Friday, February 25, 2011

Selling: What are the Goals of Your Display?


(Sorry about the delay since my last blog post. I had the flu, and it has taken a bit of time to get back into the swing of things.)

Before my first market, I scoured the internet for help on how to display my work. Unfortunately each crafter has a different style, needs, and tastes. Some shows require complicated displays, especially if they are outdoors. While reading this, it is important to note that displays are a work in progress. I wake up very early in the morning to attend shows, and I refuse to have any sort of complicated setup, and I must be able to carry everything on my own in one trip (suitcases with wheels are great!). The first step in planning your display is to assess your Goals (other than selling loads of product!). Most of my experience is working with a provided table and nothing else.



Attract Customers

At any show or market, there is a limit before the prospective customer experiences fatigue and craft overload. You need to be clear in your display. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you should do, but if you have been to craft shows in the past, think of which displays did not work well. Be tidy! Be organized! You only have a few seconds as a customer walks by (possibly distracted by cell phones, children, etc) to get your message across. If there is something on your table that does not clearly speak your message, get rid of it! It’s just clutter. Think about where customer’s will be looking as the walk along your table. Where will they be looking as they approach your table? Take a picture after setting up your table and assess it a few days later. A large sign will also help, as will the color of your setup. I sell toys, so I tend towards bright colors. Is your product more sophisticated? Think about neutral or really deep tones.

In my experience there are two areas of focus. There is a vertical eye line that people will see from a distance. To maximize exposure use shelves, easels, racks, etc. Some people will also use bed risers to raise their tables 6” taller. Since I focus on toys, I try to keep things as close to their level as possible.For customers that are at your table, they are probably looking down (horizontal eye line). Don’t put everything on a shelf, have baskets, plates (I’ve seen people use casserole dishes effectively), business cards, handouts, etc along the front of your table.  Highlight Your Work

Your display should immediately scream what your product is. If I am left wondering about what part is for sale amongst clutter, I’ll just walk away. I’ve seen customers ask vendors about buying parts of their displays! That is definitely not a goal!. I am easily fatigued by displays. Be organized (I know that I’m repeating myself!). A grid pattern, groupings, and empty spaces can be used to guide your customer through your display. You do not need to cover every inch with your work. Take a picture- when you assess your picture, is it easy to see each product? What is the flow of your space? What do you see first when you look at your space? Are you a Jack of All Trades? Think hard about how you will arrange all your different products. Listen to customer comments. Did they not see something that you had on display? Look where your customers eyes go. What are they seeing?

Show your Style

People like to buy artisan goods if they show personality. I like cute, playful, and fun. I have a lime green, bright table cloth. I want kids to play and rearrange. Nothing on my table is breakable. I like to use a chalkboard for messages.

If you can, bring your work with you and demonstrate the process. If that isn’t possible, buy a cheap digital picture frame and load pictures of your process on it. I buy artisan work because I am interested handmade and I want to know about the process. If you make a variety of products, how do they fit together into your cohesive style?


As an artisan, you are branding yourself. Put your name, and contact info everywhere. I use fabric tags, a sign, and business cards. I’m still working on this aspect, and I’ll have another blog post about it at a later date.


Not every show carries liability insurance. Check with your homeowners insurance to see if you are protected if someone is injured by your display. To every show I take a first aid kit, nail file, nail clippers, stapler, tape, and straight pins. One area of focus is your table covering. It should almost come to the floor, but sometime there can be excess cloth on the corners. Use straight pins to pin them back. Straight pins can also be used to pin your sign on the front of your display if you do not have a wall space. Many craft show organizers don’t want you to pin anything on fabric wall that may separate vendors – some clothes pins, or clips will work here.

Also, be warned that kids in strollers can have a strong grip and bring down a display. Or people can trip and bump. I do not put any glass or delicate items on my display. I will sometime put a price list in a picture frame, but I will take out the glass (this also prevents a glare on your information). If you have delicate items on display, make sure they are secure and in the middle of your table.


Some of My Displays

Every component, except the easel, fits in my medium sized suitcase! I haven’t done this in these displays, but I should put a cloth over the shelves (as in the picture at the top of this post) so that customers are not distracted by the space below the shelves. My display is not fancy nor is it expensive, but my products are highlighted, and customers easily gage what I am about.

exhibition park 2010 (4) Acadia 2010 (2) SDC11870


  1. What an excellent article!! I'm going to link to it in a few different spots so others can gain lots of help from your experiences and ideas!

    I was contemplating the Truro Farmer's Market beginning in late May but it's OUTSIDE and would require LOTS of special setup fees and displays and protection and gazebo and need I say more?! Too much for a casual vendor!

    I think I prefer indoor venues and will have to look into some coming up :o)