How much stock should I make for a craft fair or market?

How much stock should I prepare for a craft fair or market?
How much stock should I prepare for a fair or market?

It’s easy to say ‘it’s always better to bring more stock than less stock. But what does this realistically look like if you have a young family with kids running around, errands to run, a social life, a full time job not to mention chores all whilst trying to side hustle?!

Most fairs and markets are booked well in advance, so  when you receive the official “you’re in!” email, start drafting out a plan. Map out what items you’ll need to replenish and how many you can make in that time period. You don’t want to stress yourself up until the last minute frantically making stock the night before! Set realistic goals and deadlines and be realistic about how long it takes for you to complete each piece. If you don’t know – it’s a good idea to time yourself and note this down somewhere, so you will remember in future, how long, materials required etc it takes for you to make specific designs.

Keep in mind, in this stock preparation stage, it will require you to buy more materials, packaging etc. Keep track of all these expenses, so you can work out how much you’ll need to break even before returning a profit. Which is why understanding and implementing the (simple) maths behind your pricing and pricing for profit is so vital!! For more detailed help on how to price your items for profit visit my blog post: http://bit.ly/pricingforsuccess

Remember to keep in mind the length of the fair or market. Obviously the longer the fair’s duration, the more stock you should prepare. Also consider the amount of space you’re allocated and the size of your pieces, you want your stall to look full. Estimating the stock you’ll need to make is an estimate at best and with more experience selling at fairs and markets you’ll gain a better idea of how to estimate this number.

Generally I’ll make 5x of most designs, but with items that are within the $30 – $150 price range, I’ll make more. How many more is of course dependent on many factors such as the following to name a few:

  • Is this piece a current trending item?
  • Does it incorporate trending colours?
  • Is the price point friendly especially for someone who’s new to your brand?
  • Is this item something that can be used in the current or upcoming season?
  • Does this piece take a relatively short amount of time to create?
  • Is this item priced for profit?

Pieces in this lower price bracket are more likely to be an easier sell than items in a higher price bracket, especially if this is the first instance someone is encountering your brand at the markets. You do not want to spend hours and hours making an item that isn’t profitable for you – especially in this lower price bracket or any price bracket really. If you’re wanting to seriously grow your business into something sustainable, you need to start charging what you’re worth and positioning your brand in a way so that potential customers can appreciate the value in your creative ideas and products and are willing to pay for it!

Most of your pieces should be no more than $150 – that’s generally the upper limit for the average shopper at a market. Of course there are exceptions and there may be customer who will buy your higher priced items. They’re always nice to have on display as “aspirational” pieces for your target customer. From experience, this $150 ceiling is because of situational positioning. Visitors of the market think that ‘because this is not a retail shop’ and ‘it’s a market’ there’s a subconscious barrier that makes them justify that they shouldn’t spend more money here. If your same piece were available at the MONA, NGV or MCA gallery stores – their perception of ‘value’ for your piece appears entirely different. The visitor will feel like: ‘Oh, this piece is being sold at MONA, NGV, MCA etc – it must be amazing and worth the asking price.’

For me, there’s nothing particularly special about choosing 5x of each. It literally is just an arbitrary number I chose. Whatever number you choose depends on how big your existing product collection is, how much time you have to prep for the show and the profit margin you’ve built into each piece. I have about 50 unique items in my collection, and building up sufficient stock before any show takes a considerable amount of time, energy and discipline to stick to my production schedule. But the beauty is, even if you don’t sell out, you have ready-made stock available to pack straight away for online sales. Also, don’t forget to take into consideration any other fairs you may have booked that are close in date to each other.

At my last event, I created these copper wire test tube vases designed to bring a little bit of nature inside to place next to one’s computer/laptop, dressing table, bedside table or a small table centrepiece on the dining table. I made 10 of these just to test the waters, and they sold out mid morning of the first day of the market. Of course I had customers who had come back later on who were upset, because they wanted to look around the whole fair first before deciding on what to buy only to realise they had all sold out.

