As many of you know, I am based in the Waterloo-Kitchener-Cambridge region of Ontario, Canada. This year, I am selling my nature inspired designs at a couple of shows. So if you are local, I hope you can drop by and say hello!! These shows are technically not craft shows but gift shows.

I picked these two shows because they support worthy causes. The first the MS Two of a Kind Show is organized by the local chapter of Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.  Multiple sclerosis is a devastating autoimmune disease. Canada has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of MS in the world. So this fundraiser helps those who suffer from this debilitating disease and fund research into eradicating it.

The second supports the Lutherwood Foundation, a local non profit organization dedicated to helping families in need. This show specifically aids the Lutherwood Children Mental Health division.

Many shows now ask for photographs of your work so they can curate their vendor line-up.  So even for local shows, good photography matters.  This was the panel I submitted for one of the show's publicity efforts.

For both organizations, this is their second year at their fundraisers. Thus a bit of an unknown but I plan to have fun anyway.

There are lots and lots of craft and gift shows at this time of year. It is the biggest season for jewelry makers (see this post for the seasonal bumps in the year) . So how do you choose?

Here are 5 Things to Consider when Choosing a Craft Show:

1. Type of Show
Dedicated handmade craft shows are popular with people who admire handmade and are looking for unique gifts. Gift shows are different -  the attendees are interested in an easy gift buying excursion and if it helps a worthy cause they are keen on. The risk is they may not appreciate the skill and artistry of handmade jewelry.  Especially when they have a budget in mind.

The big shows command large table fees because they know artisans will be making a lot of sales. But the caveat is you do have to have a lot of inventory.  And the stamina to last through the typical 3 days these shows cover.  Exhausting.

Smaller one day shows can also be successful if you scale down the expectations. I really appreciate shows which charge smaller table fees and a small percentage of sales. So much fairer to small vendors. I hope this trend continues because some of the craft show table fees being charged are very high. This means vendors have to basically give away a lot of stock before they start making a profit.

The show I did back in July at the church during Guelph's Art on the Street event did not charge any table fee but took 10% of our collective sales. It went to the church's soup program. So vendors who did not sell much were not burnt. And we felt good about helping out!

Bazaars and flea markets are not recommended because buyers there are expecting rock bottom prices.

2. Advertising
This is absolutely key to the success of any show.  Nobody is going to turn up unless you tell people. The more traffic, the greater the possibility of buyers. So you want to pick shows which advertise broadly - social media, print, radio. Basically as much as possible. All vendors should also expect to advertise to followers via social media and newsletters so that the collective effort helps all.

3. Market Research
While sales are obviously the desired outcome, I also think even less successful shows are invaluable. You see, I watch which of my designs catches people's attention even if they don't buy. So I will know to make more of those kinds!  This feedback is great - it helps you do market research.

So test your designs in smaller shows.  What are people's tastes in jewelry?  Will big and bold sell or small and dainty?  You can also check out shows as an attendee and see if there are gaps. For example, why do say, chain mail if there are already a whole ton of chain mail artisans around.

It also pays to take a good, hard look at what you make. Are they really saleable on a competitive marketplace? Friends and family who love you are more likely to tell you how wonderful your pieces are. Perceptions might be different in the real marketplace.

4. Prices
What about prices? Where you do shows also dictates the pricing levels you can expect. Urban area shoppers are more willing to pay more than rural ones. Having said that, we should be mindful not to under price. That would not be fair to you and what that does overall is undervalue the craft. Low prices imply low quality. It actually doesn't do much to accelerate sales.  See my post 6 Traps to Avoid when Pricing Jewelry.

One favorite story I like to tell is the craft show I did with friends back in Halifax years ago. We watched several people pick up Cindy's $25 bracelet to admire but every single person put it down. Then Cindy replaced the price tag and marked it at $35 and it sold immediately.

5. Booth 
Attractive booths definitely draw the attention of buyers.  However, you should balance that with the sheer effort of setting one up, especially if it's only a one day show.  So keep things simple and not have too many heavy displays which necessitates many trips from the car.

Be organized with all the things you need. Don't forget a hand held mirror for potential customers!  I like to store all packaging material, tools, extra supplies in a tool box on wheels.

All items should be tagged before the show. Ideally have them already on displays which are stored in bigger boxes. So all you do is take them out and set them.  Use vertical space because tables are small.  Designs placed higher are also closer to eye level. I wrote more about set up tips here.

Should you fill up the table a lot of product or have a more minimalist approach?  Certainly clutter is not desirable but I don't think displaying few products is going to draw attention. A few steps walking past your booth will be all it takes to dismiss the possibility of stopping.  Last year when I put out quite a bit of stuff, I noticed that many people stopped because they wanted to take more time to check things out.

Do you have other tips to share? Please comment below.

I will also be stopping by the Grand River Bead Society's annual fair. This is where we raise money to support our society - helps pays for our venue rental!  There are many vendors and class instructors.

My teal bracelet photo second one from the top appears on the back of the brochure :

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