As you are probably aware, craft fair season is upon us! Generally craft fair season lasts throughout the holidays so even if don’t have any summer shows planned, the insights I’m going to lay out for you here may very well com in handy later on in the year!
Craft shows can be super fun and profitable (if you are prepared + informed) but raise a lot of questions for vendors because the format is so different than they are used to if they sell primarily online. One such question: “should I plan to take custom orders at craft shows?”
Related post: Craft Show Must Haves
It may feel natural to say, “of course I’ll take custom orders at a show!” but here are some very good reasons to reconsider.
People came to shop, not order
At best, shows attract a buying audience – people who came with the understanding that this is a shopping event and they are ready to drop some money if they see something they love. At worst, the events draw people who want to browse and window shop. In either of these situations, having items that can be purchased and taken away from the booth RIGHT NOW will make you the most money.
It won’t fill your booth
Visually appealing booths with lots of product will entice people in. If you show up to your booth with just a few samples, or MOSTLY samples, you probably will not fill your booth or create an enticing display (unless you have a TON of samples, which seems silly) … which will leave your foot traffic lacking and therefore, no one to sell anything to. If you are going to spend that much time making samples, you should just make items people can buy outright.
You’ll spend precious time with a single customer
Craft shows don’t last forever, and there are definitely peak hours. You want to maximize your presence, not isolate yourself to one single person who became all consuming. If you do custom work, you know there is a decent amount of discussion and back and forth that goes on before the order is placed. In the case of personalized items where maybe the options are just available from a list, there is still a process that needs to be gone through – and if you are there, available for questions, questions will be asked! This takes time and therefore it takes time and attention away from the people who are wanting to buy the items you do have on hand. It will take up a lot of your time as the vendor, and you’ll have someone standing around in your booth for a while… this could diminish the returns you’d see on your show and that’s no fun at all.
What to do instead:
Rather than allot time and space to the idea of offering custom pieces – or taking orders in any capacity outright – keep this in your back pocket. If someone is showing a lot of interest in a piece but “would rather have it in blue and green” (or whatever situation) then you might consider offering them the ability to place an order. You can keep a form with you behind the scenes (and a clipboard and a pen) that you can pass over to the one or two very interested customers if needed.
The truth is most people will pick from what you have if they don’t realize customization is an option, so don’t make it harder for them to decide or buy! Too many options is usually worse than not enough.
Related post: 25 Lessons Learned from Filling 2,500+ Custom Orders