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Hi everyone! I come seeking advice.

Over the past year, my mother-in-law has been making and selling various items at local craft shows. She makes mostly pot holders, wine totes, reusable shopping bags, kindle/ipad holders, and small simple purses. She got accepted into a pretty sweet farmer's market gig that will run for 15 weeks (8am-Noon every Saturday). But at the last minute, they bumped up the start date, and she'll be out of town for the first two weekends. She doesn't want to lose out on the business, so she asked me to cover for her. She's such a sweet lady, and I really want to see her succeed, so I said yes. I have a week and a day before the first show.

1) OMG WAT AM I DOING. HAAALLLLP. Okay, she's got the basic stuff from past shows (tables, a tent, inventory), and I once helped her with a craft show (I was there for two hours-- not exactly an impressive stint, but at least I'm familiar with the merch), but uhhhhh... any advice for a first-timer would be GREATLY appreciated. Seriously, ANY tips/tricks, stuff you wish you would have known, be prepared for ____, etc. I checked the memories/tags, so that was helpful. And I tried Googling, but it was mostly the same tips (don't eat a stinky lunch! bring a bottle of water! wear comfy shoes!) and/or about getting started at shows (making enough inventory, pricing, etc). But, like... what are some tips for making sales? What do I wear or not wear? Anything specific to farmer's markets?

2) Her booth needs some ZAZZ. It's just so sad looking-- my father-in-law "designed" it (by which I mean he built one stand out of PVC on which to hang tote bags, and then bullied her into just dumping all her inventory in a heap on a table. His reasoning is that people will happily stop and take the time to dig through her merch. And if they don't, then she should physically grab people out of the crowd and drag them into her booth. Yes, that is seriously what he told her. Oh! And he printed out all these crappy little signs on printer paper that just look SO awful). I also tried Google/Pinterest, but most of it is about displaying jewelery and scarves. What are some little touches I could manage to get together in a week? Organization tips? Signage? I'm working on a way to get more of her stuff hanging up, but again, ANY SUGGESTIONS are appreciated!

I genuinely do like my MIL, and I really want her to succeed at this. I plant to spend every free minute searching Google/Pinterest, but I only have a week, so I'm asking for help anywhere I can think to ask. Additionally, my husband will be manning the booth with me, but he's suuuuper-shy, so he'll probably just read a book the whole time and cover me for potty breaks.

Thank you thank you thank you in advance!!

Sorry, edited for cut-- didn't realize it was such a giant wall o' text!


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
Number one and most important tip: Find someone to go with you! That way you get to go pee and can have something to eat before you pack up to go home.

Otherwise you just need to have price stickers on every thing, write down all of your sales and how much they were, have a cash float so you can make change, take a calculator so you know you are giving out the right change and know how to put up the tent. I suggest you get a couple of lessons in putting the tent up before the big day. Take a cooler of drinks, a hat, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen.

I have had blistered sun burn, sun blindness and heat exhaustion before from doing shows so it is paramount that you make sure to drink, protect your eyes and take care of your skin. Of course I have been wet and soggy all weekend before now too so if you have wellies (rain boots) you might want to throw them in the back of the van just in case.
Apr. 24th, 2014 07:03 pm (UTC)
All good advice. Bring a folding chair or stool so you can sit when you can.
I did bead shows- I made small signs- like 6 to an 8 1/2 x11 page- and then I used dollar store photo holders to hold the signs. Group things attractively, by type and even by color.
Know ahead of time if you have to charge sales tax and what percentage it is.
Wear something comfortable and something that doesn't compete or clash with the merchandise. When I sold jewelry, I'd always wear a necklace, bracelet and earrings of my own creation and sometimes sold them off from my person :) Greet people, ask them how they are and tell them to let you know if they have any questions about the merchandise. Before you go look over the merch and see if YOU have any questions to ask your MIL about items (ex how to clean them or if a certain type of kindle will fit, etc.) Take notes.
Relax and have fun. Most people wish they had the talent to make things and the guts to sell it so you are already an interesting person to them.
Apr. 24th, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
Photo holders! That's a great idea, and I know I've got some laying around somewhere.

Oooh, I'm going to make up a list of questions for her, especially about the tablet holders (I don't own one, but I know she researched brands for sizing) and cleaning. And sales tax, I totally forgot about sales tax.

