Top tips to run a successful market

Display at Paperdolls Handmade; Summer 2018

Display at Paperdolls Handmade; Summer 2018

Markets are a great opportunity to meet your customers, sell your work, meet other makers, grow your newsletter list and work towards having a more cohesive collection of work. I’ve participated in them for about 4 or 5 years and wanted to share some tips about how to get the best our of them. To make this a more balanced article I've also asked some friends for their top tips, so whether you are new to it all, or have been around the block I'm sure you'll find something useful below....

Display

This is probably one of the biggest areas to think about in advance. An attractive display will always draw people in, but how do you do it?

Stall of Jack Laverick

Stall of Jack Laverick

Not only do I love Jack's geometric planters, but I love the way he has used different levels within his display so that some of the products are directly at eye-level, in a design which complements his contemporary style. You'd spot his stall a mile off while casually walking around a market. He also uses lighting to good effect; quite often you can be in hall which uses artificial lighting - be prepared. Cheap sources include LED fairy lights or clip on lights from IKEA.

Other ways you can put products at eye level is by stacking boxes, using simple shelves or creating a shelf to display work so that it is at different heights. In my stall image above I have an A-frame for my plant-hangers which is always a good way to draw people in. I’ve seem people use small tables and stools to create height and interest too.

Frilly’s colourful and eye-catching display

Frilly’s colourful and eye-catching display

Think about your branding. How you decorate your stall needs to reflect your brand ethos and personality. Its useful to get the name of your brand in your design so that people will remember who you are. Takeaway business cards with image product photography can be useful for this too (Moo prints different images within the same pack).

Says Frilly Industries: "Help people understand who they are in relation to your brand. This is why we make our diverse range of heads to show the wide appeal of our jewellery designs. Know your demographic by also helping people understand that they can be part of it too."

Felted accessories and lighting from Felti

Felted accessories and lighting from Felti

Atmosphere - think about how cosy and inviting you can make your stall, like this one from Felti. The addition of fairy lights and subtle nods to Christmas will tell an inviting story.

Plan and set up your design in advance so that you know exactly where you will place everything, find out how big your table will be and plan accordingly. Set up will be usually 1 hour (2 if you are lucky) so when space and time are tight you will feel confident that you know exactly where everything goes.

I always like to have a plan in advance and quite often my set-up will change from fair to fair.

A little mock-up in my home of how the stall will look.

A little mock-up in my home of how the stall will look.

Nature inspired jewellery from Grace and Flora

Nature inspired jewellery from Grace and Flora

Selling and pricing

Tell and not sell", says Kate from Grace & Flora. "When someone approaches your stall stand up, smile and say hello. Don't be shy to explain what makes your work special, how its made, the materials and your inspiration etc. People come to fairs for a different experience, not just 'shopping'. For the most part they are keen to meet the maker."

Eloise and her colourful display of hand-made books

Eloise and her colourful display of hand-made books

Clear pricing is important, as Eloise from The Eloise Bindery explains: "Make sure your prices are clearly visible as people are afraid to ask for a price. A visible price list can be helpful for this. Also a card reader is a must so you don't want to miss out on sales, but as a back up people can always pay using the paypal app. You'll also need a good float for people who still like to pay by cash."

Get your actual pricing right. Explains Frilly Industries: "Starting out with a slightly cheaper price is tempting in the beginning but if you want to manage customer expectations, properly cover your costs, time and position yourself correctly amongst your marketplace competitors, so that you get your prices right.

"Use the Design Trust resources for calculating the right costs, especially if you want to sell wholesale. Don't ever sell yourself short as this hurts your peers and competitors and it's not cool. Its easier to reduce your prices at a market then put them up!

"Help people to understand the value of a locally made and independently designed item."

Promotions, publicity, marketing and networking

I'm rolling these all into one as they are all interlinked. If you choose a good market then the organisers should do a good job of marketing the event and your presence at it. However don't just leave them to it. As a stall-holder you need to let your followers know which markets you are attending, and this can be through your social media, handing out flyers to your friends and community, a newsletter or even a blog-post! :) Often the market will have its own hashtag for use on social media so don't be afraid to tell people what you are making in the run-up to the market itself.

Think of having a stall like an investment. It's not just the sales on the day that count. If you have a strong design presence people who visit your stall, and sign-up to your email lists, will remember your product and come back to buy from you on another occasion.

Also a market is a chance to meet with fellow makers - don't treat them as competitors - these guys can become your friends and your most loyal advocates. After all we are all in the same boat as independents so its nice to help each other out and let our followers know if we liked a stall design or made a small purchase.

Checklist

Stock

  • Display

  • Packaging (bags, wrapping, scissors, sellotape etc)

  • Tablecloth

  • Float (card-reader, battery pack)

  • Price list/labels

  • Business cards

  • Email sign-up form

  • Styling props

  • Snacks (sometimes its easier to bring lunch and drinks from home)

Pinterest inspiration

Hopefully these images will have inspired you. If not I have a small board on Pinterest. I'm there as @ceramicmagpie too, or just search for market stands.

I hope you found this interesting. If I've missed anything then let me know and I might even amend the post with your comment. 

My next fair takes place on May 18th 2019 with the Paperdolls Handmade at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. Maybe see you there?

Katie