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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Apr 282015
 

Whether you sell online or at physical venues such as a craft fair, gift boutique or open house, it’s important to know who your customer is. If you look at my books and journals in MisterPenQuin, what strikes you almost immediately is that the vast majority of books and journals are probably for women and girls, especially with a flower affixed to the cover. “So so cute!! Great gift for a pre-teen!” reads a comment from one of my buyers in regard to the book below. I’m pretty sure the address book was gifted to a girl, not a boy.

Address BookAccording to a recent article in Etsy’s Seller Handbook, How to Make Your Products More Giftable, adding some gift ideas to your shop can help you reach new customers. Such as, for example, guys. In the article, Etsy merchandising specialist Emily Bidwell points out that “Buyers really engage with content that offers ideas for guys. They’re really craving gift ideas for men.”

Although I don’t personally have a problem finding gifts for the guys in my life, that may not be true of everyone. According to the Seller Handbook article, people often have a person and an occasion in mind when they shop for a gift, but not necessarily a product. By developing one or more gift products for a specific type of recipient, and generating titles and tags that apply to these products, you are more likely to pull in the appropriate shoppers.

For all you know, you may already have items in your shop geared toward a specified type of person. With Father’s Day close on the heels of Mother’s Day, I figured it might be a good idea to look at the gender neutral products I already have, and earmark them for guys. Not every book or journal in my shop has a flower on the cover! Here are a couple of products I found whose title and tags could be adjusted so the focus is more male.

Safari Stripes Mini Blank Book

Safari Stripes Mini Blank Book

Leaves of Gratitude Journal

Leaves of Gratitude Journal

There are several principles you should keep in mind when developing gift products for a new customer:

  • Style and utility. Keep in mind the recipient’s preferences and needs, and how your product might fit into both. In other words, is the product something your recipient can really use? Can you make the recipient feel a need he or she doesn’t know about? Is the item functional or purposeful? Does the color, size or style have a somewhat universal appeal, or is one or more of these factors so funky that only the narrowest range of recipients will find the product appealing? It’s helpful, in this regard, to keep watch on market trends.
  • Pricing. Set a price that’s in the gift-giving range, which probably averages about $22-23. The article, How to Make Your Products More Giftable, suggests a price point somewhere in the $20 to $40 range for someone the buyer knows well, and $10 to $15 for someone less well known.
  • Uniqueness. Maybe your product has a silly or clever side, making it unique and gift-worthy. The word “geekery” comes to mind, but in a positive sense. Make sure you highlight what makes your product unique through photos, title, tags and your product description. It’s a package deal, so make sure all of your details match.
  • Packaging and customer service. Using Etsy’s Listing Variations feature, you can offer your customer a gift wrap and/or gift card option. This helps close the sale, making the buyer feel you are taking care of the entire gift-giving process, taking them from selection to wrapping and shipping. Make sure your packaging makes a positive statement, and treat your customer the same way he or she would expect to be treated in a specialty boutique. That’s what your shop really is, in a word.

There are several times of year and certain types of occasions for which you can plan to highlight products for a specific type of customer. Some of these include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. Keep on top of trends by visiting Etsy’s Seller Handbook and typing “trends” into the search box. Here are a couple of posts I discovered for 2015:

After I read Etsy’s How to Make Your Products More Giftable, I decided to create a Gifts for Men section in my shop, so if you’re looking for something special for that guy in your life, you’ll want to visit that section HERE. And here’s a new password book I’ll be adding to that section soon.DSCN8955What type of new customer would you like to attract? What products do you anticipate offering?

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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