Craft markets: what you need to know

Felt stand at General Collective

Recently Felt co-hosted an evening event in Christchurch where 70 designers/makers/crafters like you came together to discuss craft markets and what you need to know.

We were lucky to have the organisers of the (weekly) Arts Centre Mākete – Abbie Pickrill –  and twice-yearly Encraftment Market – Helen Moore and Bronwyn Finch –  as guest speakers and co-hosts. The format was simple: I asked each of them four questions ahead of time which they discussed and pulled up photos and examples to illustrate, then we had a big ol’ Q&A session.

These were the questions we asked:

  • What is your market looking for in stallholders?
  • How can stallholders maximise their chances of being selected?
  • What big and annoying mistakes do stallholders always make?
  • What makes a great market stall?

Some of what was discussed on the night was specific to these markets, but there was a lot that is applicable for anyone applying for any market.

So, here’s a highlights reel of some of what was covered (and some great tips for your next application):

Getting selected:

  • We are looking for unique, well-made, preferably eco-friendly items. We need a mix of things for women, men, children, indoor, outdoor, food… Lots. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your designs!
  • We are looking for professional overall presentation, including a thoughtful business description. If words aren’t your forte then ask a friend to help you. We are often too humble or sell ourselves short, and that isn’t good for business.
  • Read the instructions for an application, and follow them. Don’t give 200 words when asked for 30, or provide photos in the wrong format. Organisers typically receive a large number of applications and have a system to process them efficiently. The instructions are there to help your application glide smoothly through the system and make it easy for them to select you!
  • When choosing vendors, organisers are not just considering you and your product – they are thinking about the wider mix of products. Markets often see waves of popular items or trends coming through – for example, beeswax wraps, or baby bibs – and there’s only so much of one type of thing a market can take. Do your research and put your best foot forward by adding something unique to the mix.
  • If you’ve applied to a market before (whether the same or a different organiser) take new photos to submit. Make sure you take great photos of new products and keep your applications looking fresh. From a promotional perspective, market organisers want to be circulating new products and images to keep attendees returning and they are often watching other markets to see how they can differentiate themselves to attract attendees. Help them do this and you will be featured.

Stall set-up:

  • Think about your stall as a shop display. It should be attractive, reflect your business, and feel coherent.
  • Make use of space – including vertical space. If your items live on walls, don’t present them flat. If it is clothing, consider using racks or mannequins. Take inspiration from retail shops and galleries that sell items similar to yours, and try unique ways of presenting your work. Nothing is as uninspiring as a trestle table with everything lying flat on it.
  • “U shaped” set ups – where attendees have to walk ‘in’ to your stand – often don’t work in indoor environments (but sometimes do for outdoor markets).
  • Demonstrating your craft while sitting at your stall can be a powerful sales tool. Sarah Greig does live illustration on the spot and draws quite an audience, who are then more likely to purchase something.
  • Iron things that should be ironed. Clean things that should be cleaned. Hide things that should be hidden. Smile, but not so much that you look creepy.
  • Display “Find me on Felt” table cards so that people know where to find you in six months when they remember your product but forgot your name. Many attendees now won’t grab a flyer or business card, so this is the strongest way of being found again.

Logistics and practicalities:

  • Eftpos/card payment gateways are popping up all over the show now. Talk to your bank about options, and ask each other about different experiences with different systems. Some smaller retail businesses and food vendors are starting to use the same solutions, so keep your eyes open and ask the person at the checkout when you see something that might work for you. Some sellers make use of internet banking, getting customers to transfer ‘on the spot’ and show the confirmation.
  • Practise setting up your stall at home. Mark out your stall size on the floor with tape, and practise setting things up and packing down. You’ll be amazed what you learn by simply trying it once or twice, and how much time it can save (not to mention stress) on the day. Be sure to take some photos when it’s all set up (some markets ask for this as part of your application) – and do it when there is plenty of light!
  • If you need to purchase tables/shelves/materials to make things, be sure you’re keeping receipts and tracking all of your expenses, event if you’re not GST registered.

Good luck!

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