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Selling at Craft Markets: Some advice to make it a better day

By knittykittybangbang, Feb 17 2015 09:01AM

With fair season about to explode, I thought it might be a good time to write a piece about selling specifically at craft fairs and markets. If you google ‘selling tips’ you will find a lot, but mostly about selling for a big company, to another big company, which to my mind doesn’t really translate to the artisan life where we are generally talking about a lone designer maker selling directly to an individual, for relatively small amounts of money.

Before I get on with the knittygritty (ya see what I did there?) of things I think there is something important that needs to be said. Craft markets are NOT JUST ABOUT SALES! “Shock horror gasp!” I hear some of you cry, but they’re not. They are about helping to create and maintain a strong client base. They are about advertising and networking as much as they are about selling. If you are a lone worker they provide possibly your only time in a week where you can chat to people who understand your job.

Think of it this way – you pay £30 for a space at an event, how much advertising would that buy you? 150 facebook likes which may or may not lead to a single sale? A personal ad in your local paper, because it certainly aint buying you ad space? And as for networking, a place at a networking event, where you may or may not meet useful people, will set you back more than £50 through the local Chamber of Commerce. At a well run craft event your table fee will give you access to hundreds of visitors who are actually interested in your type of item – giving them the chance to see it in person and touch and feel (or taste!) it. Just because they don’t buy on the say, if you make in impression then they may come back and buy in the future. It will also give you access to other stallholders with knowledge, experience and an interest in your field! ALWAYS keep this in mind, NEVER go in thinking about sales alone, which brings us to our first bit of advice –

Adjust your attitude!

It’s not just about sales. If you’re having a poor sales day, so what? Do you think people are likely to approach your stall if you have a face like thunder on you? Do you think organisers and other stallholders are getting a good impression of you if you’re bitching and moaning? Just because your morning has been slow, it doesn’t mean your afternoon will be. If you have a good attitude and sunny disposition, it will shine through and people will pick up on it. And see that person across the room who you assume is doing really well because they look like a Cheshire cat? They might not be doing any better than you.

Be at your table

You’d think this was obvious but I see it time and time again, people spending more time socialising, smoking or making cups of tea than working. YES networking (and tea) is important but your customer should feel like they are the most important thing and that they aren’t dragging you away from something else. If you’re not there to make sales, how are they going to happen?

Stand up!

You just need to try this to feel the difference. It’s something that most of us just grow into so let me just save you some time and tell you – STAND UP! Studies have been done that say if you are standing you will feel more positive and confident and that alone will help you sell more. It’ll also help you feel more energised. Standing up will make it easier for you to reach the products on your table, and will put you face to face with your customers rather than them looking down on you.

Your personal appearance will affect your sales

Now I’m the first person to defend someone’s right to look exactly how they please but if we’re talking about sales then we need to be pragmatic. It would be great to be able to say people shouldn’t judge but alas some do. Look appropriate for your customers and product – for example if your demographic is older ladies, probably don’t dress as Hitler. You should look like someone who understands your product, and client, inside out, and your clients should feel comfortable asking you for advice. If you sell a product you can wear, you should wear some (something I am terrible at!)

While we’re on the topic of appearance we also need to cover personal hygiene. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HAVE A WASH! You’d think that didn’t need saying, but trust me IT DOES. Be aware that you might need a breath mint or deodorant (humphing tables and stock around can get sweaty) and if you smoke remember to deal with the smell. Do you really want people thinking that that beautiful quilt you are trying to sell them for their babies’ bed is going to reek of BO, B&H or last night’s beer?

Say hello!

To EVERYONE!! If someone looks at your stall, invite them in with a hello. It isn’t pushy, it’s just polite. If you walk into a shop and nobody says hi, how do you feel? Ignored? Unwelcome? Well at a market you are in an even more intimate environment with your customer so an acknowledgement is even more important.


Shy? Suck it up buttercup! ‘Isn’t it a nice day?’, ‘Are you just out shopping today?’, ‘have you been here before?’ etc, will put your customer at ease, make them feel welcome and more likely to ask questions and feel comfortable enough to try things on or pick things up. All these things help lead to sales! Another important reason to chat with customers is that people don’t read signs. Yes you have a whacking great notice up there saying everything is made by you, but most people won’t notice so if it is important, make sure you tell them. Chatting can also lead on to:

Identifying your customers’ needs

If you’re new to selling and you’re feeling anxious about just chatting, this is maybe one to work up to, but it’s definitely worth it. Gently questioning customers - What is it they are looking for? Is it a gift? Do they have a budget in mind? If you know their needs, you can try and fill them. But remember:

Don’t overdo it!

Nobody likes a pushy sales person. Chatting is great, foisting things on people isn’t. You might get them to buy something once, but be sure as heck they won’t come back. People don’t expect the hard sell in a craft environment and it’s a sure way to put someone off your product.

Let people touch

Unless you are selling food, don’t have everything all packaged up and out of reach. People visiting markets want to be able to see and feel the products – otherwise they’d just buy online. If you sell clothing or jewellery, make sure people can try things on. If your product is skincare or something that really needs to be packaged to keep it clean or usable, then sacrifice one as a tester, or have some you can give our as free samples to people who perhaps need to try things due to allergies or in daylight. (Same would go for any items that are aimed at the wedding favour market).

