Doing your first craft market can be daunting! But they are really nothing to worry about. Usually you will find yourself having a good chat to customers, making new friends with your neighbouring stall holders, and hopefully getting a fair few sales.
Applying for markets
If you've never done a craft market before its important to understand that most craft markets work on an application basis (unless you've specifically been invited to take part in one). They can often be over subscribed, particularly around busy seasons such as Christmas, so if you don't get accepted the first time around then don't take it personally. When I first started out I applied to the same market on 3 separate occasions before I got accepted, so please don't be deterred. Use the time wisely in between applications to grow your brand and product line and make sure you have great photography on your website, Etsy shop and Instagram page, as these are the things markets organisers will look at when selecting brands.
Which Craft Market is right for you?
Everyone will have a different experience at a market, and just as one brand could have a super day, another brand may not. You can't really predict it and so although its good to get peoples opinions about the general feel of the market, you are the only person who will really know if your products and price range are the right fit...so its worth doing your research.
Pop along to the markets to get a feel for them, see which brands are there and what their products and price points are. If you feel confident enough you could have a chat with the stall holders too. Not everyone will necessarily want to share feedback but I know personally that I always like to help if people have questions.
Went to Market is a great Market review website where you can search for markets all over the UK and have a look at traders feedback.
If you have an Etsy shop its also worth joining the LoLo Etsy Team Facebook Group as its a really welcoming forum where you can ask questions (not just about markets, and not just about Etsy!). I often post business queries on there - its a great way to get feedback from fellow makers.
I can only really recommend London based markets myself, but a few of my firm favourites are;
From my experience all of these markets are well organised, run by nice people, and generally have a good number of visitors. The organisers are established and experienced, good at promoting, and selecting venues with the right audience. I would only say that Renegade is losing its touch; I definitely noticed a decline in sales and the number of visitors the last time I did it, and feedback from a lot of other traders has not been great, but it is still one of the best markets I have done in terms of sales. Its more of an investment as it runs over two days and is a bit pricier to take part, so if you are not sure about it then perhaps try some of the one day markets first.
Be prepared for visitor numbers and sales to differ throughout the year. From my own experience Christmas markets are always the best in terms of sales and footfall (which makes sense really as more people are shopping for gifts, and unique gifts at that!). Spring / Summer markets for me have always fluctuated - sometimes I have a good one, sometimes not so good. Its useful to take note of big events occurring at the same time or the summer holiday period. These may all have a bit of a knock on effect on the number of visitors to the market, but again there is no way to really predict it.
Christmas comes early
Applying for Christmas markets starts early...like now! Some applications may already be closed so keep your eyes peeled and check in so you don't miss out. You can usually sign up to each markets individual newsletters so that you are the first to know about their market application opening dates.
Styling your stall
Generally you will need a table cover - a good tablecloth works wonders - look for a colour/material which goes well with your brand. Then think about how you can style your stall.
Think props and creating height. Sometimes everyday home decor objects can make great display props. I use magazine holders as art browsers, and metal or wooden storage boxes to display various items. I have also used plate racks to display cards, and trays to display candles. Its fun looking at normal everyday items in a new way! Get creative and think outside the box. Some great and affordable places to source these items are:
You can also try Morplan which sells specific retail props. Their clear acrylic stands are usually quite good and unobtrusive.
If you have a specific display piece that you need to fit your products and its not something you can find in the shops then you could try making it yourself. I made my own plant hanger out of some wooden dowel and copper pipe joints. Its amazing what you can come up with from a trip to your local DIY store!
If you don't have the tools to make your own props, you can also find some great shops online such as The Workbench Shop who can make bespoke pieces based on your designs. One of the great things about making your own props, or getting someone else to make them, is that you can aim to make them lightweight and flat packable which is extremely useful when carrying things to markets.
If you are lucky enough to have a table with wall space then its a great opportunity to make use of the extra display space. Command Strips are great for temporarily hanging picture frames, and you can also get Command Hooks which are great for displaying other items such as plant hangers.
You'll want people to know who you are right?! I usually present my logo in a frame (different sizes for different markets depending on the table space), but other great ideas I have seen include hanging a banner over the front of your table cloth (on the part hanging off the table, not where your stock will go!), or getting a wooden or acrylic laser cut sign board. If you have props with good height on your table sometimes you can hang a sign off these too.
How much stock should I bring?
This is one question that is almost impossible to answer as every brand will be different. Firstly it depends how many different products you have, and the number of options you have for each product. You can practice at home by setting up a table of similar size to your market stall (or just on the floor if you don't own a large table). See what fits and works with your display.
If you are already selling online then you may already have a good idea of your best sellers so this will really help you to decide what to bring more of.
I personally feel its quite good to have some variety of product prices, and if you are comfortable or if you really want to push certain stock then you can offer special discounts or offers. People love a bargain at a market it seems, and it definitely feels like a different shopping mentality compared to shopping in an actual shop.
Obviously you need to consider this carefully as you don't want it to be to the detriment of your brand, or to lose too much money, and its definitely not right for everyone. Don't sell yourself short.
If you sell personalised products, and want to use the market as a tool to promote your personalisation, you can take along some samples to display and take orders at the market. A lot of customers will be local, or UK based at least, so I often offer an incentive like free shipping for pre-ordered goods, but again make sure this works for you.
So you've got it all nailed now, well done! You just need to remember all your other essentials to make your day go smoothly;
- Card reader - this is such a worthwhile investment, especially if you plan to do more markets in the future. I Zettle and Paypal both offer decent card readers.
- Bag of change
- Business cards or flyers - Moo is great for this!
- Bags - of different sizes to fit your products
- Packaging - tissue, bubble wrap, gift boxes if you use them
- Stationery essentials just incase you need them; blue tac, drawing pins (just a few), scissors, tape, string, pens and paper. You don't need to bring too much but some of these things have been life savers for me at markets!
Insurance (the sensible stuff)
I think pretty much all markets will ask you to have insurance, and by far the most affordable one that I am aware of is through A-N - The Artists Information Co.
If you join a-n as an Artist, Artist Group, or Joint Artist and Arts Organiser member then you are automatically covered by their £5m PPL and £5m PI policy. The membership costs approx £38 for the year, but please make sure you read their T&Cs to make sure it is the right policy for you.
Not that you'll need it as you will be just fine!
Please note that these are my tips based on my own experiences. Everyones experience will be different! A lot of it is trial and error and finding what works for you. Sometimes even if one particular market doesn't go brilliantly the first time, it might be much better the second time. So take the plunge, give it a go and just keep learning from each experience you have.