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Friday, December 14, 2012

Exhibiting at Shows and Lessons Learned

In November and December 2012, I participated in 3 synagogue Hanukkah Bazaars. My specialty is creating Jewish jewelry and kippot, so I was excited to be there.

  • 1 of my new customers who purchased 2 headcoverings from 1 show suggested my name to the 2nd show, so I attended.  
  • They used a central checkout system, so I didn't have to worry about change or payments.
  • Part of my show sales went to the synagogue(s) as a donation.
  • I was able to get my name and business cards out there into the Jewish community.
  • My first round table set up (way too much)

  • The number of jewelry vendors allowed was not limited, so there was a a lot of competition.
  • All items were not handmade - Handmade cannot compete with resellers (especially jewelry resellers).
  • The number of attendees and foot traffic was light.
  • At 1 of the shows, I did not make back my fees, and the community is not my target market, so I won't be back next time.

Thanks to my hubby and schlepper

What I noticed was sold by others at these shows 
  • inexpensive mass-produced jewelry (earrings under $5)
  • vintage mass-produced jewelry
  • handmade jewelry around $15-20
  • Avon
  • scarves, hats
  • kid's items, toys

  Lessons Learned and future considerations for me:
  • Ask if the show features handmade items
  • If it's a mix, consider lowering booth fees (only 1 table)
  • Limit the amount of items displayed*
I used a round table for the first time and wasn't sure exactly how to set up. Usually, I move jewelry around during the show. At the last show, I began putting things away, reducing my display choices. When I limited the quantity of available items, people purchased or stopped to asked questions about my jewelry and kippot.

Now I understand why some of the successful Etsy sellers produce a few variations of the same item. Too many choices of my handmade jewelry designs overwhelm people and instead of purchasing, they walk on.

I always bring too much jewelry to shows, figuring people need to see it all in person. 

My Show Specials:
  • I emailed some clients and friends a discount coupon (3 friend showed up)
  • Bracelets, scrabble tile and glass necklaces under $10 will be 1 section of my display 
  • I'm hoping that these smaller items will sell and help me earn my booth money back.
What lessons have you learned at shows?


  1. Shows are always a tricky one to figure out! They're such a trial and error event, but as long as we learn something from each one, they are worth it :)

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences and lessons learned.

    It is very difficult for handmade to compete with the mass products. I've learned the hard way to hold out for the "juried" shows that have 80% handmade items available to the 20% Made in China types.

    Another lesson I've learned, show hosts don't care about our competition. They are in it for the vendor booth fees. Only a few will limit same type products and have it first (say first 5 jewelry vendors) to sign-up, first to participate.

    The last show I did, over 300 vendors! It was much too big! I heard many folks say, "I'll be back" but I never saw them again. I later learned, they couldn't find me, they couldn't remember where I had my booth! Won't be doing that one again!

    Good luck! May you have great success in your next show!

  3. Thanks Edie and Lanetta.

    Lanetta, you're right about the hosts; they just want to sell space.

  4. So sorry about the one really disappointing show -- but every contact made is a seed planted. And people may remember your beautiful work for special occasions.

    What I've learned doing craft fairs:
    1. NEVER vend at an outdoor event.
    2. Cheap sells. (I don't mean cheaply made, but low cost items that will be good for impulse buys and stocking stuffers.)
    3. Kid stuff sells.
    4. Contacts made are seeds planted--some may contact you after the show for custom orders or higher ticket items--or visit your Etsy shop.
    5. Each show has its own personality--you need to stay with shows that "fit" your personality and your product offerings.
    6. You have to sell a LOT of cheap stuff to recoup your booth rental fee, so make lots. Use leftovers as little holiday thank yous for bigger Etsy orders later, or save for next year.
    7. Offer something unique. An item that sold out last year may not get more than a passing glance this year.
    8. Have something that is a little bit "trendy" in limited supply (Etsy trends are a good source).
    9. Arrange with a buddy or spouse to cover a 10-minute break sometime during the day!
    10. Think of it as an adventure...or a learning experience.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Linda. Shows are always a learning experience. This past year a did a show every month of the year, and I won't do that next year. Finding out as much as possible before a show is my top priority. Good luck with your shows next year.
    Everyday Inspired


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