Remember your regulars

Even if they never buy! People love it when you remember them. Try and remember what they’ve bought before and what they like/don’t like. You will be able to suggest things to them that they might not otherwise notice, and they will feel special. Just because someone doesn’t buy, it doesn’t make them worthless to your business – they have friends, colleagues and contacts that they might introduce to your business.

Know your product

It may seem obvious but really know your product inside out. One of the most common things I get asked is ‘what is it made from?’ Know exactly what your materials are, what allergens may be present, how they can be cleaned, ‘what will happen if...’. If you can’t answer a question, that’s probably a lost sale. As well as materials, know the benefits of your product – why is it better than others? What makes it good? Of course there are always questions you can’t answer, I got asked the other day “other than necklaces, what ARE these?” Still not sure what that meant...


That might be a new word to some of you! If you buy a greetings card in a shop and they say ‘do you need stamps?’, that is upselling. Do you need earrings to go with that necklace? We do scarves that match that hat, etc etc. I don’t advise doing this on every sale, if you’ve already established a budget and they’ve spent it then asking them to spend more isn’t going to make them happy.

Keep your stall looking good

Your stall is what gives people the first impression of your product. If it looks like a jumble sale, people will expect jumble sale prices. If it looks like a high end boutique, people will expect your prices to be high (ooooh that gets me onto pricing and that’s a whole other ballgame!) Don’t go crazy with the props, your product is the star. Your stall will get untidy through the day, don’t worry about it just tidy it up as you can. I have to say mine often looks like a tornado has hit it, the joy of lots of chains, but I just apologise to customers before I start chatting to them. DON’T tidy up as people are browsing, you’re ignoring them, distracting them and they will feel like they can’t touch and/or are in your way.

Write down your sales

How you ‘feel’ you’ve done is often far from the facts. I LOVE NUMBERS AND LISTS!! Making a list of things done, or sold, gives you a sense of achievement. If you work to a target, this will tell you how close you are to it. Don’t be obsessed by the blank page if you’re having a slow sales day, remember it’s not just about sales.

Bring people in!

This is a major bugbear of mine. Often you’ll hear people complaining about having bad sales days and the first thing I always think is ‘how many of your friends and social media followers did you bring in?’ Yes the organisers have a responsibility to market the event, but each individual stallholder has the responsibility to market their own business. Put something out on social media, contact your mailing lists, let them know where you will be so that they can come and see, and maybe buy, from you.

Bring em back!

With at least every sale give out a business card AND any flyers for other fairs you will be attending. Don’t expect people to help themselves to cards and flyers, the majority wont. If you can hand out cards and flyers to browsers too that’s great, but again don’t be too pushy with them.

And one final one for you to ponder or try out....

Work on your product at your table VS Don’t bring ‘something to do’

There are definitely 2 distinct camps here and I would encourage you to try both yourself to see which works best for you.

One thing both sides agree on, if you are going to be ‘doing something,’ make it work related. Don’t be playing scabby birds or whatever the latest game is, don’t be reading 50 shades of poop, don’t be watching films (yes I have actually seen that!) Certainly use your phone/tablet for business, but make sure you still acknowledge people and even apologise for doing it. The people in front of you made the effort to get off their butts to come and see you, the person who sent you a facebook message didn’t. This includes eating - Yes I know you have to eat, it’s important you don’t let your blood sugar drop, but be discreet, don’t be chomping down a saucy burger in their face. (If they are me they will leave your table and go and buy a burger...I could go a burger now actually...)


The essential ‘pro’ argument is, if you have a product you can be working on at your table it may bring people in as they are interested in what you are doing. This is especially true if your craft is something people will never have seen before, or takes particular skill. If making your product makes a nice smell (such as grinding coffee beans for example) that can be a big draw, as can something that makes a noise, but don’t go using noisy tools as it’ll not make you popular with your colleagues!

Certainly this might make people stop, but will it make them BUY?

My first problem is, manners dictate that it is rude to interrupt someone. If someone is not there with a hello, ready to serve me, then I feel like I am taking them away from something more important, or worse, that they don’t like the look of me. I think that customers should feel welcome and comfortable, which requires your attention. My second problem is, if I’m watching you do something, I’m not looking at your product – if you are demonstrating a product that might be different (drop spindles for example) but if you show me how to make your product, aren’t I more likely just to try and make it myself rather than buy it from you? Your customers are likely to be craft savvy - never give away all your secrets! Lastly - you can work on your product at home/studio any time, your networking/socialising time with other people in your industry/customers is limited to these few hours. Enjoy this time. I have heard huge deals being done at craft markets, don’t waste this opportunity.

My main suggestion is that if you feel strongly about one way, rotate between it and the other way for a few months and see what the difference in your figures (because you’ve written everything down) are.

If you’ve read down this far WELL DONE!! I hope at least some of these help you, or at least have made you think about how you ‘shop keep’.

Sep 14 2015 12:33PM by Clare stansfield

Thank you , that was very informative , clever and hilarious!!
Very well put over by someone who is experienced at fayres

Jan 6 2016 03:26PM by Joanna

I agree, your style of writing is refreshingly honest, to the point and very funny to boot.

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