Hey everyone! Today I want to share a portion of my craft show resume from the past four years and get into which shows were the best and worst for me—again, from the point of view of a furniture and home décor vendor. As always, if you’ve done these shows in the past and want to comment on how they’ve gone for you (or send in a post as a guest writer), please do so! Let’s help each other out and share our tips and tricks with the community.
The very first show that we ever did was our church’s annual Christmas gala in December 2013. We were just getting into the Etsy business, and someone suggested that we apply for a booth at the gala, which features crafters and vendors from the congregation and around metro Detroit. Not knowing anything about craft shows, we signed up without any second thoughts, which is usually a not-so-smart thing to do. In this case, it not only worked out really well for a first show, but it gave us the craft show bug and helped us decide to commit to doing more shows in the future.
Guys, I love doing shows. I mean, there are things I hate about doing shows, but I mostly love it. It’s really exciting to see people react to your booth and your products, to watch them come in and touch your pieces and ask questions, and most of all, to sell your items and know that someone else is going to really appreciate the work that you do. It’s an amazing feeling.
That being said, there are absolutely some specific shows that I would never do again, some types of shows that I will never (or rarely) do, and some times of the year when it’s better to focus on creating and planning than it is to do in-person events. I’m planning an upcoming post of when and where to do craft shows in which I will break down the best and worst times of year for us, and what a typical year looks like. In this post, I’m providing you with a short list of shows we’ve done in the past four years, along with the type of show (craft show vs. vintage market), a brief overview of how it went, and a rating (1 star being the worst, and 5 stars being the best). Hopefully this will be helpful as you plan for shows in the upcoming year. Please feel free to email me or find me on Facebook if you’re looking for more information—I haven’t written about each and every show here, because it would take way too long, so if you have a specific question, I’m happy to help.
Location: Henry Ford II High School, Sterling Heights, MI
This is the only high school show that I’d give more than two stars, and that’s mostly because of the type of show it is and the time of year it’s held (Henry Ford also does one around Christmas time, but we’ve never been accepted to it). High school shows are usually held in the spring and fall, and honestly, there are almost always better shows (at least for a furniture vendor) at those times of year, which means we haven’t done a high school show at all in the past 12 months. Because Crafter’s Clearance is in February, when there isn’t really a lot of competition for customers because not much is going on, and because they let you sell leftover materials and closeout items, it’s actually kind of a nice way to start the year getting rid of some things that have been sitting around since Christmas.
They have a couple of different options for spaces, and the 3’ x 24’ spaces in the hallways are perfect for showcasing furniture, which is another thing I like about this show—most craft shows and markets stick fairly religiously to 10’x 10’ spaces, and with those it can be hard to incorporate levels and interest all the way around. I almost always feel like I have one corner of my 10’ x 10’ perfect, and the rest looks terrible. Crafter’s Clearance also offers an early bird discount, and if you get your application in early, you won’t pay more than $100, even for a corner space.
Even though all the spaces are inside (this is usually how it goes at high schools, though sometimes in the spring they offer discounted outdoor spaces), the weather can still have a pretty big impact on the show, since February in Michigan (just like pretty much any other month Oct-March) can either be beautiful or brutal. Some years it’s been sunny and 50, and others it’s been rainy or super snowy—you never know what you’re going to get. We did this show in 2014 and 2015, and I think we’ll do it again in 2018 (we took a few years off because I’ve been too busy with my professor job the past two springs).
Crafter’s Clearance provides some great resources for potential vendors, and their early bird application for 2018 will probably be available soon, as the deadline for the discounted fee is the end of October. You can check out some more information here.
Summer Magic Festival
Location: Mount Clemens, MI
Month: June 2015
No stars. I don’t know what happened with this show, but there were some really shady people involved. It was sponsored by some kind of downtown authority in Mount Clemens, but communication was bad, set-up was difficult and disorganized, and the people who are usually around to help (like the organizers of the show, for example) were never available. Check-in was set up at one of the downtown businesses, but the people who ran the business weren’t really interested in or knowledgeable about what to say to vendors in response to the most basic questions. Usually, your first time at a show, the organizer will stop by the booth, introduce themselves, and ask if there’s anything you need. That didn’t happen. On top of that, there ended up being a $3 admission to the craft show for customers, which was not on the application and definitely affects traffic, and the whole area was fenced off with these high construction type fences, which was really unattractive and unappealing from a potential shopper’s point of view. We lost a lot of money on this show, and we felt like the entire event was misrepresented.
This was an experiment for us—we hadn’t done any events in that area before as we were still fairly new to shows. I think we were invited to this show via email rather last minute, and, though I researched it a little, I couldn’t find much information about it. Even now, I don’t see much online about it, and it doesn’t look like they’ve held it since 2015—probably because it was a huge disaster. Judging by what I could/can find, I think Mount Clemens has tried off and on to do this kind of thing for a long time. The lack of information about it should have tipped me off, but again, we were new. I guess the reason that I include this one is mostly as a warning. Usually if you’re invited to a show last minute, it’s because there hasn’t been much interest in it (though sometimes it’s because there was an emergency and a similar vendor dropped out last minute), and if there isn’t much interest in it, it’s probably because something is going on with the organizer, the past reputation of the show, or the area where the show is being held. In this case, I really think it was a combination of all three. I’d say in general, stay away from expensive craft shows in Mount Clemens, though I’ve never done a vintage market there, and I think it might be interesting to do a small show there just to see what it’s like.
