December 10, 2009

Craft Sale Survival - part 1

As a relative newbie on the scene, I am by no means an expert in the ways of the craft sale, but there are a few things I have learned in my short time manning my table of handmade wares. I know everyone has theirs, but I thought I would share with you my own list of “must haves” at a craft sale. Feel free to comment with your suggestions, too.

Besides your product, signage and display items (I’ll leave that to you), be sure to bring along:

Business cards. Don’t leave home without ‘em. Ever. I have yet to attend a show that didn’t result in at least one call-back from someone who grabbed my card. Don’t have cards? Shame on you! I buy mine from the copy/print centre at my local big-box office supply store. I am able to design my own on their handy-dandy kiosk (or online) and they’re ready for pick-up in 3 days. At $22 for 250, they’ve already paid for themselves.

Change. And lots of it. I keep a “float” of fives, twos, singles and quarters, which I replenish after each sale and then keep in a safe place. (It’s not under my bed, so don’t look there!) With most ATMs dispensing only 20s, you can expect to see a lot of them, especially early in the day or if you are placed close to a door.

Pens/notebook. Great for making lists, jotting down the names of customers, new product ideas, etc etc etc. If things get slow, you can play hangman with your neighbour.

Assorted fasteners. Clothes pins, safety pins, zip-strips, duct tape, push pins, twine – you never know when you are going to want to attach something (or make a quick repair) to your set-up.

An extra tablecloth. Good for “oopsies” (ask me about “nacho kid” someday), but also great to have on hand in case you are given an extra-long table or asked to “spread out” because someone didn’t show up.

The tools of your trade. Pack whatever you might need to make a quick repair on your goods. For me, that means a glue stick and scissors. For you, that could mean jewelry pliers, a needle & thread, etc. Think quick-fix. If the repair is more involved than that (ie: requiring clamps) or is going to take you away from paying customers, pack it up and take it home.

A snack. I have yet to eat a warmed-over hot dog from the concession at a craft sale. Why? Because I pack an insulated bag with veggies, yogurt, crackers and fruit, that’s why! (This little trick also prevents you from making a meal out of a loaf of banana bread or a plate of cookies from the bake table. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Just be conscious of your surroundings and try to pack items that can be surreptitiously eaten during lulls or between customers. And, keep in mind that the fastest way to get a customer to come along and ask you a question is to put something in your mouth.

A reusable coffee cup and/or water bottle. That should go without saying.

Something to do. Sometimes traffic just isn’t all that brisk and the hours tick-tick-tick away. In that case, it’s ok to work on your knitting or read a book, but please do it during lulls or between customers. (Personally, I won’t buy something from you if you are sitting back engrossed in a trashy novel or if I think I’m disturbing your cross-stitching…but that’s just me.) I like to bring things to cut out, stamp or assemble. It’s a craft sale, so I figure I might as well…craft!

Bags and tissue/newsprint. Most people pack reusable bags now, but it’s always good to have a supply on hand just in case (especially if you sell large or breakable items).

A container or baggie of glass/surface cleaning wipes and a couple garbage bags are always good to have, too. It never hurts to tidy!


  1. My must have list:

    1. a mirror
    2. head-ache relief medication
    3. kleenex and hand sanitizer
    4. a smile

  2. Great list! I'm going to bookmark this in the event that I ever get enough stock (and nerve) to actually agree to a craft sale.

  3. An excellent list! I'm 100% with you on snacks (and water) and totally appreciate your recommendation of an extra table cloth... that had not yet occurred to me! my personal list adds on to Emms'... mirror and kleenex, for sure! Lip balm and mints are also my big "must haves"... granted, those are *usually* in my purse... hopefully ;-)

  4. Great list. I like to include an apron or cash box for all the cash I hope to make! I personally prefer an apron because it comes with me for bathroom breaks and if I can get away for a sneak peak at other crafters and no one to cover my table.

  5. lip balm is a must have for me
    and a card table to set up as my check out station - also a marker and extra blank signs just in case!

  6. My first craft show is on April 24 in Steinbach. Terrified. Thanks so much for this list - most appreciated!