Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To market, to market: Part One.

I have high hopes of having a few stalls at one of our local markets this Summer.

I have done a few markets in the past, both big and small. I have done a few Craft2.0 fairs, the Mapua fair in Nelson and, many moons ago, Craftwerk in Wellington. But I've always felt like I haven't quite mastered the art of market-ing. (Not to mention it has been some time..!)
I have asked a few of my crafty friends, who I consider to be very successful at market selling, to answer a wee questionnaire and offer me some advice. I though that you lovelies might also like to benefit from their knowledge.

First up is the very talented Emma of Emma Makes fame:

1. Tell us a little about who you are, and what it is you make and sell.
My name is Emma Makes. I design and sew my own range of bags, zipper purses and soft toys using small runs of vintage and new textiles. I also make a line of notebooks and design witty pencils.

2. How long have you been doing markets, and how often do you do them?
I started selling at markets at the same time I started selling - about five years ago. I don't do heaps of markets - probably anywhere from between two to five a year. 

3. I know that you also sell online, which is your preferred way of selling? Why?
I prefer a combination of selling online and selling through stockists to selling at markets. By selling online and having a presence on Facebook and my blog I feel I can really tell the story of Emma Makes and what I'm about a whole lot better than going to a range of markets. If you know my website/blog/Facebook then you know what I'm about, you appreciate craft and handmade and you like New Zealand made. Same with stockists - I like developing long-term relationships with people who can represent me and my work. I find markets really hit and miss.

A fair in Palmerston North
4. What are your top tips for the layout of the stall? How important is the look of your table?
My layout is really important and it's different each time. Here's my top tips:
  • Take a tablecloth that goes to the ground. It looks neater and will also allow you to hide extra stock underneath.
  • Take some props that give you height - it makes it easier for people to see what you're selling and is more visually interesting if things are at different heights.
  • Create clear, large signage - sometimes people don't want to ask how much things are.
  • ALWAYS take a business card or some way for people to contact you after the fair - if the punters are the kind of people to buy craft and design then give them out liberally. I have Emma Makes postcards and have made many sales after fairs from people who've taken my card. I once did a fair with the sole purpose of giving everyone that visited my table an Emma Makes branded pencil - I recently met a bunch of woman that remembered that probably three years later - branding and marketing is really important to me.
  • You don't need to stand but if you sit then do something - hand sewing is a good thing to do because then customers can talk to you about what you're making. It also means you don't get into the habit of staring, which can be intimidating to shoppers.
5. Is it good to have as much stock as possible, or is less more? If you have a lot of stock, do you display it all?
I always take lots of stock but don't put it all out. I keep multiples in reserve and refresh stock throughout the day. I also don't take everything I make - for example, I make some really niche items like ukulele covers and iPad covers and these always sell better online. 

Alt. Shift. Craft fair
6. How about pricing - do you have different prices for markets? Do you have an specific way of pricing that seems to work I.e even numbers, odd numbers, all under a certain price etc
I have the same price at markets as I do online. I price based on a pretty standard model, which is worked out on how much something cost me + how much tax I'll have to pay on it + how much profit I want to make. I like to keep my products affordable too but not cheap. I don't think people who price their work really cheaply are doing anybody any favours. 

7. Are you very chatty with people browsing your stall? Or do you prefer to step back and let them look?
I judge my level of chattiness with each customer - I have a really low tolerance for inane retail conversation so don't want to bore the pants of people by wittering on about the weather. I say hello to almost everyone that comes to my stall and then take it from there - some people don't want to chat, others introduce themselves as Facebook fans/blog readers (which I love).

A market at a winery
8. Any other advice you'd like to share?
  • Be choosy about the markets you attend - often time I think people get caught up by the hype of a "market" and the outcome (cold hard cash) can be disappointing if the right people don't come or it hasn't been marketed well. Also be really honest with yourself about what the fair is going to cost you and what kind of money you want to make. There's a couple of no-brainers - in Auckland the Auckland Craft Fair is a really professional well-run event and in Wellington Craft 2.0 is generally good (October is the best fair to sell at) although both are quite pricey in terms of stall fees. The fairs run in Palmerston North by Alt. Shift. Craft are fantastic with a craft-loving audience and heaps of brilliant promotion. I run a fair in Greytown in December called Craft Country, which is always good - and I've also found that sometimes community events can be worthwhile. I tend to avoid anything marketed to families as a fun day out because people go to those looking for a bargain and entertainment.
  • Don't leave the promotion of the fair you're selling at up to the organisers. I always write a blog post about the fairs I'm going to, let my Facebook fans know ahead of time and take a photo of my stall from the fair and post it on Facebook - just this weekend a customer told me she hadn't heard about the fair but saw it on my Facebook page and came down.
  • If you go to a fair as a seller be nice to others - you'd be surprised how many fairs I've turned up to where other sellers have been in a bad mood or people have tried to take over the space I've paid to put my rack in and it really makes for a stink start to the day.
  • Find some honest friends who also do markets and will tell you how much money they made - after a fair there's often a lot of "that was the best fair EVER" conversation on social media sites and being able to compare your day with others who have a grip on reality is invaluable.
  • When you're applying for a fair always send good photos. Always.
 Craft 2.0Thanks so much for sharing with us, Emma!

You can find Emma on Facebook HERE, on Felt HERE and on Wordpress HERE.


  1. Thank you thank you THANK YOU!!! What an awesome idea and thanks Emma for sharing your market wisdom. I have my first coming up and am bricking it a little but you have put my mind somewhat at ease. Woohoo!

    1. Good luck for your first stall Katie - the first one is always so nerve-wracking and so exciting as well. Making your first sale and having people like what you've made is a wonderful experience. Also, like Melissa says in today's post - take water. At one craft fair I drank six litres and peed once.

  2. Cool! Love emma's stuff ~ and what a great idea to do these interviews about markets ~ definately something I'm keen to learn more about :)