Oct 232016

It’s that time of year again when, despite all of the preparations I have made for upcoming fall craft fairs, I find myself blogging less and creating more. One week ago my husband and I packed our car with folding tables and chairs, cloth bags of crocheted accessories, boxes of handmade books, and an assortment of display racks, signage and other items. I’m always surprised that everything fits in one vehicle, as well as grateful that my husband designs and executes the loading plan.

The destination was Clarinda Craft Carnival—my third time—at the Page County Fairgrounds in southwest Iowa, where Edi Royer—one of my Blogging Business Artisans teammates—also sells. This fair is typically pretty busy, so while we don’t have much time to visit during the event itself, we do meet up afterward for dinner. This year Edi, her parents, my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant, as well as conversation that never flagged. I realized afterward that we completely forgot to take photos of each other, but you can see Edi’s basic booth setup on her blog from a previous show, and my tables are shown below.



Of the two craft shows where I sell each year, the Clarinda one is more successful, but I learn something new at every venue. Whether you have lots of sales or not, it’s always a good idea to take stock of went well and what could be improved. With three weeks to go until my next show at Beaverdale Holiday Boutique in Des Moines, below is the learning I’ll take with me, going forward.

What went well

  1. Aim for a small footprint while transporting your goods. Using pretty lidded boxes to both store and display handmade books works well, as does using cloth bags to store and transport crocheted goods. Both types of items take up a relatively small footprint in our car for transport, and are easy to carry into the exhibit hall.
  1. Use an SKU (stock keeping unit) system for merchandise. Attaching SKU tags to my crocheted goods helps to track what colors and items are popular, and identifies quickly what items need to be restocked for the next show. I use a letter code that pinpoints the type of item (such as gloves, head warmers, neck warmers, or scarflettes) plus a numeric code that represents the yarn brand and color.
  1. Be prepared to do credit card transactions the old-fashioned way. I always bring a paper method as a back-up for handling credit card transactions. Although I prefer to use a Square credit card reader at craft shows, sometimes the building where I sell doesn’t have an adequate Internet connection. That’s the case in Clarinda, where my iPhone read “No Service” for the duration of the show.
  1. Simplicity can be the best booth layout. The booth size in Clarinda is only 8 feet wide by 5 feet deep, so a straight-line table display is what worked best for me. When you only have 18 inches behind your tables, that narrows your layout options. I also needed to have a way to enter and exit my space, as there were booths on either side of me, as well as behind me. To achieve this, I brought 4-foot, 5-foot and 6-foot tables—the shortest table for my books, and the longer tables for my crocheted goods, with 12 inches between the two types of tables for entry and exit.
  1. Aim for eye-level display. To go vertical, I used spinning racks that I purchased from Achieve Display for crocheted items, a combination of decorative boxes (from Jo-Ann Fabrics) and tiered acrylic racks (also from Achieve Display), and wooden plate racks (from Hobby Lobby) to display my books.
  1. Focus on popular colors. I focus on popular colors for crocheted goods based on the previous year’s sales, but I also pay attention to current apparel colors in local department stores. This year, I was pleased to discover I hit my target colors particularly well. No one asked for colors that weren’t already available.

Where I could improve

  1. Allow enough time for new product development. I’m overdue for offering a few new categories of crocheted accessories, such as boot cuffs, flower lariats, and maybe jewelry bags or clutches with crocheted accents. Buyers like to see new items, but I simply ran out of time this year—due to medical issues—to develop something new. I need to dedicate time to developing new products instead of leaving this to chance.
  1. Bring the right merchandise. Crocheted scarflettes do not sell as well as neck warmers. Unfortunately for me, I brought more of the former than the latter. Go figure!
  1. Bring more merchandise than you think you will need. Despite the fact that I brought more crocheted merchandise than in previous years, there were still a few hooks on my display racks that looked skimpy. The solution, of course, is to manage my time better so that I’ll have more items to display.
  1. Identify what your shopper wants. What customers want or need changes all the time, so you need to pay attention to their discussions with other shoppers, and really listen to their questions and suggestions. Sometimes a poll on a social network like Facebook or a blog can be helpful. Right now I’m still trying to pinpoint which of my handmade books are most appropriate for a craft fair venue. The answer might be a type of book I haven’t yet created.

