So in my other life I often sold antiques and collectibles at shows and street fairs (not so much any more), and one of the things I still like to do is go to antique shows and fairs just to keep up with the latest trends, and to touch base with old friends. A couple of weeks ago I visited one of my favorite local shows and watching several newcomers to the show circuit setting up for the first time had me remembering all the things I had learned from the years I had done the shows. So here are a few of my do's and don'ts for those doing shows of any kind.
Don't sit behind your table playing a game on your iPad, iPhone, or laptop. Yes it can get boring during the slow times (and every show has them), but its just annoying to try and get someones attention and they are too busy playing games (or reading a book, or talking on the phone with their friends) to respond.
Don't scream at the young kids trying to touch your precious wares. If they are that precious, keep them up out of kids reach. The best way to tick off a parent and lose their business, be rude to their kids (even if they are obviously little spoiled brats). Better yet, keep a few, kid friendly items at a low area where the kids can look and touch all they want. Some of my best customers were kids that remembered playing with the kid friendly stuff I had placed aside. (after all the kids do grow up)
Don't give someone the glare of doom just because they ask if your prices are firm. If you can come down a little any make a sale great. If you can't just say "sorry, but that's the best I can do" and let it go. Better yet offer a discount if they buy multiple items.
Don't be afraid to ask someone to please leave your booth. We've all had them, the belligerent, rude, possibly high or drunk customer. The one who insists on running down everything in your booth because of price, condition, color, etc. The one who stands where no one else can enter and deliberately tries to cause a scene. Just apologize for not being able to help them and ask them to please leave your booth. If they don't ask a neighbor if they will please get security for you. Not only will your neighbors thank you for getting rid the irritant, so will the customers who have been trying to avoid them.
Don't start the sale with too little change. Someone is bound to hand you a $100.00 bill for an item that costs less than $10.00. Its a given. I never left home without at least $100.00 in ones, tens, and fives respectively, and at least 2 $50.00 and $200.00 in twenties. Usually within the first hour I would have had to break 3 - 4 $100.00 bills. If admission is being charged, the promoter is usually willing to bust a couple of them for you later on in the day.
Don't eat a messy meal at your booth. Yes its okay to drink a bottle of water or juice or soda. Its also okay to have finger foods, such as cheese sticks, or grapes, or even crackers to munch on. But burgers, fries, soups, anything that can drip, or is greasy, or can leave stains, should be saved until you can walk away from the booth. Its kind of embarrassing to be talking with customers with food stains on your clothing, or fingers stained with potato chip residue or grease.
Don't forget to have a notebook for customers and potential customers to sign up for a mailing list, (you can also ask for email addresses.) This is a great way to promote yourself. At least once or twice a year you can send your customers a short newsletter type mailer, detailing shows you will be appearing at, offering discount coupons, including discount entrance fee coupons if the promoter supplies them, etc. And should you decide you want to have a home boutique sale, you have a built in buyers list.
Don't forget a wants list notebook. Many people are looking for specific items, and if you have a name and way to contact them, if you find the item you can let them know. Some of my best sales came from my wanted list. The best part, there was no waiting around until the next show or sale and many times the customer would end up buying several things along with the one item they had been looking for.
If your doing a craft show, don't forget an album of the other things you do. You may not have that specialized $300.00 quilt with you, but if you have a photo of it, detailing the size, length of time to make, etc, you may just get a custom order for one. And don't forget the sign stating that you do custom orders. Just let the customer know what type of deposit is required (I always do a 50% non refundable, this usually covers the materials and the time it takes me to acquire the materials), and give a specific type frame when the project will be ready for pick up or shipment (if shipping, include extra for postage and insurance), and get specific details as to size, color, type of materials, etc, in writing.
If tables and chairs can be rented from the promoter, do it. Yes it will add to the bottom line expenses, but the space they would have taken up in your vehicle can be used to pack additional merchandise for sale.
Wishing all who undertake to do the shows out there, the best of luck.