I wish getting ready for a fair just involved putting on a cute sundress and taking some cash out for ice cream, but I’m not talking about simply going to a fair. I’m talking about being a vendor at a fair and that involves a lot more. First of all, I tip my hat to those who show at fairs regularly…like almost every weekend of the year. I don’t know how you do it. I do one fair a year and it just about kills me! Well, not literally, but it takes over my house, my poor husband has to fend for himself for dinner most nights, and it means I am paint splattered more than usual (and that’s a lot already!) I know a number of my readers are also antique dealers and are currently vendors at fairs or want to be, so I thought I would share some things I do…
It goes without saying that you need to have a lot of inventory for a fair. The more you bring, the greater your earning potential. You can’t hope to make (gross) $5000 if you only bring $3000 worth of merchandise. You also can’t plan to sell every single thing you bring, so you need to bring a lot more than your goal.
Mix it Up
I know some of you specialize in furniture only or small things only, but it’s nice if you can bring a variety of pieces at a variety of price points. I try to have a few big, impressive large ticket items, mixed with some moderately priced pieces and a few things that are $10 or less. Sometimes people love your style, but they don’t have a lot of money to spend. Make sure they don’t leave your booth empty handed! That’s why I make the glitter letters and pinwheels and bring lavender buds.
Think about your pieces and how they are going to be arranged in the space. Create vignettes and “moments” throughout your booth to give your customers a chance to see how pieces can be paired. Sometimes people will buy an entire arrangement, because they love the entire look. It’s also easier to envision how something will look in a home if it’s not piled upside down under a stack of linens, right?
Remember, You’re There to SELL!
It drives me nuts when I see a cool piece in a booth and I get all excited about it and then I see that it’s not for sale. You’re there to sell things, so make an effort to limit the “display only” pieces. Now, I admit that I’m bringing four things to the fair that aren’t for sale. A bamboo mat (to cover the gravel), a dress form (to display a t-shirt), a shoe cart (to hold the t-shirts), and a farm table to use as a check out counter. Everything else is for sale! Actually, I might sell the bamboo mat now that I think about it…
Packing for a fair is almost as bad as traveling with an infant. You have to bring sunscreen, rain boots, rain coats, plastic tarps, bungee cords, a hammer, screw drivers, tents, bags, a cash box, scissors, change, business cards, SOLD tags, extra tags, and the list goes on. There’s a lot to bring, so pack well in advance and keep a running list of things you don’t want to forget. Also, go into the event with a system in place for how you’re going to handle sales. Last year things were totally crazy at my booth and my mom and I sold the same piece at the same time. I felt terrible, because one of those ladies went home without something she really wanted to buy. This year, we’re having a “checkout counter” and a system.
Being a vendor at a fair is a lot of work and it’s easier and more fun when you have someone there to help. If anything, you have someone who can get you a snack or watch the booth while you shop or go to the bathroom. It’s also nice to have someone to share in your misery when it rains all day.
Protect Your Stuff
When I set up for my very first fair, I set up a flimsy canopy over my stuff as black storm clouds rolled in. I sat on the porch of the Lucketts store and watched it rain buckets on all of the stuff I bought, priced, packed, and painted. It was terrible. Now, I pack all of my stuff in a tight cube, wrap and bungee it with tarps and then put it under a lowered canopy. I was laughed at by a few vendors last year who said it looked like I was ready for a hurricane, but that’s okay. I slept well that night.
Make an Impression
Lastly, this is totally an optional thing, but I love having something available in my booth that’s a special touch. Last year I had cupcakes with my logo stamped on the top. This year I am bringing something else. Hmmmmm…. I wonder what it will be….
I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of great tips, but that’s what comes to mind right now. Do any antique/craft fair veterans have anything to add?