You may have noticed an absence of communication from us since April. There is, as they say, a story behind this…
At first we were busily preparing for our debut Craft Fair. In the dark of night (when the rain had finally stopped) we practiced raising and dismantling the tent, at weekends and in the evenings we sewed frenetically. By day we scoured thrift shops for ideas for displaying our clothes and branding our ‘shop’, checked out our mobile ‘hot spot’ and its ability to connect to PayPal and made price tags for everything we had made. It was a heady time, and we really felt good about what we were achieving.
The day of our first fair arrived, and we were up bright and early, busily packing the car – per our dry run the night before. We drove to the location, put our tent up in the prescribed spot, greeted our neighbors and waited for the stream of excited customers. While we waited, we walked around and admired and bought items from each other. And then we waited for customers. And then waited some more. A few folks strolled by to get to the flea market or pie sale, and from time to time cars drove down the ‘street’ to get through to a car wash run by teenagers. We made our money back, but it was a long day with few customers…
We had booked ourselves into a second fair the following weekend. The event was described as a “Community Day”, with an expected 65 vendors, so thought the lack of foot traffic issue would be solved. We were thrilled to be given a spot near the entrance to the fair, next to a sand art stall. We set up our shop and waited eagerly for the crowds to come through, and for parents to come by while their children made sand art. The early visitors were all runners leaving after an early morning 5K, and although they loved our dresses, they weren’t there to buy. The parents who did wander over seemed to expect everything to be free – or cheaper than Walmart – so they didn’t prove to be our ideal customers…
We took turns to walk around to see who else was there. The answer was that far, far, fewer than 65 vendors had been attracted, and the eight other booths included a food supplement company, a replacement window company, a t-shirt reseller, and assorted community clubs – no other crafters. It was also a holiday weekend, and as the day wore on, it was increasingly clear that the pocket- and purse-less runners at 8:00 a.m WERE the only crowd.
Disappointed, and a bit disillusioned, we decided to do more research into why we weren’t selling any clothes. Those who saw our garments loved them and appreciated the level of workmanship we displayed, but none were sold. We sold a few tutus to proud grandmothers and jewelry to those without children, but only covered costs. We searched online and our clothing prices were in line with others we found, so started to look at the fairs we’d attended.
We soon realized that we had naively picked out events with multiple activities including crafters, when we should have been looking for “Craft Fairs”. We also noticed that the pure craft fair directors explicitly detailed the advertising they would be carrying out to promote their fairs. We promptly found a couple of local fairs in both categories and visited each of them with a critical eye. Sure enough, the street fair had all kinds of vendors, but little foot traffic as the community seemed unaware it was happening. The more organized fair by contrast was very well attended, and the publicity was visible on many fronts.
We also realized that in our eagerness to make a lot of different items, we were confusing our visitors as to what we were selling. They didn’t know if we were a children’s clothing store, a jewelry store or a handmade book store. As we reviewed the things we loved to make, we realized that we would need to present just one category at any fair. We can be makers and purveyors of baby items, party and peasant dresses, simple home and personal products, jewelry, paper items, etc., to our hearts content, but have to sell them just one concept at a time.
With all this new knowledge, we are in the process of creating separate Etsy shops for each of our themes. I am in the process of creating websites to help get traffic to our Etsy shops, and Caroline is working on the Social Media front – and when not actively sleeping or working our day jobs, we’re crafting away!
Watch this space to see how this new endeavour progresses!