Thank you!!
Apr. 24th, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC)
Best of luck!
Apr. 24th, 2014 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I plan to slather on the SPF 100 (I'm vampire-pale), and we've got a tent that we'll put up rain or shine (because, also like a vampire, I don't do well in direct sunlight). And I'm adding "practice putting up/taking down the tent" and "waterproof shoes" to my list.

Thanks again!!
Apr. 24th, 2014 07:40 pm (UTC)
If you can find a little shirt shop to make some cheap logos (plain font that has some color) that would be great to wear. Distinguishes you from anyone else. Get a money belt or a cash box too.
As for customers, don't be silent when they come up. I hate the silent staring people. Say "hi! How are you? Can I help you find anything?". It can also help if you have a sign with prices as well as price stickers.
As for sorting things, I love neat little lines of product. It gives you a quick and easy idea about designs and styles. Line like products up and keep them organized. For flat products this is really the most effective in my opinion.
And good luck! It sounds like your MIL has made some great products that can represent themselves. I don't really see big signs or the like at craft shows; the items are pretty obvious. But signs for prices or distinguishing exactly what an item is (wine holder, ipad cozy) are helpful.
Apr. 24th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, that's a great idea! I'm trying to get my husband (an artist) to redesign her logo because the original was printed up by my father-in-law, and it's, like, Comic Sans with a ball of yarn on it (even though she doesn't knit. It's a mess). But that would be awesome if we could get some sweet t-shirts with a new logo.

I love neat lines, too. I was thinking about hanging up a few potholders/totes/whatever (on some kind of board that we could prop up on the table) and then have a neat line of the rest of the product underneath. Uhhhmmmm... I realize that sounds kind of vague, so I'll just have to scour my basement/garage and see what I can come up with.

Thank you for the help!!
Apr. 24th, 2014 09:35 pm (UTC)
music. it can draw people in. don't stick with the top forty stuff of whatever is super popular in your area. something different that makes people want to ask you what it is. (obviously death metal wouldn't be a good choice. no encouraging mosh pits.)

a plain table looks dull. so you can hit up a party supply store for inexpensive plastic table cloths that wouldn't clash (go with something non patterned, but still an eye catching color.) don't go over the top with decorating. enough to catch the eye, but not enough to scare people away.)
Apr. 28th, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, I know I've got some "easy listening" cds around here somewhere. I might pack them up just in case no one else has music playing (sometimes they have little bands come and do a set or two).

My MIL has some brightly-colored tablecloths, I think we'll use those on bottom and use small white tablecloths (or sheets, probably) on top, so it doesn't clash with her colorful wares. We're trying to find that balance between "boring" and "arrrrgghhh my eyes!" so if the colorful tablecloths look out of place, I might hit up Dollar Tree for some plain plastic colored ones.

Thanks for your help!
Apr. 24th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
Personally I am not a fan of music, if you have it loud enuf to be heard from a distance and over a crowd, then when I come over to browse and/or talk to you its TOO DAMN LOUD

BIG signs for prices. Tarting the table up doesnt need much - get a really boldly coloured sheet or table cloth to catch peoples attention. And not cost a fortune.

Have a seat, have a cooler with some easily nibbled on food and something to keep your drink cold. Have a change of clothes incase the weather changes so have hot and cold weather clothes.

TAKE LOTS OF CHANGE - you will need way more than you think - like have $20 in coins at least and lots of smaller notes too

Must have a friend, if only for someone to talk to, but someone to cover you for bathroom breaks and give you a chance to get up and walk around and also go shopping for yourself.
Apr. 28th, 2014 04:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I feel it's sometimes nice (when gently playing in the background), but can get really annoying/distracting. I think I'll see what other people are doing, what the noise level is like, etc for the first weekend. Oh, hmm, and I'm not even sure I've got a cordless boombox, now that I think about it...

I'm adding "Plenty of change" to my list. :)

Thanks for your help!!
Apr. 24th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
I've never worked a craft show but I've worked other small places like that.

I totally second taking a ton of change thing. If it's cash only, people will be hitting up their bank on the way there and they will have $20's and more $20's and more $20's.

I would make a list of the prices with the tax already calculated so you don't need to calculate it every time, only if someone buys more than one item. And if you put the common change amount too it's super simple: Item $6.50 * 5% tax = 6.83 Change from $10 = $3.17 sort of thing. Makes it quick and easy to help people.