During the next three weeks, I will have limited time to implement changes and improvements, but you can bet that at the next show, I’ll be paying attention to my buyers’ comments, and jotting them down in a notebook or on my Notes app on my iPhone. What learning have you taken away from your last craft show?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 172016

It’s that time of year once more, when preparations for fall craft shows are in full swing for crafters everywhere. Although it may feel, especially during the last few weeks before a show takes place, that things aren’t coming together fast enough, preparations for a successful selling event actually begin many months earlier. Unless you are selling at the same venues every year, you’ll have researched different possibilities ahead of time. Registration usually takes place at least six months before a craft show, although it is not unusual for confirmation to arrive as late as a month or two before an event. Meanwhile, you still have to take care of details under the assumption that you will be selling where you have registered.


This post describes some of the usual tasks involved before, during and after craft shows, once you have registered for an event. Whether you sell at only two craft shows a year—which is typical for me—or as many as half a dozen craft shows or more, you’ll go through these preparations.

  1. Identify your best sellers. When you sell at a craft show, it’s not particularly effective to bring everything you make. That’s sort of like throwing mud up against a wall to see what sticks. To be fair, however, you probably will learn what your best sellers are over time. You may have to fail at a craft show before you can succeed. This also means you may need to sell at the same venue several times, tweaking different factors before you discover what works best for you. What I have learned for myself, for example, is that my crocheted winter accessories outsell my handmade books at craft shows, so obviously that is where I need to focus.


  1. Design your booth. What I appreciate as a shopper often guides me in setting up my booth as a seller. An attractive display, merchandise that is organized and accessible, and easily visible signage are important to me as a shopper, so those are some of the basics to which I adhere when I set up a booth. Make sure you know ahead of time whether the ambient lighting is appropriate for your items, or whether you will need to supplement it. Don’t assume electricity will be available; research ahead of time and pay for accessibility, if necessary. Be prepared for different table setup configurations, too, unless you have been guaranteed a specific location in advance. Although many venues will rent tables to you, you increase your flexibility when you bring your own tables. I have four-foot, five-foot and six-foot long heavy-duty folding tables that I can set up in various ways. Additionally, design your booth so that your merchandise does not lie entirely flat. The closer you can bring items to eye level, the easier you make it for your customers to shop. This also makes your booth more visually interesting. Don’t be afraid to invest in fixtures; over time that investment will pay off. The same thought applies to attractive table coverings; even if you use table cloths (as I do) instead of fitted coverings, make sure you stick to one color that doesn’t detract from what you sell, and make sure the table covering extends to the floor, especially from the customer’s side.
Blogging Business Artisans friend, Edi Royer, uses fitted black coverings for her tables. She varies the height of merchandise on the table, and has a shelving unit for her laser-etched glassware.

Blogging Business Artisans friend, Edi Royer, uses fitted black coverings for her tables. She varies the height of merchandise on the table, and has a shelving unit for her laser-etched glassware.

  1. Price your merchandise. I cannot state strongly enough how important it is for your items to be clearly marked with prices. Many shoppers will simply move on to the next booth if they have to ask the seller about the price. Absolutely use price tags, consider using removable adhesive labels that don’t leave a residue, and use tent cards. Post clearly whether or not you accept credit cards. Most people bring a limited amount of cash with them and don’t want to spend it in only one booth. Research payment options such as Square, PayPal, or Etsy that use a smart phone to process credit card transactions. (See also this post, My new Square reader finally arrived.)
  1. Have an advertising plan. Sometimes customers are not ready to purchase from you at a craft show. Provide as much information as you can, answering questions and suggesting options. Most importantly, prepare for post event sales by having business cards on hand that provide contact information. Consider having a banner printed for your booth that similarly provides contact information. Vista Print, for examples, prints high-quality banners for under $20 and even provides online design options. If you are doing multiple craft shows, have a stack of handouts available that provides buyers with dates and locations. You can also invite buyers to join your email list; be very clear, however, how this email list will be used. Many people feel that email lists are a source of spam.
I use a banner from Vista Print that I pin to the table covering for my handmade books.

I use a banner from Vista Print that I pin to the table covering for my handmade books.

