This year was the first year I ventured into selling my items as a vendor in craft shows/maker markets. I carefully read all the blogs, Facebook posts, seasoned market seller info, and everyone had great insight on how to succeed during market season. I saw a lot about researching trends, looking into pricing of other local sellers in your area, building up a large inventory of easy to sell items etc. and while this is all really fantastic advice, it really didn’t fit in with who I am as an artist and the way I like to create. I am not the person you will find making 50 (or even 5!) of the exact same item. I don’t create solely for profit (and there’s nothing wrong with that if you do!), I am much happier making things that I love, and demonstrate my passion and skill in the pieces I choose to make and share. There isn’t a whole lot of advice out there for that business model, and in the end, I decided to just jump in and see what happened. I did a total of three shows, so I am by no means an expert, but I would like to share what I learned at each show, and hopefully it will help you if you have been thinking about selling your items in a market space.

My very first market was in the spring, and it was a first-time event for this particular venue as well. I came prepared with all of my spring/summer items, set up my display as best I could and settled in for the day. I used dress forms to display my more intricate pieces like my Spiderdream tunic and my Rainbow Serged Dreamcoat. I found those two pieces more than anything were my most popular items; I had so many people stop to talk to me about the uniqueness of my work and to learn a little bit about my process. I don’t know why, but it didn’t occur to me to tag my items with prices. People are generally uncomfortable with asking for pricing while browsing, especially at small local markets. I did have a few people ask about prices and even though I had priced them ridiculously low for the amount of work and materials, no one was interested in buying. I also had an assortment of bags, halter tops, lightweight scarves and water balloons. I didn’t expect to sell much of anything because May is typically my off season and I was right. I did however manage to make my table fee back, plus a little bit (every single sale was a set of water balloons!), and made a few new connections with some local makers and fellow fibre artists, so I was quite happy with that.

 

My second market was in October, and I shared space with a family member who has been a vendor at several different types of shows. We both crochet, but we had different items, so there was a nice range of product, and it was easy to see our two distinct ‘mini shops’. This market was an Etsy Marketplace show, so it had better advertising and more visibility than my first one, and being in October, my primarily fall/winter items were a good fit. I was surprised to see many familiar faces that had seen me and recognized me from my spring show. I was much better prepared this time, every item had a business card price tag, or a sign indicating prices of groups of items like hats. I also reevaluated all of my pricing, making sure I was being more fairly compensated for my experience and time. My items sold extremely well and our table was one of the busiest the entire day. I sold my main showpiece, my Rainbow Serged Dreamcoat, as well as lots of hats and Smittens. The Smittens were by far the highlight of the day.

 

I didn’t label them, and put them front and centre on the table. Everyone had fun trying to guess what they were for, and it gave us an opportunity to speak to potential customers about our work. I nearly sold out of Smittens, and at the end of the day only had one left! Hats were also very good sellers, all of my colourful and textured ones sold first, and my more simple ones didn’t sell at all. I was thrilled to see people respond to my more exciting pieces. My scarves and cowls, however, didn’t do well at all. They weren’t displayed terribly well, I had to stack them on the table, and people don’t like to pick through things to be able to see them. Overall though I was thrilled with how I did for the day; my sales were steady throughout the day, we were one of the busiest vendors at the show and it was much more profitable than I had anticipated, which is always a nice surprise!

 

My third and final Market for this year was a two day event at the beginning of December. Again I shared a space, this time with a friend that I taught to crochet a few years ago, and has a similar style to my own. This time we opted to set up the table all together as one, grouping our items together by type, instead of by maker. I set up my best pieces on the dress forms, and set up a small area in front of the table for the larger scarves and the blankets made by my friend. We added some extra height to the table display, and made lots of little niches to showcase some of our smaller pieces. All of our items were labelled, tagged and well organized, and we kept a written list to track sales by maker to keep processing payments easier at the front end. This was also a very successful market, and once again I sold one of my large showpieces (a Spiderdream Tunic), and a lot more hats and Smittens. I ended up with just one Smittten left at the end of the day, and again my more intricate and colourful hats sold first. The scarves and cowls again didn’t sell well. The first day, my scarves got mistaken as blankets, and even after moving them on the second day, they still didn’t get much attention. My friend also sold a lot of hats but her most popular makes were definitely her granny square slipper boots, and octopus amigurimi, and again we were one of the busiest vendors at the market!

Things I feel I did well:

  • my displays were unique, bright and inviting, with several intricate, showy pieces to draw people in and start up a conversation
  • a large variety of items, lots of bright colours, and pieces that most people hadn’t seen before
  • maximized the space around the table to show off larger items like sweaters and blankets
  • was prepared with lots of change and a Square card reader, as well as offering e-transfer to easily process transactions and offer a variety of payment options
  • tracked sales and payments with an itemized list

  Things I could have improved on:

  • making a full, detailed inventory/price list. I was unprepared for how many people were interested in purchasing my showpieces at the first show, and at the busier fall shows, had to try to remember what was in the under stock for people asking about other colours etc. 
  • it was hard to see some of my products, and some were not displayed to their best advantage
  • having more men’s/boys items. There was a lot of interest, but most of my inventory was geared to women/girls
  • the spring market was definitely not a great season for me. I will either stick to fall/winter markets, or if if i try again in the spring, I will do some extra research into what people might be looking for in my area

 

Overall I am pretty happy with my first year as a market vendor. I may have only done three shows, but in those three I learned a lot each time and had a great response from the public. The greatest and most frequent compliment I received was “Your things are so beautiful, I’ve never seen anything like this before”. I take pride in my work, and I love every single piece that I offer for sale. If I don’t love it, I will not offer it for sale, gift it, or donate it. I will take things apart and remake them until they are exactly right. I like to think that it shows, and that it was a large part of why I had such a positive response. I am looking forward to using the things I learned this year to build and grow for next year!

What was your biggest market success this year? What would you have done differently?

Until next time,

Mellissa