How to Flourish at Markets, Fairs and Trade Shows

I went to my first indie craft fair of the season – “Make It” – a celebration of designers, artists and artisans showcasing their handmade treasures. I was immersed and stimulated.

I lovingly explored the four rooms set up for this event. And then, after three hours I was done. Whew, talk about being stimulated. Indie craft fairs & markets, in the winter and summer are the best revenue times for artists, artisans and designers.

Have you taken lead on different ways to reach new and current customers during this time of year?

People are gearing up for the shopping season ahead. Christmas fairs, gallery ensemble exhibits, as well as open studio visits are bursting forward. The season of giving is undeniably here.

I know it’s soon. The actual day of giving is more than a month away, but if you’re an artist or artisan there are ways to benefit from this time of year that will help carry you through leaner times.


The up-side to buying at local events are plenty; local artists, artisans and businesses are being supported, unique treasures can be found, potential friendships and connections being developed and thankfully, on my outing, not one Christmas song playing in the background.

For independent creative’s this is one of the most profitable times of the year. People are on a mission to purchase, or at least lookout for something unique and inspiring, sometimes for themselves and sometimes for others. If you’re set up at a craft fair, gallery studio tour, or other big event, there are hundreds of people in one day that will walk past your display booth and you can benefit from that in many ways.

Do you know how to encourage buyers to interact with you and keep interested in your work?

Not all events are alike. Different events attract a different crowd with different price points in mind and if you find yourself at an event that isn’t giving you the sales you were hoping for, you can still benefit from the traffic generated by offering a smile, a conversation, plenty of business cards and promo material (brochure, post card, etc) with a list of your upcoming events.

Tip: Give out a business card for each sale and make them readily available on your display booth, so people can take one without having to ask.

I picked up a lot of business cards at Make It and the first thing I did the day after was take those business cards and lookup every artist online to find their website or social media sites. Many didn’t list social media sites so I had to Google whatever I couldn’t find on the card.

If I have to Google a business or person I won’t know which site of theirs I’m going to find on the search engine list, so it’s important to have links connecting across your social platforms; website links to social sites and social sites to your website.

If you don’t have a brick and mortar studio, your online profiles are the only place buyers will see your product.

When I look for someone or a business online I hope for certain results:

  • I want to find decent images of your work, with fast download times (small file sizes please, but not tiny) that are well organized for easy viewing.
  • I want to easily find your contact information across your social media sites and website.
  • I want to find buying information and upcoming events.

Twitter is great for engagement but tweets are not a source of basic information about you, so make sure your twitter account is connected to your website which lists any upcoming events as well as where I can buy your work.

Tip: If you have an Etsy shop but no product to show at certain times, make sure you have another site linked with examples of your work sold, for example a Flickr or Facebook page.

Two of the artists I took business cards from sold their work on Etsy and used Etsy as their main product site. The problem was, they had no products to view when I visited their site and I couldn’t find a link on their Etsy site that linked me to another site where I could find images of their work.

I found one artist from Make It on Facebook and contacted her to ask if she was going to be at another local event, The Crawl. The reply I got back was “yes ma’am”. That was it! No other information. Nothing. No opportunity to connect and build trust. People buy from businesses and people they trust.

The important thing to remember is at this time of the year people are ready to buy. They want to buy. Don’t make it so hard for them by killing any future potential for trust and engagement.

Have you thought of ways to take advantage of the traffic generated by these events?

Tip: It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.


The art of display is a fine one. One of my favourite and more creative tasks as a curator was the way an exhibit in the gallery was visually displayed. It was an exercise in creating a story around the exhibit and leading viewers through the space, at their leisure.

No one wants to feel pressure.

One of the booths at Make It was selling a popular item, t-shirts. But no one was shopping at their booth. Their booth was set-up in a way that made it impossible for buyers to explore at their leisure. Six shirts were hanging as samples of their designs, but the rest of the shirts were rolled up in square shelving, organized in pretty colours  but out of reach. I think the real barrier was the two vendors, sitting in front of the display waiting for people to ask for sizes. But no one did. *Sigh* My heart went out to them.

What I found was that display booths that are completely open in a U shape design (no barrier between the public and vendor) didn’t seem to generate as much hanging around. I think this is because the customer feels too much like they are also on display and pressured. Most new-to-you customers don’t want to feel as if they are the centre of your attention, but they don’t want to feel ignored either. Display booths that inhibit eye contact between the vendor and customer were also challenged. It’s a delicate balance.

Tip: Be accessible to the customer when THEY need you, and create a space for them to enjoy your work without pressure.


There were a few vendors at Make It that didn’t seem to generate much interest and my heart really went out to them. It bites when you put effort into an event or exhibit and you don’t get the response you were hoping for. Sometimes people are just out for a look and exploring new artists. Sometimes, budgets are small.

Most people love hand made products. They adore art. There is something about coveting a special gift made by a talented and creative person that is special. Another post to read is How to Package and Promote your Vision and can be found here.

Which is your favourite?

  • Indie Craft Fairs
  • Artist Christmas exhibits
  • Christmas Trade shows

If you like this post, please share on your favourite site.

Until next time,


One thought on “How to Flourish at Markets, Fairs and Trade Shows

  1. […] wrote a post yesterday about how artists can flourish at Christmas fairs and markets, and while I think it’s an […]

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