Even though I opted out of vending at the craft fair circuit this year, I still like to visit them to see who is there and what is selling. This year brought a few surprises.
There are some very talented crocheters out there. Nice even stitches and tight seams. American Girl sweaters, in a variety of styles, all $25 each. American Girl afghans, $40 each. Each sweater was displayed on its own hanger with a couple of inches of space between so they were easy to view. Because of the popularity of American Girl dolls, as well as the well-made product, and an excellent display, this booth was making a whole lot of sales.
Underselling your work is bad for everyone. One woman had a table so stuffed with merchandise, it was pretty hard to see exactly what she had. Mittens were marked $2.50, made from acrylic. Baby afghans, $8. Layette sets, $10. I know acrylic is not very expensive, but really? Is the crafter's time worth nothing? The table itself did not showcase, nor show very much pride in her work. From a distance, it looked more like a table at a rummage sale rather than at a craft fair. She did make a couple of sales, but I'm sure it wasn't enough to pay for the $45 table and a whole day of time. This is incredibly sad, as her stitches were even and the finishing was spot on.
Another booth by someone who both knit and crocheted had baby sweaters for $18. That's more reasonable, even though they were made from acrylic. This crafter showed her pride by having a neat, well laid out table, and displaying the ribbons she won at the country fair. Hats of various styles were $10. Okay, the pricing is reasonable. What made me cringe was a close up view of the work: specifically, the seams. There were gaping holes where the sleeves had been set into the sweater. Granted, this screams hand-made, but it also screams poorly made. What's to stop it from falling apart the very first washing? I obviously was not the only one to notice this, as many people would take a close look then walk away without saying a word.
One table was overladen with afghans of all shapes and colors. I realize a whole lot of work goes into an afghan, but how many people are really going to shell out $250 for one? Or even $100 for a crib size? I don't think she made any sales at all. The table was not very approachable, as it was literally piled with afghans, so high you could not see her sitting in a chair behind it. There were no signs, no smiles, no friendly chatter. If you are going to charge prices like that, you need to be extremely engaging to every customer that walks by.
What was selling? Doll sweaters, doll bedding, and hats. Baby items usually would get comments about how cute it was, usually followed by "I wonder if so-and-so could make something like that..." Products made from natural fibers, such as wool and alpaca, sell much better than acrylic and for higher prices. Alpaca socks were selling for $40 a pair from a very energetic and friendly elderly man. He would happily tell people how he cared for the alpaca and his wife knit the socks from their wool. He left at the end of the day with less than half the inventory he arrived with.
That seems to be the key to generating profit from craft fair sales: sell something that cannot be purchased or even found at one of the big box stores. Have customers experience the item - the alpaca gentleman would insist that everyone 'just touch it' to feel the softness, and to imagine how comfortable and warm that would keep feet. People go to craft fairs to find something unique, that perfect gift for the person who has everything.
I would sell out of wool mittens every year, to people who would comment "these are like my grandmother used to make!" and "you can't find wool mittens anywhere anymore!" They would happily pay the $10 (child) or $12 (adult) per pair, walk away with a smile on their face and go show their friends, who would have to purchase some themselves.