Saturday, August 28, 2010

Random Thoughts on Selling at Fairs

I'm gearing up for a couple of craft fairs over the next few months and I've been thinking about what I've learned over the years.

First, your display means everything -- if you can't get people to look at your booth, you'll never sell anything.  It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive but it does have to catch the buyer's eye. 
When I started selling scarves, I hung them on clothing racks -- I sold a reasonable amount but I hated bringing the bulky racks and the scarves didn't look as good as they did on a person.

So I looked for other options and came up with the idea of draping them over a color-coordinated Kraft bag with handles. It added interest, made the scarves look even better and brought in more sales. 

Then last year, my friend who is a photographer, came with me to help at a show and brought along some of her cards to sell. When we were trying to decide how to display the cards, we propped one of them against the bag and scarf and we realized we had a winner!  Everything fell into place and we immediately got more sales and more compliments than ever before.  For now, I'm sticking with this display -- it works. 

Usually on the craft show tables I can put the scarf/card/bag sets two deep with lots of room inbetween.  I bought some white wire racks and use them as stands to make the second row of scarves higher than the front row.  Then I add a vase of anthuriums or other flowers that don't need much water and a bowl of wrapped chocolates free for the taking and the display is complete.

Second, you need to interact with your customers.  If you can tell them a few words about your product and then leave them alone to browse, often they will buy.  If you just sit there, chances are they will browse and leave, or worse yet, not even browse.

I usually simply say that I hand dye all the scarves and they can be washed by hand - no need to dry clean. Depending on the response, I might go on to say that I use a dye that allows me to put both colors on the scarf, with one color migrating to the silk and the other to the rayon, resulting in a two-color scarf.  A simple explanation that usually intrigues the buyer and causes them to stay and browse.  I might also say that they are welcome to come into the booth and browse through the additional scarves on the racks.

Third,  you need to encourage them to hold your product,  try it on, do whatever they can do to fall in love with it.  As I mentioned, if a customer looks interested I encourage her to pick up the scarf and try it on.  I am not a big talker -- the less I'm forced to say the better. But I have learned that I really need to do at least this much talking. I have several friends who love to help people pick out a scarf that is perfect for them -- they pick colors, model the scarves if asked, and even show different ways of wearing the scarves.  I always sell more when they do that.  So if you aren't good at something, find someone who is and bring them along to help you.

Fourth, make sure you are set up to take credit cards.  You will make many more sales if you do.  Today there are lots of options for merchant accounts. You need to decide if you want to swipe the card, get authorization and print a receipt right there at the time of sale. This is the best of all worlds -- but also the most expensive. It means you need either a wireless credit card terminal with a printer or you have to arrange for a land line to use the counter top terminals. 

If you are willing to swipe the card but not get authorization until after the show, you can get a terminal that will do a "store and forward" which means you swipe at the show but don't run the charges through until you get access to a phone line. However, you don't need to key in any information when you do run the charges through because the info is already stored in the credit card terminal.

And finally there is the "knuckle buster" manual card imprinter which requires you to buy the card imprinter and the credit card slips. You then key the information in after the show.  This is what I usually use and so far, I have not had any cards declined.  But of course it's more of a risk than getting authorization on the spot.  When my sales reach a certain level,  I will consider upgrading to one of the wireless terminals.

But for now, I use the knuckle buster imprinter to take an imprint of the customer's credit card, have them sign the receipt and then enter the information on line at when the show is over.  I also have a card swiper that I can attach to my Netbook's USB port. This allows me to swipe the card, get immediate authorization and key in the sale amount on my computer while the customer is still at my booth.  In order to use this, I have a wireless modem that I connect to my netbook to give me access to the site.  In theory it should work fine, but the first time I used it at a show in a hotel ballroom, the wireless signal was not strong enough for this to be a reliable option. So I went back to the imprinter and keyed in the info as usual at the end of the show.  I'm anxious to try it again at the shows this fall.

Along with the credit card terminals or imprinters, you also need a merchant account. The company who provides the merchant account agrees to process your cedit card sales and deposit the sale $ from the cards into your checking account -- for a fee of course.  There are a myriad of merchant accounts and you need to find one that is right for you.  Basically the companies that provide you with a merchant account charge you a % of each sale plus a transaction fee for each sale (for example, 2.5% plus 25 cents).  Then there is often a monthly fee even if you don't have any sales in the month and you might be required to sign an annual agreement.  Usually the costs per sale that you are charged depend on the type of credit card (VISA, MC, Amex etc) and whether the card is actually handed to you and swiped or given to you over the phone or internet. There are lots of things to consider and only you can decide what makes sense for your business. 

Fifth, decide what to do when you're asked for a discount because invariably someone will ask.  Usually someone will ask if they buy more than one scarf, can they get a discount.  I have always had a hard time with that question and often felt compelled to give a discount when  asked or felt bad if I didn't. After many shows, I have finally come up with a written info sheet that tells how I make the scarves, how to take care of the scarves, and the pricing. I decided on one price for up to 11 scarves and a 15% discount on 12 or more.  My prices are low to begin with and I am not willing to give the typical 50% wholesale discount even to buyers who want to resell the scarves.  If I am asked, I can now show an official discount policy that looks much more professional than making up a discount on the spot if I chose to give one at all.

Sixth, stay in your booth and smile, or at least act interested in your products and your customers. You might be bored beyond belief at a slow show, but don't sit there and read a magazine or talk on the phone. Don't visit with friends or leave your booth unattended to visit other vendors. Invariably someone will come by and they won't bother to make a purchase if they have to work to find someone to take their money. And they won't like to disturb you if you are sitting there with your head buried in your book.  If you don't know what to do, start rearranging your products, straighen your display, or do whatever you can to look busy but available to your potential customers.

I have lots more to share on doing craft fairs, including two great CDS full of useful info,  and I'll finish in another post.  If you have any info of your own to share i would love to hear from you.



RoseofSharonStudio said...

Thank you Kathy for all the info. Very interesting, and helpful. I haven't done craft fairs in the past, but am considering it in the future.

Anonymous said...

I bought one of your scarves in Kona and now want another one or several. Can you please email ordering information to me? Thaks, Minnie