Well...it's getting to be that time of the year. The craft show apps start pouring in and we're left trying to be psychic about the outcomes. For the last five years, I have lived the game. Let me start right out by saying no one is psychic and shows change from year to year. You really have to take the information at hand and do what you can with it.
Here's how you can improve your chances of finding the more successful shows:
1. Check with other crafters. Is the show good for them, bad for them? What do they sell? What items did they see walking out the door? I even check their demeanor...yep..their demeanor. Craft show shoppers often buy from the booths where the crafters are happy and participative yet not overbearing. If the person you are talking to has a grumpy demeanor or appears to be a pushy salesperson, that could a contributing factor for their lack of success. Check with as many people you can find and look on your local craft show web sites for feedback on shows. Craftlister.com is a good source here in Michigan and appears to cater to other states as well - http://www.craftlister.com.
2. Find out how many years the show has been running. I am always very flattered by the new shows and small church shows that invite me to be in their shows. The fact of the matter is I have to sell at least $2800 in product to make it worth hauling my stuff. Shows will less than 10 years under their belt typically won't yield the sales I need. I know those $15-50 application fees are appealing but in the end can you live with yourself if you don't hit your sales goals? Keep in mind that even a 25 year show can tank for an assortment of reasons. I have seen more than a couple shows fail because of a change in coordinators. Another example: This year I attended one of the best shows in this area. The sales were awful for most, actually not so bad for me because people looked for me and I did my own marketing. The show tanked because it got moved, there was poor signage, terrible parking (people literally had to walk a mile or more in some cases), it was 20 degrees out, and the Santa Clause parade was the same day. Blame it on the economy all you want, the items above had more of an impact. If you don't need to generate a great deal of sales to make it worth it, a 5 year plus show may be great for you!
3. Do people want your stuff? The outcome for you may depend greatly on the product you are selling. If it is something people want, you may be golden. However, if you are selling items over $100 in an area where everyone has lost their jobs, your likelihood of success may be minimal. If you are selling in an area where everyone has ritzy home decor, they may not go for less expensive towels and such. Talk to other crafters who have attended the show. Who did well and who didn't? Inevitably, you will have a handful of both but at least you can get an idea of what sells.
4. Where is the show located? Is the show easy to get to? Good parking? Does it offer food and snacks? If it is a church, is it a large church or a small one? The ideal: A large school or church with lots of parking, a full lunch menu (keeps shoppers happy), easy to get find, large "client" or congregation base, and booths that are at least 10x10 so shoppers have room to browse.
5. How do they market? Oh..this is a biggie! Over the last couple of years I have seen some high dollar shows produce less sales because they took on the attitude that everyone knows when their show is. Bad move. I hear customers say all of the time that they looked for it in the paper to get the right date and they couldn't find it! Not to mention, they don't get in those new customers. I always look for shows that advertise in several newspapers, utilize local church bulletins, have blogs and websites, advertise in school promos, etc. Make sure they are advertising in the right venues as well. I went to a show a couple years ago that advertised in surrounding communities and not in the one the show was in -- I was shocked. Do the homework that you can in this area. In my experience, the good shows typically put their advertising venues right in the literature that they send each year with the applications.
Again, there are numerous variables in who will be successful and where. Determine first what you are trying to accomplish and go from there. I have to make thousands of dollars worth of product to stock a show where someone else only needs a few hundred dollars worth. That makes a difference in the venue a person can choose.
Good luck with those 2009 shows!