Craft and trade show considerations!

by John Kaczynski

Craft shows and trade shows are a great way to showcase your woodworking. It provides a different avenue for exposure to new customers to see your hard work and passion; it gets you out of the shop and in front of people so you can network and potentially sell your items. 

When you first start, you are obviously very excited! So that means you’ve probably prepared a boatload of items, different varieties, shapes, and sizes; heck you may have multiple types of products to offer and you may sign up for the next show you find, which is all good- by all means do that! This article is more about helping you to understand the possible outcomes and giving you some advice on what to expect.

As you start doing shows, you will no doubt set your booth up and eagerly wait for the mad rush of customers to buy up all of your products as soon as they can, just to find them walking by and not paying much attention. It’s at this point I want to let you know it’s not you or your products that are the issue. You see, many people are just happy to get out and have the ability to shop around (this does not necessarily mean buy). Having done shows myself for a number of years, and many prior to Covid 19 (which affected everything), many things about doing crafts shows stay the same. 

Here is a shortlist of some things I’ve learned and thought I would share. 

1. Not all shows are handled the same. Based on the work and engagement of the coordinator of the event and level of advertising done for the show, attendance will vary. Some will have a great flow of people and some will have a lot less; you have no control over this- just do your best with what you have. 

2. While at the show, regardless of traffic, interact with the shoppers. Greet them as they approach or start to look in; talk to them about the day, weather, etc.  Everyone is a potential customer. It is helpful to be towards the front of your booth, not just sitting behind the table (playing on your phone :). Invite them to look inside and perhaps tell them something interesting about your work or products that sets you apart from other vendors. 

3. Continue to look for ways to improve your booth setup. Look for different ways of positioning your tables and other displays; if you have a corner booth it will be different than an aisle booth. Walk around to other booths and look for ideas to incorporate into your setup. 

4. Consider the cost! What I mean here is not just the fee to be a vendor at the show but also the cost you will have to be there. Your time comes at a cost and it is valuable. To be there, you may be giving up other responsibilities; you will need to take into consideration the time it takes to make your products, load the vehicle, and the distance you have to drive there and home. After thinking about those things, consider ….. Did I sell enough today to make this worth my while? 

Now, none of this is in any way to make you feel like shows are not worth it because many of them are. I do extremely well at a number of venues and will continue to support them because of that; there are also venues I will likely not attend again because the items l make do not appeal to the crowd and it is not worth my time. This will take time to figure out by trial and error. Be patient; you will eventually get the hang of it and be able to search out similar venues.

So what’s the takeaway? Craft shows are a great way to advertise your work; they can help to get your name out there and grow your business. It also will give you the opportunity to make some money selling the work you love to create and ultimately that’s where our joy comes from; woodworking and having the ability to continue to create new items. 

Hope this helps you expand your woodworking adventures.

John Kaczynski

JAK’z woodcraft