  1. Arrange for help. Will you need assistance in toting tables, shelves and merchandise to the craft show? Will you need help after the show, when you vacate your selling space? It takes energy to set up selling space, energy you’ll need to use when you chat with potential buyers, so the more help you get with housekeeping tasks, the better you’ll feel overall about the selling experience. It’s nice, too, if you can find a friend or relative to help you sell; you never know when you will have to leave the booth for bathroom or snack breaks, or to take care of other business.
My husband, John, helps me during every craft show with booth set-up, take-down and selling.

My husband, John, helps me during every craft show with booth set-up, take-down and selling.

  1. Plan for the next show. Be situationally aware while you are at a craft show. Listen to your buyers’ conversations, noting suggestions for wished-for items or alterations. Obviously you will not be able to please every person, but you can take note of any patterns in questions or comments. Keep your eyes open for booth display ideas, and take time to chat with other sellers. You never know what selling tips you will pick up. When you get home from a craft show, assess your results. What items sold out? What items were requested that you did not have on hand? What items sold best or least? What items do you need to replace before the next show? Identify what went well, what could be improved, and what steps you can take to make future changes.

You’ll find other tips for craft show preparation in some of my older posts, as follows:

If you are planning to sell at one or more craft shows this fall, what preparation tips can you add to this list?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 102016

Six months ago, for use at craft shows, I ordered a Square contactless and chip card reader. Unlike Square’s free reader that runs traditional credit cards with a magnetic stripe, this reader cost $49.99, with a promise that any transaction fees incurred during the first three months after delivery would be refunded. The new reader functions one of two ways:

  • You can “dip” the credit card into the reader and leave it in place for the duration of the sale.
  • You can hold contactless devices (such as an iPhone using Apple Pay’s NFC, or Near Field Communication, feature) near the reader to trigger payment.

Because of laws shifting responsibility for credit card fraud toward the party with less secure technology, sellers were urged to upgrade their credit card technology to accept chip-enabled credit cards by October 1st of last year. There is no law, however, requiring you to do so. You can read more about the new laws and liability on Square’s New Payment Technologies page, or visit What Etsy Sellers Should Know About EMV Credit Cards. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa, by the way.

Square’s intention was to ship the new readers to sellers in early fall of last year, but when that didn’t happen, they offered Liability Shift Protection for those who had ordered the new readers. Well, my new Square reader finally arrived yesterday, wrapped in a cute little box.


According to the back side of the box, the new app allows you to accept payments, tips, generate digital receipts and reports, take inventory, and more. Whether you are tapping (using the contactless feature), dipping (using a chip-enabled card), or swiping (running a card with a magnetic stripe through Square’s traditional reader, also included in the box), you pay 2.75% per transaction. Funds are deposited in your bank account automatically within one to two business days, and most importantly, you now have the most secure technology possible to protect you liability-wise against credit card fraud—assuming, of course, that you follow best business protection practices and best practices for accepting credit cards.

The new Square reader, incidentally, is made for both iOS (Apple) or Android devices with Bluetooth LE. You can visit square.com/BLE to learn more about whether or not your device is compatible with the new Square reader.


If you have already been using Square’s old reader for credit cards with a magnetic stripe, the device shown on the left in the photo above is no different than what you’ve been using. The device on the right, also shown below, requires you to charge it with a USB cable before using it. The cable is provided in the box. If, for some reason you encounter problems, you can visit Square’s Tips and Troubleshooting page for assistance.


The contactless and chip card reader is easy to use, as illustrated in Square’s video below.

I’m looking forward to trying out the new reader, but probably will not have a chance to do so until the fourth quarter of 2016, when I typically sell at craft shows. This also means that I won’t be able to take advantage of Square’s offer to cover transaction fees for the first three months after the device was shipped. Instead, I’ll simply take the cost of the device as a business expense.

You may be using another credit card reader, such as the one offered by PayPal or by Etsy. I can’t speak about the PayPal reader, as I haven’t used it, but I have successfully used the Etsy one, used in conjunction with the Sell on Etsy app. Etsy’s reader is for swiped cards only—for cards, in other words, with a magnetic stripe on the back side. You can, however, enter a credit card number manually into the Sell on Etsy app to accept payment. To Etsy’s credit, it has said, “Etsy will absorb the liability for credit card losses (including chargebacks) when we find that they resulted from third-party fraud.” Hopefully the site will come out with its own contactless and chip card reader, but to date I have not heard any news about such a plan.

If you have used Square’s new credit card reader, I’d be interested to hear about your experiences, good or bad.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.