Yes I know that if you sell out of something, you technically could direct the person to your online store to place an order, but more than likely the customer will not follow through with it (unless they really, really want it.) If you do sell out of an item, always take down their details – name, email, details of item, so you can follow them up. Don’t just give them your business card and hope they follow you up to buy your item. Chances are they won’t. People are busy, they get lazy, forget – what have you and you’ve missed out on a sale. Be proactive and be in control to close the sale.

From experience, it definitely sucks running out of stock, and missing out on potential sales. But at the same time, it’s a big flashing neon sign, telling you that, that specific product is hot property and you need to make some more quick smart or even expand upon that idea into complementary products.

 

How should I organise my stock?

It’s a good idea to organise the stock you’ve built up, so on the day, you know how it’s organised, how many you have in stock and where you can find more of a particular style. Just a running excel spreadsheet is a good start. You can print it out and update it at the end of the event, so you know the difference is the amount you sold. I like to keep a running tab in a notebook of the items I sell each day at the market. That way, I can perform a simple reconciliation to check that the items I sold on the day actually do match up to the differences on my excel sheet. Any weird differences should be investigated – it could be just a case of you accidentally misplacing the item somewhere else, or maybe even unfortunately a case of theft. Another benefit of this process is that if you need to order more supplies for a product, you don’t need to manually count all your stock each and every time because the excel sheet should be an accurate account of your inventory.

For organisation, I pack each item of my jewellery into individual zip lock bags. This means there’s less likelihood that a chain would get tangled or scratched. I’ve bought some subdivided plastic containers and labelled each area by type e.g. earrings, rings, body chains etc. This means I know exactly where to get more stock to replenish my stall when I sell an item and helps slow down the tarnishing process. (silver reacting with free particles in the air to cause the piece to appear greyish/shadowy on the surface.)

Of course, organising your stock is dependant on what you sell – and this varies greatly between different products from paper goods, skin and bath products to bulkier home décor items and everything in between. Exercise common sense in how to organise your stock that makes sense to you.


DOWNLOAD THE FREE 30 DAY CRAFT FAIR PREPARATION CALENDAR!

To help you get organised with your preparation leading up to your craft fair I’ve created an Excel calendar with helpful notes that guides you on what to do, when to do it, so you’ll be super prepared and have a stress free prep period!
Join us in The Nerd Burgers Facebook Community to get your free craft fair stock preparation calendar and meet likeminded friends who can encourage you during your preparation!

Download my 30 day Excel Craft Fair Calendar


How much packaging should I bring?

Always take enough packaging to prepare for the best-case scenario: you sell out of everything. So depending on how much stock you’ve made, bring enough packaging to cover that number of items. Nothing is worse than running out of packaging and just handing over the item as is – give your customer the full brand experience that includes “all the bells and whistles” for a lasting impression.

Bring enough bubble wrap, plain coloured tissue paper or custom tissue paper. You want to make sure if you sell breakables like ceramics, glass items etc that you wrap and pack it securely, so it gets home safely with your customer! Don’t forget tape and scissors!

Depending on what you sell, it’s a good idea to invest in some carry bags. It builds curiosity when people at the market see lots of people carrying around bags with your shop logo on it. They’ll wonder – ooh – I wonder what products that shops sells – everyone’s bought something from there! It’s a form of social proof and piques curiosity – evidence that people have bought items from that shop, so therefore the items that the shop sells must be interesting.

Some markets have banned plastic bags completely, so it’s best to check what guidelines the organiser’s have in place for packaging. Otherwise paper bags are a good choice, not only because they’re reusable, but also can be recycled. Getting them in a neutral colour and stamping it with your logo or sticking your business logo on it is an easy way to customise it, without going down the full customisation path. If your budget allows, custom printed bags give it a nice professional touch.

 

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Monica is a corporate cubical escape artist turned jewellery maker, designer and creative business infopreneur. She helps fellow artists, designers and makers launch and grow a handmade business they love.
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