I answered the siren’s call of riches, fame and fortune that is the craft fair circuit this past November in a fair that took place up in Maine. It was a pre-Christmas fair, so I made crochet ornaments. I’ve done plenty of experimenting with how to sell crafts for starvation wages, so I thought I’d give a liveable wage a try.
I can make these in my sleep now. I estimated that I made over 70 at the time of the show, and then another 40 for a show I did after that, plus custom orders.
The pattern was one that I recreated from a photo of crochet ornaments I made previously while the pattern was still available online. The original pattern came down, meaning that I’m probably one of the few left who can still make these.
The Craft Fair Hustle Ain’t For the Faint of Heart
The craft fair was a pretty decent size, filling an entire high school gym with more vendors in another room and lining the halls. We saw lots of foot traffic too, with a few thousand estimated visitors. Unfortunately, “visiting” is about all most of them did with my stall.
I was sharing a table with my mother, and she had made three foot tall light up angels out of deco mesh and tomato cages. I think that part of my problem was that her display was so big that it dwarfed mine. Hers was a big ticket item, with lots of admirers but relatively few buyers, so most folks just did a drive by with some appreciative nods without ever getting close enough to the table to see my ornaments.
As you can see, my display was also pretty cluttered. To really see my ornaments, you would have had to walk up and stand over my wreath displays. I had thought that the wreaths would add some larger ticket items that might help offset the booth costs, as well as diversifying what I was offering. Turns out, the only damn one that sold was the one on the bottom left, that glittering pinecone monstrosity. And thank God it did sell, or I think I would have left the stupid thing in the parking lot. Only the Good Lord knows why I thought it would be a good idea to dip pinecones in a glitter bath and hot glue them to a flat wire wreath form, but it was not a good idea, and I still have that glitter in my apartment.
Crochet Ornaments for Sale, Glitter not Included
I thought it was a good idea to diversify my offerings up and down in price point–the wreaths as a higher ticket item, and personalized, glittered ornaments for a cheaper option. What I did was buy a few small, plastic bottles with very fine tips that could be used to write names in glue. Sprinkle some glitter on top of that and viola, a personalized gift that I feel fine letting go for five bucks a pop.
At the end of the day, the only way I sold any was to actually call out to people passing by and advertise my “Personalized glitter ornaments, just $5 each!!” Since practically no one was buying, I figured that the cheaper option was my only chance of selling anything at all.
I noticed something about the crowd after a little while. I had thought that I would be popular with parents of young children, since I was offering “Baby’s First” personalized keepsake crochet ornaments, with the addition of some ribbon, a tiny pink or blue clothespin, and some wooden tags. I made an extra effort to call out to parents I saw with strollers, young kids, or babies strapped to their fronts. What I found, however, is that these people were just struggling to get through the crowds without getting their kid stepped on, and the last thing they gave a shit about was my crochet ornaments.
I made a handful of sales, but if I hadn’t been splitting the booth fee with my mother (and sold a handful of glitter ornaments to my aunt for her cats,) I would have lost my shirt.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later, and I’m at a new craft fair closer to home. This one was set up at Villanova University, where my husband works, and had nowhere near the foot traffic that the big gymnasium show had, but you know what? I made over double the amount of sales.
There were only a few key differences in my new craft fair approach. I moved my wreaths so that you didn’t have to lean over them to see my ornaments. I was still calling out to customers as they passed by, without all the yelling in the much more relaxed scene. As you can see, I also pared down my display quite a bit.
There was one more thing I changed that made a huge difference to sales. This time I advertised “Crochet ornaments only $10, personalization is free!” And, folks, you would not believe how jazzed people were for the free personalization. It had always been built into the cost of the ornament, but “free” sold.
That’s what I learned from my first big show since the launch of this blog. Tell me in the comments what weird tricks you found to keep your sales up!