes just the earrings will sell, sometimes the pendants, so, if you want maximum choice for sets, and just of items in general, if you’re one of the first through the doors, you can be sure to find what you want!
2 – Take Cash
Whilst these days many sellers take cards, it can be helpful to take cash too. Not all sellers take cards, especially those who are a little older. Don’t take large bills though – remember small sellers aren’t Target and many won’t split bills over $20. Sometimes sellers give discounts for cash. In the state of Colorado, it’s illegal to charge a surcharge to use a card, but, you can offer a discount for cash. I know it’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other, but, that’s what the law says. Sometimes sellers will offer discounts for cash. If you’re able to offload all your single dollar bills in your wallet, you’re also helping out your seller, who probably had to give change for a $3 item from a $20 bill and now is hurting for change…
3 – Don’t See What You Want? Ask!!
As a seller, I have a specific booth size and a certain number of displays that will fit on the table space I have. It means I can’t put all of my inventory out. I make so many different items (on purpose – I get very bored making the same thing) that I NEVER have room for everything. So, if you see something you like, but are looking for a different size of pendant, or drops instead of studs, or maybe a pattern in a different colour, ask! Sellers will often have additional stock under their table out of view so that they can backfill as things sell. Or, they may be able to recreate something with a slight change. They may require you to pay a deposit, but, ask! If your seller is local, they probably routinely meet people to sell items and can just arrange for you to collect your item either at a local meeting spot, or at another fair they’re at.
4 – Not Ready To Buy (why not?!) – Ask If They Have Other Local Events
See point 1. Want the best selection of a crafters items? Buy early – they may not have something available later, but, if you’re really not sure what your gift selections will be, ask them where they might be closer to the holidays. They may have other events that you can shop at, or they may not, which might influence your decision to buy there and then.
5 – Support Your Local Handmade Crafters
Some fairs at this time of year are handcrafted-only events. As a seller, I personally like these best. But – you will still get people who are reselling items bought wholesale from China. This infuriates me. Talk to your seller – do they make the items themselves? Are they local? Think about the impact your purchase has. If you are supporting handmade local sellers, your money is staying put in your local community and the skill your seller has is something that will endure. Your money is probably paying for their children’s dance lessons, or, in our case, our son’s enormously expensive hockey addiction. Either way – your money is staying local. It’s not paying foreign shareholders. It stays in your community and will have an impact for all who live there – including you!
Know that your sellers appreciate you supporting their business and local small business in general. Make a pledge this year to buy even just one locally made gift and see how prosperous your locality can become!
Ever thought of joining the sellers at a craft fair?
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