Going to the market: A checklist for makers
Selling your handmade makes on a stall this Christmas? We've got the experts to put together the ultimate checklist to make sure you're market-ready…
Selling your wares at a stall this season? We've got the experts to put together the ultimate checklist to make sure you're market-ready this Christmas…
Whether you’re a shopper or a stallholder, Christmas markets are a brilliant way to do your festive shopping and support fellow makers. If you’ve just booked your first stall to sell your wares it can be a daunting experience, so make sure you’re ready and positive about your first trading day by getting prepared with our market checklist from the experts.
From trialling out your stall format first to why you should always have a safety pin to hand, we grabbed market organisers Jo and Carolyn of Paperdolls Market and Carley of Northern Craft as well as seasoned sellers Ruth Williams of I Am Acrylic and The Make Arcade’s Ruth Oliver to talk you through 20 ways you need to be prepared and enjoy the day.
Before the market…
Sort your stock
“When you get your acceptance email, check your inventory and plan for how to stock up,” says Carley of Northern Craft, “Carefully read any stallholder information from the organisers and ask clarifying questions. If you've not done a fair before, consider which of your products are both accessible (likely to be widely enjoyed) and affordable (as an impulse purchase).”
Ruth Williams of I Am Acrylic advises making more than you think you'll need. “Have enough stock so that the stall doesn't look a bit sad and empty towards the end of the day,” she explains. “Another trick we do is to take products that we know aren't bestsellers, but we can use to dress the table with and draw attention.”
Sign up for insurance
“Organise your public liability insurance before the big day as most markets will ask for this,” explain Jo and Carolyn of Paperdolls Market. “There are many websites offering one-off insurances, but it's usually more cost effective to purchase one to cover you for a number of markets over a 12 month period.”
Get a card reader
“Always take a card reader! I’ve done markets and fairs for years and when card readers became available it was a real game changer!” says Ruth Oliver of The Make Arcade. “There are lots of companies that offer cheap card readers that mean you'll never miss a sale if your potential customer isn’t carrying cash.” Check out SumUp, iZettle, Square and Paypal to see who is doing the best deal for you. Also don’t forget to go to the back and get yourself a cash float – you can never have too many £1 coins. It's the ideal excuse to break out that jazzy bum bag...
Share on social media
“Promote and then promote some more” says Ruth Williams. “Don't just rely on the organiser, tell your customers where they can find you and what else they'll find at the event. The more info you can give people the more likely they'll want to come!
“Stick it on your mailing list and social media. And do it more than once. Think of interesting ways to promote the event – is your favourite designer going to be there? Are you making something exclusively for that event? Is the building amazing?”
Practise your stall
As the Scouts always say, be prepared. There’s no better way to do this than by practising the layout of your stall at home before the market so you can see how it fits together best, then take a picture so you can remember how you placed it. Ruth Oliver explains: “I do a little set up in my studio so I know what layout I’m aiming to achieve. That way if you're running late you can set up without being completely flustered and give yourself time to get everything ready before kick off!"
“Your stall is not just a table. It's your shop front,” say Jo and Carolyn. “Your stall needs to be organised and provide an obvious flow, so a customer knows where to start. Some people can feel intimidated to approach if there isn’t an obvious place to start.”
“Our stallholders use a huge variety of objects to add height and interest. We have wooden blocks, logs, baskets, trays, peg boards, ladders, rails, mannequins, magazine racks, apple crates, stools, drinks trolleys, old picture frames with horizontal wire and hooks, concertina screens, easels and homemade shelves to name just a few. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.”
Light it up
Make sure your stock gets seen on a gloomy winter day by adding some lights. “Our Market Hall at The Custard Factory in Birmingham has a glass roof with white washed walls. However, it can get dark as the market progresses towards early evening and it's vital that certain stalls have their own lighting,” say Jo and Carolyn. “We find this is important for those selling small items such as jewellery, or have intricate details they want to highlight such as porcelain. Small fairy lights often do the trick and it’s easy to find battery operated ones.”
Think about how you can maximise sales, from special prices for buying on the day or even a lucky dip box of seconds or harder to shift items. “A simple discount card, popped into the packaging with a sale at the market will entice the customer to return to you either in person or online,” explain Jo and Carolyn.
