Four Tips for Selling Furniture At A Craft Show

Good morning friends! I’m super excited to start a new series of craft show tips and advice for the month of September! The Meet Your Maker series will be back later this fall, don’t you worry, but for now, I’m so excited to talk to you about some of my favorite insights into doing shows as a furniture vendor in the next few weeks. Over the course of the month, I want to talk about specific tips for selling furniture, how to deal when an event doesn’t go as planned, a little bit about booth design, and at the end of the month I’m going to go over this past year and talk about overall strategies for picking when and where to do a show. Thanks for joining me today as I share my top four tips for selling furniture at a craft show or vintage market!

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Selling furniture at a craft show presents some different challenges than selling smaller items or artwork, and I’ve learned some valuable tips over the past four years that I’m really excited to share with you today. I wish I’d thought of some of these when I first started, and I’m sure that you ladies have some tips to share with me that I haven’t thought of yet. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below—I’m sure there are furniture vendors out there who would love to hear from you!

Offer Delivery

I offer free, same-day local delivery whenever I can—customers often don’t expect to find large pieces at a traditional art/craft show, and they can be caught off guard without a vehicle large enough to transport their new piece. I always come prepared to offer delivery at the craft shows I do in the areas near where I live, where I know that finding the addresses won’t be an issue and won’t be far out of my way. Offering delivery also works better if you have a partner there at the show with you–often, my husband will come by during show hours and do the local deliveries for me before the show is over, so that I can come right home after. That doesn’t always work out, but I can always make the deliveries once the show is over, too.

Customers take advantage of this about half the time, and if I can offer a small bonus to help move the furniture out of the booth, I’ll do it every time. I’ll be moving it either way at the end of the day, and I’d rather move it to its new home than put it back in my garage.

Delivery orders often work out surprisingly well. This past year at Sterlingfest, I had two furniture customers who asked for delivery on Friday evening, and they ended up being in the same neighborhood, only one street over from each other.

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I come prepared with these furniture delivery slips (my custom order form is also there) so that I can have the customer fill out their information, any notes that they have as far as where to leave pieces in the event that they aren’t home, and the time of delivery. I punch a hole in the slip once it’s filled out, and tie it right to the piece I’m delivering so I don’t get the deliveries mixed up.

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I don’t do this as much at vintage markets—I think people come to those expecting that they might find larger pieces, and they seem to be more prepared. If I’m outside of a 15-20 mile radius of Rochester Hills, I’ll still offer delivery, but I start to charge for those, especially if I have to come back the next day with the piece.

I’ve actually come to really look forward to deliveries, especially during longer events—it’s a good time to decompress and relax after a long day of selling, and it’s really nice to get some time alone before going straight home. I usually crank up the tunes on my iPod and listen to all the music that I loved in high school. It reminds me of when I first started driving and all I wanted to do was just listen to one more song, just driving around town.

Be Prepared for Custom Orders

I bring custom order forms with me to every show as well, and I usually take deposits on a few custom orders per show. Mostly, it ends up being pieces that people have that they want to have redone. I used to have people fill out their information without a deposit, but I got a lot of information for people who weren’t really serious about it, and it ended up being a waste of time to try and get in touch with them just to find out that they had changed their mind.

It can be hard to do a quote on the spot for a piece you haven’t seen yet, but I try to give a range. I’m working on a cheat sheet now that gives a list of pieces and prices so that I can reference it quickly at a show if I need to, and so that customers can see a base price that’s going to be the same for everyone. For example, a tallboy dresser is going to start at around $125, but depending on color(s), actual size, number of drawers, and whether the customer needs pickup/delivery, it might fluctuate quite a bit from that initial quote.

It’s really helpful to have signage that tells your customers that you offer custom work (if that applies to your particular business). It’s one of the most common questions I get at a show, so if I can answer it with a simple sign (or two), I can move that conversation forward before it really even begins.

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Build an Email List

This is something that I never thought much about until I started listening to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast. I know, I talk about it a lot. It’s a gold mine of information, girls. Do yourself a favor and check out my favorite episodes, or just go listen to the whole thing. You will learn something. I promise.

It makes total sense to me now, and I don’t understand why I never did this before. I bring a sheet with me to every show, and when people tell me that they love my pieces, or that they’re buying a new home soon, or that they’re getting married next year, I point out my email list as a way of staying in touch to make sure that when they’re at the point when they need something, they still have a connection with me.

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Business cards are important, but the number of times I’ve had someone contact me because they took my business card is practically zero, even though I’ll often write down the piece they were looking at, my personal phone number, or the question they had to remind them of why they picked up the card in the first place. I’ll admit, I usually throw business cards away myself—it’s just one more thing to clutter up my purse, right?

But if I can get people to sign up for my email list, I can get into their inbox every month and stay in front of them in a much more meaningful way. I use MailChimp to create a monthly newsletter that includes my upcoming shows, pieces that I’m currently working on, recent custom orders, and links to my social, email, and blog. It’s much easier to click a link and like my Facebook page than it is to take my business card, go to Facebook, look up the page, and then like it. Jenna talks about eliminating the steps that people have to take to find you—how better to do that than to send an email perfectly tailored to speak to those customers who loved your pieces enough to sign up for your email list?

Tell People About Your Pieces

I always ask people how they’re doing when they first stop at the booth, and sometimes that’s all I say. But if they stop long enough to touch or pick something up, I start talking about that piece. One of the things that caught people’s eye a lot at Sterlingfest this year was this little sewing chair:

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They’d look at it and even touch it or sit down to test it out (which I always encourage when people are seriously looking at my chairs or benches), but they’d rarely lift the seat to see the storage underneath. It’s important to me to let my customers know why my pieces are special, where they came from, their approximate age, and whether they were built from upcycled pieces (like my headboard benches). I like pieces that have a story behind them—it’s part of my brand, so it’s important for me to tell that story.

What’s important to you? Is it the paint that you use? The specific pieces that you create or curate? The memories attached to a certain style or technique? Something someone taught you? I don’t sell a ton of dishes in my Etsy shop—it’s basically limited to ironstone, which I love, and a specific set of Pyrex bowls—the primary colors one. Why? Because I have this memory of my grandma Charlotte teaching me to make chocolate chip cookies in that big yellow bowl. I can’t resist a set of reasonably prices primary color Pyrex at a garage or estate sale. And I like to tell people why.

Again, the longer someone stays in your booth, the more likely they are to buy something. It was the end of the night on Friday at Sterlingfest this year and I was about to start closing when a lady stopped and started talking to me about the kind of paint that I used. We talked about Annie Sloan for a bit, which thrift stores were our favorites, what kinds of pieces we loved to do, and how much furniture we had sitting around in our garages. She came into the booth because she loved a Chateau Gray piano bench that I had sitting outside, and by the end of the conversation, she purchased it. It doesn’t always happen that way, but if she had just admired it as she walked by, it might be sitting in my garage right now rather than in her house.


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And here is one of the pitfalls of selling furniture at a craft show–people sometimes assume that it’s cool to just hang out for a bit–with no intention of buying anything. You just have to laugh about it, right?!?

So those of my tips for selling furniture! Do you have anything to add? Have you tried these things with any success (or had anything backfire on you)? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

Talk soon,

Jessie

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