Apr. 28th, 2014 04:29 pm (UTC)
Oooohh, that's an excellent idea about a price "cheat sheet"! I used to be so good at math, but that part of my brain apparently turned to cottage cheese, because every so often I need to discretely count on my fingers X/.

Thank you!!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 28th, 2014 04:35 pm (UTC)
Re: You've already gotten a few good suggestions
Ooh, great idea- baskets! I've got a few smallish ones that would add some interest to the table.

Good point. I'm going to try to borrow a metal dressform from my mum we we can hang up an apron and a purse or two.

Ooooh, I might bring my lilac candle- that'll probably bring in a few northerners (it's near impossible to grow lilacs where I live).

Thanks so much!!
Apr. 25th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC)
I honestly can't advise you much on this since I haven't worked a flea/farmers market in a long time but I can say this:

Do what you can to jazz things up in her booth. Grabbing shoppers from the crowd wont do anything except get you arrested and her banned. Silly suggestion at best!

1) Try to display things more attractively and if you can print out better signage, hey, do it; she might appreciate that. Have you ever seen the street vendors who sell bags? They lay out the smallest on the table and hang the others either on the side frame or on the front of the table by size. Lay the potholders, totes and kindle/iPad holders out on the table by groups.

2) Salesmanship isn't easy. Some people have a gift for it; some don't. I don't find selling easy but I have sold my beaded jewelry pieces as sets and in unorthodox ways: I've sold pieces when two different customers watched me finishing different sets (I was on Amtrak heading to Chicago when I made one sale and she refused to leave our seat area until the piece was finished!); other times, when I've worn a particular set or just asked someone to model a piece so I could shoot the picture. I've been caught beading at the park, on a train and at work so I usually wind up with someone asking if the piece is for sale. I'm letting a friend sell my pieces now but I will eventually set up a website for doing so.

Your MIL is awesome to be selling things so whatever changes you make, I hope they benefit her little business. Do it and have fun! Wear comfortable clothes, and relax; don't forget to smile too. The one thing that grabs a potential customer's interest in what you're selling is YOUR interest in what you're selling and what you can tell them about it. I wish you much luck :)
Apr. 28th, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
I think salesmanship is what I'm most worried about. I don't like being pushy-- I once worked a retail job where we were told to flat-out LIE to make a sale, so ever since then I've had a real distaste for it. I guess I'll just smile and be friendly and hope for the best!

Thanks for the encouragement!
May. 6th, 2014 06:46 pm (UTC)
I just get really excited about something I'm selling and talk to them about my product. If I see them looking at some earrings I can say, "if you like those I just made these up with some cool beads I found. Please let me show them off to you" Or, "did you notice the secret pocket inside that purse? I love hiding little treasures in there!" Enthusiasm can be infectious. It's not "trying to close the deal" but it shows that you are friendly and creates a common ground where the customer can talk about if they are interested.
May. 7th, 2014 03:01 pm (UTC)
Yessssss yes yes, that's exactly what I ended up doing! I sold several mini purses because I was wearing one and said, "Look how much they can hold!" and then just started showing strangers the contents of my purse, haha.

It was nice, though, because I didn't feel like Pushy McPusherson, but we ended up selling more stuff in that one day (4 hours) than she's sold over full weekends!
Apr. 25th, 2014 03:41 pm (UTC)
Okay a quick summary of advice given and more tips.

!) Dress up the table with a plain sheet or cheap tablecloth in a colour that will grab attention without screaming (no bright bold colours) and not overwhelm the merchandise. A light colour works best and unusual shades like purple get attention. Or use the colours from her logo. The sheet will also help hide the underside of teh table which is where you should have the additional stock stored.

2) Have large, easy to read signs posted through and above the merchandise.

3) Group by type and mix the colours up. For example, have the kindle covers go from light to dark in one size and from dark to light in the next size. Keeps items from blending into one another and adds visual interest. Keep a bit of space between items so that they can be kept neatly organized.

4) Get a peg board and paint it a night neutral colour like ivory and use it to hang items. If you can't fasten it to the tent frame (try hook and eyes with chains) see if you can brace it along one side of the table where you can keep an eye on it.

5) Once you get her logo fixed up, paint it on the tent so it's visible over the crowd. This is more for repeat customers in the future but it will also draw attention to her booth.

6) Besides lots of change, make sure you have bags for people to put their purchases in. Assume that 90% of sales will be single items.

7) Smile, smile, smile. Nothing turns me off from a sale faster than an unsmiling salesperson.