Romeo Peach Festival
Location: Frontiertown, Romeo, MI
Month: August/September (Labor Day Weekend)
This is another show that we haven’t done in awhile (though we did do the summer market in June and it was terribly slow), partially because it’s hit or miss and partially because it’s always Labor Day weekend, which is the weekend of my wedding anniversary. I notice that I’m switching back and forth from “me”/“I” to “we”—my mom helps me with the shows, especially the long ones, and she sells furniture and some home décor pieces as well (just a little clarification!!).
This show has a lot of traffic, but because there is so much going on with the festival, there aren’t always a lot of actual shoppers. There are also some weird things about this one—like the fact that you have to send two separate checks. One is the entry fee for the show, and the other is for incidentals; it’s explained in the contract that you’ll get this check back if, at the end of the show, your space is free of trash and you haven’t left anything behind. I guess it’s not that big of a deal (I’ve never not gotten my check back—in fact, I usually get it back before the show is even over, which seems like it kind of defeats the purpose of that whole precaution), but it just feels like a weird and unnecessary thing, especially when this is the only show I’ve ever done that has this policy.
Another thing that can sometimes take away from this show is the fact that Frontier Town has a craft mall and a furniture store, both of which sell items similar to some of the things that vendors bring. The craft mall’s prices are insanely low, which is great for customers, but which definitely affects the way that we approach pricing when we go to this show (which is another reason why we haven’t done it in a bit). I’m reaching the point where, especially at a craft show (if you want to check out the difference between a craft show and a vintage market, I go through it in a previous post), I don’t want to keep playing with prices in order to fit the particular market—I’d rather just go to the shows where I know I can get what I’m asking for the work that I’ve done, without making a ton of adjustments.
If we did this show again, my reasons for doing it would include that, even with the drawbacks, we usually do steady business (average sale of $20-$25) over the three day period, the price for the weekend isn’t too high ($130), and it’s a nice area to spend the weekend in, though the traffic can get pretty crazy since it’s a small town with only one main road (though it’s not as bad as Richmond!).
Royal Oak Vintage Market
Location: Salvation Army Church, Royal Oak, MI
The first time this market was held was in 2016, and it was publicized like crazy on Facebook and Instagram, and ended up bringing in a ton of traffic. This year, 2017, was a lot slower (I’m not sure why, because it looked like it was publicized just as much), but I think we might have done even better than last year, just because we had a ton of inventory ready.
Royal Oak is as close to the perfect market for a lot of our items as you can get. Most of the shoppers either really appreciate finding something unique for their homes, or appreciate finding something similar to what they’ve seen on Pinterest that they don’t have to try and make themselves. I see a lot of my ideal customers there—people who have put off getting married and starting families so that they can establish themselves in their career, who put a lot of thought into what their homes look like, and/or who are just buying their first home or apartment, planning weddings, or about to have babies.
This market had only outdoor spaces available last year, but this year offered spaces in the gym at a slightly higher rate (outdoor booths were $100). Space for set-up is a bit tight, so again, I like to get there super early and set up while no one else is around (read: throw everything in the tent, zip it up, and come back in a couple of hours to move everything around until it looks good). Parking can also be a struggle, since the lot for the church isn’t big to begin with, and half of it gets taken up with tents, so they ask vendors to park in a lot about a half mile away and then they shuttle you back to the market area. Like the Auburn Hills craft show, this market has a space set up for vendors only where you can take a break inside the church, sit down, grab a candy, have a bottle of water, or use an actual bathroom. It’s nice.
The first year was basically perfect. I had zero complaints. This year, some tiny things were off, but I’d still give the show five stars. Traffic was slower for sure, even though the weather was perfect—still no idea what happened there. Sometimes the first really nice day of the summer isn’t actually the best thing that can happen—people want to use that weekend to clean out the garage, plant flowers, or just take a break in the sun—they might not want to come out and shop. The other thing that was a bit of a drawback was that they switched up the layout of the show (in an effort to keep more of the parking lot clear, I think) so that the food trucks were directly across from the vendors, which is really loud. I haven’t gotten the online feedback form that they promised to email to the vendors, but that’s something that I would definitely mention.
I really wish they would do this show in the fall, as well—that’s how much I love doing it. It really is as close to the perfect show for us as it can get.
Ok—I think I have to do a second part on this post, because I had a lot more to say than I thought I did, and we only got to talking about four shows! I’m going to plan on doing a similar post again in August, I think, but stay tuned for my review of Sterlingfest 2017 and then the review of the St. Augustine craft show in the middle of August.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment about your experience at any of these shows! Talk to you soon,