It’s a brand new year and spring will be here lickity split. I’ve been working steadily on crafts to sell at my weekly farmer’s market which starts up in April. I thoroughly enjoyed the market I participated in last year and since several folks asked me what its like to setup at a weekly market, I put together this series of articles. I hope they encourage and prepare you to take a risk and setup a booth at your own weekly market.
This is all the stuff I learned the hard way by trial and error after six months of getting up every Saturday morning at O’dark thirty and setting up a booth. Much of the information is specific to a weekly market as opposed to a one time setup. For more details about what to bring to the market check out this groovy article and this one that includes a fabulous checklist.
Part 1 - Your wares
How do you decide what to sell? And how do you get customers to actually stop and look and perhaps buy your stuff? This is what worked for me.
Variety seems to be the key, both in pricing and in products. One type of item didn’t work for me. Initially I started out my weekly market booth with just my Fluffy Flowers creatures. Those of you who have visited my online shop know that I make handmade loveable plush creatures. But what I discovered at the weekly market was that although many folks did stop to admire their cuteness, not everyone wanted or needed my creatures. It struck me that I really had to expand my wares to include items that would appeal to a range of customers. Slowly I crafted and added dog bone squeaky toys, sweater catnip rats, and felted handbags. Many of these items sold well and I realized I was on to something.
In addition to a variety of products it's also important to offer a variety of price points. I discovered that lots of folks will pay $5 for something but not many will pay $15 or $20. So with that in mind, this year I’m making many more lower priced items to include in my booth.
Another way I figured out what to sell was by listening to my customers. These folks are the ones who helped me decide which direction to take my wares. Often they made comments on my stuff and asked if I had something in particular.
If this happens to you then don’t shrug it off! This is free advice that could help you improve your stock. The folks that wander by on the other side of the booth know what would make them open their wallets and pull out their money. Listening to them and acting on their advice could lead to more sales. I’ve crafted several successful products because folks have mentioned they’d love to buy one.
One thing I was not prepared for was how to handle requests for custom orders. They can be a tricky thing. It takes time and money to create custom orders with the possibility that the customer won’t want the goods in the end. There are several ways to handle these requests including politely refusing, taking a down payment, or just going for it with the hopes of adding it to your stock if the buyer changes her mind.
I usually just went for it. Some of the requests I received came from regular market visitors so I felt fairly confident they’d be back to buy it. But I can remember one occasion when a customer requested a product then never came back to purchase it. If you decide to accept custom orders it’s also important to follow through in a timely manner.
One of the most important lessons I learned was to consider my customers and produce items they would like. As much as I want to think of myself as an artist who creates unique products, ultimately it is the consumer who drives sales. Their opinions are valuable. Now with a new market season approaching I’m thinking about what I want to craft as well as what I think my customers want.
Part two of How to setup a craft booth at a weekly Farmer's Market will be all about Your Setup.