Christmas is nearly upon us, and most of us are moving towards our last craft fairs and markets of the year. When the frantic period of Christmas sales are over, it is tempting to put away your products and display racks and forget about it all until the spring. However, the quieter time that comes between the last of the Christmas markets and the spring is a good time to look back at how your business has performed, and to get ready for the year ahead. In this blog we will share our top 5 things that we do once our last markets of the year are over to ensure we are ahead of the game, and ‘craft fair ready’ for the year to come.
1. Look back on the year just gone
It may be an obvious start, but it is surprising how many of us just go straight into next year without taking stock of trends and how things went in the year just gone, and repeat the same processes for next year. You need to identify what went well and what didn’t so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes next time. As the old saying goes, if you do what you always do, you will get what you always get.
You might want to start by looking at finances. Now is a good time to do this, as for many sole traders in the UK it is almost the time to submit your tax returns anyway, so if you have been working on your tax return figures you can use all of that data to help you prepare for next year. How much did you spend on materials, craft stall fees, public liability insurance? make a list of every expense no matter how small. Don’t forget to include your food and travel expenses too. If you are a beginner you may not have broken even, if you are established you may have done very well. It will depend on where you are in your craft fair journey.
Next, take a look at what you sold. Are there certain lines, colours or products that sold better than others? If so, then you may need to think about whether you continue with some products and drop others. However much you like making some products, if they don’t sell you will end up with a cupboard of items that you can’t shift. You have to be quite ruthless. If you have a product that you really don’t want to drop, then think about how you might be able to present them another way.
What were the craft fairs like that you went to? Were the venues good?, were they well organised? If so, did that transfer into sales for you? Some craft fairs can have great footfalls, but that isn’t everything. If the fair doesn’t really fit your products then you won’t get many sales whatever the footfall.
2. New Lines Or Products
After having looked back over the past year and identified which products sold the best, now is the time to think any new products or lines that you would like to sell next year. You need to get started on this early. Elements such as obtaining new materials, making a prototype, and pricing the finished product all take time.
In addition, it is a good idea to give your customers the heads up that you will be bringing new exciting products to your craft fairs or your online shop this year. This means taking time to photograph them, and advertise them on your social media pages, blog or newsletter if you have them. You need to do this well ahead of time, so that people can come to the craft fair to see you. Remember not all sales have to come from the footfall generated by the craft fair organisers, you need to drive customers to buy from you too.
3. Display & Branding
A good display is always a draw for customers. Can you make any improvements? Does anything need repairing? It might be as simple as a change of table cloth, or you may need some different display racks. The latter might be the case if you are planning to offer very different products from the previous year that require their own style of display. This may take time to prepare if you need to research display racks or test out your ideas for a new display at home. If you do decide to change your display bear in mind the table sizes at the craft fairs you are attending.
Alongside your display needs is your branding. Do you have certain colours that you use, a specific ethos, or style? If so you need to evaluate this at the end of each year. If you don’t, then you should at least look into it at this stage. Things like business cards, packaging, display items, website (if you have one) should be coherent in their style. Now is the time to work on this. If you do nothing else make sure you have some business cards. Craft fairs are all about making connections with customers and networking with organisers and other sellers, so make sure you have plenty for the next round of craft fairs. Also, make sure they are up to date if you have changed your phone number, or email and website address.
4. Payment Methods
Selling at craft fairs these days means going armed with a cash box and a method to take card payments. If you are only going with cash alone and not taking card payments then you are seriously missing out on sales!
However, not all companies that provide card payment facilities are equal. There are lots to choose from these days SumUp, Zettle, and Square are just a few, but their benefits and rates of commission are different. You may have already set yourself up with a card payments company, but sometimes your needs change over time, so it would do no harm once a year to compare rates, and change if necessary.
5. Book Your Craft Fairs
Every year, whenever we run our own craft fairs, we get potential stall holders that miss out by applying to sell only a few weeks before the market. If you want to get a stall at a good craft market you need to apply and secure your pitch early. Organisers allocate a finite number of pitches for each craft to ensure that that the craft fair has a variety of products to attract customers. The stalls for popular crafts such as jewellery, or wooden items fill quickly. Some crafts fluctuate in popularity, for example two years ago we were flooded with people wanting to sell candles and wax melts, this year it was crochet and knitting. We do not always know what the trends will be, but if you apply early you are in with a better chance of securing a spot.
Start online or in local parish magazines by looking at craft fairs that were run in the last year. Various web based sites like Stallfinder and UKCraftFairs will have lists of craft fairs and a calendar of when they are run. Once you have done this check your budget and start booking your stalls. Some craft fair organisers will open up as early as January for bookings for the whole year, and the popular crafts such as those mentioned above can be fully booked within a couple of months.
In essence , you need to start thinking about next round of craft fairs as soon as you have packed away your stock for the Christmas break. Start with your finances, as this will be useful for your self assessment or tax return which for most of us completing it in the UK is generally either 31st January or the 5th April each year.
Staying on the subject of finance, check out getting a card payment machine if you don’t have one, or research the best deals if you haven’t changed yours in a while.
Before you start trading at craft fairs next year take a look at your display, and branding to see whether you can make any improvements, and to make sure you have all the stationery you need to hand out to customers.
Remember to check out the sites advertising craft fairs and markets regularly from the last months in the previous year, as organisers will be advertising for sellers from then for the next year. Once you see a market that you would like to attend, don’t wait too long to book it.