8) If you can get business cards designed and printed beforehand, make sure you have enough to place in each bag. Save yourself time by placing them into the bags before your go.

9) For your comfort, dress warmly and comfortably. Have an extra sweater or light jacket in case it's needed. Plenty of water and sunscreen. Sunglasses. Hat. Comfortable shoes. Chairs or stools for yourself and your partner. Have something to snack on before the day starts and for after.

10) Your mother-in-law should have an idea of how much she sells and how much stock she needs on hand but always plan for the best as well as the worst. As items sell, restock on a regular basis so no huge gaping holes are in the display. If you start running out of stock, have an idea how to rearrange things to keep your display as attractive as possible. This is where your partner can be handiest as he can rearrange the display if you are busy with customers.

11) You probably don't have time to colour co-ordinate everything to your MIL's logo but it's something to keep in mind to be done for her. Try and keep it as simple as possible - no more than 2 or 3 colours and a design that's easy to make. Have it displayed on the tent. on the corner of the price signs, even on the ends of the tablecloth. If the logo is in bright, bold colours, make the tent match but keep the tablecloth and peg board or whatever backing you use in lighter versions of the same shades.

Go through your MIL's stock and make sure you have enough bags, receipts, coins and small bills, business cards or flyers, to cover 90% of the stock in individual sales. Make sure price tags are securely fastened to the merchandise but are able to be removed without damaging the products. Check your signs to make sure all the products are listed.

Your MIL should have a good strong box to hold the cash. She should have two boxes, one with a lock that can be used to store the money as the morning passes. Your partner should be able to transfer the money from one box to the other under the table so that very little cash is showing in the one you're using. The second box can also hold extra rolls of coin and small bills in case they are needed.

Most importantly, try and enjoy yourself. If you find you are getting more sales than she does you might want to come back with her after the weeks you agreed to cover her and show her the changes you've made and help her set up the displays.
May. 6th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
I came back to re-read everything, and realized I forgot to say thank you!! These are all really good tips.

The few little changes we made (getting more product vertical, organizing, hanging up her sign) really made a difference! We've got some more re-working to do, and I made a TON of notes while I was there, but I think it's going to turn out pretty sweet.

We've got to figure out something better for the cash- she just keeps it in a big wad in a fabric pouch crammed in her apron, and I kept fumbling with it. I'll keep a lookout for a proper cash box.

Thanks again!
May. 6th, 2014 11:32 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.

If you need something fast, a flat jewelry box or man's valet box would work to help separate bills from change. Even a silverware chest could be used as you can place something in the slots to make dividers between bill types. Even a wallet with different slots for cards or change pockets would help.

I'm not sure where you can get a proper cash box, probably a store that outfits offices/small businesses would carry them.
Apr. 28th, 2014 08:35 pm (UTC)
I found ways to use the vertical space. I sold jewelry at a craft show. I was able to find 2 framed cork boards in the damaged/discount bin. I put fabric over the cork (ironed it with the seams tucked under. Then a thumb tack in each corner). I ducked taped the two frames together in the back to serve as a hinge, so it opened like a book. I was able to use small push pins to hang my jewelry.

For you this might mean you could pin up some of the tablet covers and smaller items. If you can't find cork boards, you can also use big picture frames (sometimes you can use coupons for 50% discoutns) (24X 36), take out the glass and line them with fabric. The cardboard backing should help you stick push pins in. Or you can line it with cork. They sell them in sheets in the craft store.

You might also consider hanging a plain sheet either against the walls of the tent, or just behind your table. Then you could safety pin her bags up. Set up and take down would just involve rolling up that sheet :)

You could also put up large signage listing your wares and hang it on the sheet instead. You can also do that for in front of your table, although it would be more visible above the table.

Good luck! I hope you have fun. I'm sure your MIL will appreciate you and her son helping with branding and making the set up pretty.
May. 6th, 2014 05:17 pm (UTC)
I came back to re-read everything, and realized I forgot to say thank you!!

Getting product vertical (we used small white wire shelves turned on their sides and zip-tied together, and clipped product up with clothespins) made a HUGE difference. SO many more people came over to look and touch and ask questions.

I think we may have a cork board hidden somewhere in the basement, I'm going to see if I can find it and spruce it up a bit.

Thanks again!!
May. 6th, 2014 06:39 pm (UTC)
Ooo wire shelves and clothes pins sounds like a good idea too!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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