Sunday, July 10, 2011

5 Suggestions for Craft Show Designated Sales Killers, er, Shoppers

Getting Ready for the Visitors
Don't you just love craft shows and street markets? To me, discovering new creative talent in your area and developing a relationship with local produce growers helps to enlarge your sense of community. But I do wonder if you ever think how every purchase you make is helping that local family earn a living?

Even small crafters who decide they are ready to sell their handcrafted items hope to either add a little income to the family coffers or, at least, to recoup the cost of supplies. You will seldom find poorly handmade items at a craft fair. (Unlike a Flea Market with a full spectrum of items from used to the latest neon bracelets.) What you will find is pride of workmanship and fair prices for truly unique items.

But, there's a down side to these open-air markets, too. The simple act of walking through so many booths and getting to know the regular vendors can create a subtle change in the shoppers. It's somewhere along the lines of 'you're never a prophet in your own home town' thinking -- behavior that almost never occurs in a bricks-and-mortar store with bar code pricing on every item. People who don't think twice about buying an item as-is off the shelf have no problem finding fault at a crafter's booth where meticulous care has been given to ensure quality workmanship for the buyer.

I've exhibited throughout the years at many different venues, so I think I can speak from not only my experience but that of my fellow crafters when wondering why some people seem to go out of their way to make remarks that will kill any sales for that vendor. Even though it's not a bricks-and-mortar building, a craft/food booth is, in fact, a business. The items may be limited to a particular craft; i.e., candles, handbags, pet products, etc., but great care has been given to making and/or selecting the best quality and ingredients. These are not people who have decided to have a fundraiser, accepting all donated hand-crafted items regardless of skill but businesses that require quality inventory for year-in year-out showings and sales. Just like their big brother department stores, this is how the vendor makes money and pays for the space, licenses, and taxes, to stay in business. For what it's worth, here are some suggestions for visitors/shoppers when at a craft show or street market.

Please wear your Designated Sale Killer button for identification when:

1. Stopping your friend from buying what they want.

When your friend picks up an item, it's because they're interested. Let them decide whether to buy it or not. This isn't about what you like; it's what they want. If you really don't like the item, take them away from the booth before you start tearing it down. More importantly, if you have not been specifically asked to prevent them from spending their money, don't kill the crafters potential sale because you're not interested.

2. Dismissing the item because you've seen a pattern and can make it, yourself.

We are a nation of crafters. It's in our nature to create beautiful things out of nothing. And, we like to try our hand at different crafts. The majority of craft fair boards have a creative standard that must be met before vendors are accepted as exhibitors. Please don't pick up an item and tell your friend not to bother with it because you or she can make it, at home. There's no doubt you probably could; but, chances are, you won't. It takes time, money, inventory, and dedication to bring a product to the sales table, and most home-made items won't match up to the crafter who does it for a living.  

3. Turning a swan into a duck (Not that there's anything wrong with ducks...)

There is nothing new under the sun -- only variations of all that has gone before. Please don't pick up an item that reminds you of something and diminish it in front of the crafter by saying, "oh, yeah, we did that at Camp" or "I've seen this done with styrofoam and cardboard tissue rolls."  You probably did something close to it in a very limited way with the cheapest possible supplies. The crafter has chosen materials to create a quality item and doesn't deserve your offhanded put down. Of course, if you did do it exactly the same way as the crafter, that's one thing; but, if it isn't, try to think before you speak. Someone else may be listening to you and decide not to buy the product because you've reduced it to child's play.

4. Expecting commercial packaging for handcrafted items. 

You're at a craft fair of handmade items; you're not in Macy's. Commercial packaging isn't cheap and the cost would have to be added to the sales price. Handcrafters produce items that cannot be found all over the country in department stores, unless it turns into something phenomenal like a Pet Rock and demand goes sky high. You will find some crafters who often create unique tags and packaging for their items; but, it's not the general rule. Accept the item in its plastic or brown bag or pay for that special packaging, if it's available -- but, don't expect to get it for nothing. 

5. Monopolizing a vendor friend.

While you may be out enjoying your day at the local Craft Fair or Farmer's Market, please keep in mind that, if your friend happens to be a vendor at same, they are at work. It's wonderful to stop by and say hello but don't monopolize, hang out, or, use the vendor's tables for your own personal items. Customers don't like to interrupt conversations or enter booths they feel have become 'private' and will leave for more open shops. This is also not the time to be making smart-alecky remarks about any of your friend's crafts to customers, like, "oh, I see you've made use of your mother's old chenille bedspread," thinking you're being funny. 

When setting up and breaking down, the vendors talk to each other and, of course, what happened during the day gets discussed. These were the most frequent problems they encountered and wished someone would say something. I don't believe any of the above behavior is done with the thought of killing someone's sale but, unfortunately, the end result is the same. Craft fair behavior is nothing more than common sense and, "Do Unto Others..."  Give vendors the same respect you would expect and make it a successful day for everyone.