Create your tool kit
You’d be surprised at how much stationery you need on a stall! Make a kit – an old pencil case will do - to put in anything that could come in handy on the day. “Include scissors, Blu Tack, sticky tape, string and paperclips. You never know! You may need a bit of Blu Tack to secure some props, sticky tape may be required if your table cover is blowing in a breeze and scissors are forever useful,” say Jo and Carolyn. “Also bring a notepad to record sales and feedback and to take down interested customers’ contact details.”
You should also think about what props will help make sales. Carley explains: “Consider how customers will be making choices about what to buy. For example, if you're selling anything wearable, have a mirror on hand, if you're selling cosmetics or anything edible, have samples ready.”
Mean business with flyers and cards
Not all sales are made on the day, so you need to make sure people have your details to buy at a later date when FOMO sets in. “A banner across the front of your stall with your studio name and branding will let people know who you are, but ensuring that you sticker your prints, or have your branding on jewellery or pin backs will make sure you stick in their mind,” recommends Carley. “Get some business cards for people who don't buy – they might change their mind later”
Put up your pricing
As well as making sure the name of your business and social media handles are clearly displayed on your stall, don’t be afraid to display your prices. “As a customer it can be quite an awkward thing to have to ask the price of something, especially if it's then out of their budget, so take the awkwardness away completely by clearly pricing them,” advises Ruth Williams.
On the morning of the market…
“We never go without snacks and water! You can never be sure they'll be food and drink available at the venue and it's not always convenient to pop out, especially if it's a busy market,” says Ruth Williams. “The last thing you want is to look and feel exhausted, so have a little pick-me-up for when your energy levels drop.”
During the market…
“Once you’re set up take a photo of your stall and share to all your followers,” say Jo and Carolyn. “Use any hashtags the market organisers have provided to ensure your brand gets seen by as many people as possible.” You can also use the pictures to promote future markets or write a blog about your experiences.
Get social with other stall holders
“Some markets go on all day or evening and you really need to take five to go and get refreshments, stretch your legs and recoup your energy levels,” says Ruth Oliver. “Make friends with your neighbouring stall holders – they may be on their own too! – so you can take it in turns to do coffee runs.”
Jo and Carolyn add: “Connections made may even lead to future collaborations or recommendations. Often it’s not what you know but who you know…”
Get people on your mailing list
“A mailing list is a must. This will allow you to engage directly with your interested customers after the market has finished and keep them informed of any upcoming markets, products and events,” say Jo and Carolyn.
Rearrange and take notes
“Keep an eye on what products customers are drawn to throughout the day, and if necessary, rearrange your table to put those things front and centre,” says Ruth Williams. “We also always write down all our sales, and the time we sold them. Sometimes you start to see a pattern so you know when is a good time to pop off for a break.”
Perfect your packaging
“Have all your packaging easy to access and make sure it's branded,” advise Jo and Carolyn. “It’s important you're able to quickly package your items as you'll want to move onto the next customer! Have a tape dispenser at the ready with your scissors and string. If you do have very delicate items, make sure you're able to package them appropriately and out the way.”
After the market….
Keep a box of goodies for next time
Make sure you keep all the things you used for your stall together, so it’s easier to pack everything up for your next market. “I have a show packing list to tick off when I do a event that has everything I need on it, from a stapler to water. These bits then live in a box for next time I go and exhibit,” says Ruth Oliver.
Make an inventory
“After you get home, keep track of what sells well and what moves more slowly,” says Carley. “This might change through the year and might look very different to your online sales, but will be invaluable when preparing for your next fair.”
Relax and celebrate!
“You'll have had an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable day with direct contact with your customers and meeting all the other wonderful stallholders. So, you deserve to relax and celebrate the day straight afterwards,” say Jo and Carolyn.
No matter how the day goes, learn from the experience. Ruth Williams says, “Don't be downhearted afterwards. A market that can be very successful for one maker can be a total washout for another. But you can learn so much each time from the way customers interact with your stuff. So use all the feedback, good and bad, and tailor your stuff for the next market!”
If you need more tips and tricks for your craft business, head to our business tips section. Or, for Christmas craft inspo go to crafts for some festive makes.
Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.