I spent about four years regularly attending craft shows as a vendor, and although I only attended shows during the fall/winter season, I packed them in! I usually scheduled 10-11 shows between the end of September through Christmas, and it could be a real whirlwind. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten things like extra business cards, chapstick, water, snacks and even my tablecloths!!!! Thank goodness I was at a smaller show when I forgot that last one, because you can get sent home/blacklisted for things like that at larger markets!!
We already have so much to worry about with pricing, creating enough inventory, packaging, paying show fees, etc. Prepping for markets and craft shows can be a second job in itself! I wanted to share my (extensive, but worth it!) checklist for market day prep. Using checklists and having a plan helps me to remain focused, calm and confident (mostly..) leading up to and in between my shows each year.
Transportation & Load in/out: First let’s talk about your product. Maybe you have already been doing this for a while and have a system in place for transporting your product that works – I believe that all of us makers become masters of car Tetris… but if you don’t, it is not something to fret over. EVERYTHING that encompasses craft show days is a constantly changing as a result of trial and error, so feel free to experiment! I have seen people pack their product in everything from wooden crates, plastic Tupperware and rolling totes to Ikea bags & reusable shopping bags! I currently use wooden crates that I can stack on a dolly and a plastic rolling Tupperware bin I found at Wal-Mart. Find what works for you and be sure to have everything packed up and ready to go at least a day in advance if possible. I am also always sure to have a foldable dolly, bungee cords and zipties on hand as well as some towels and tarps in case I have to load in and out through the rain! You may not always have help loading in and out at shows so be sure to plan accordingly. Also be sure to bring any documentation that the show may require such as parking passes or documentation for the day of!
Setting up your Space & Display: This part varies wildly from show to show. Some shows my offer you a 6 ft space and include a table, chair and even a tablecloth (talk about a lighter load in! Yay!) while others give you a 10×10 space of grass or pavement and you have to bring everything to fill it! I am going to include all of the things I bring for the latter scenario and then you can make your adjustments based on the show!
- Table(s) and Tablecloth(s) – make sure the show doesn’t require a certain color tablecloth!
- Chair/stool – I have forgotten to bring something to sit in multiple times and it can make for a painful end of the day…
- Tent – BE SURE to know what your show requires! Some shows want white tents, others require you to show a fire-proof/retardant certification for your tent. For the longest time I only attended shows that allowed you to go without a tent and when I finally purchased one it was blue, so there are still some shows I am not yet eligible to attend due to not having the necessary tent!
- Tent Weights – this is a BIG DEAL and if you have a tent without them you should get your butt on Amazon and buy some. They are usually pretty cheap and I recommend the ones that you fill with pea gravel or sand that wrap around the tent legs. The first time I Brought my blue tent to a show without weights it was so windy I almost had to take it down. Luckily I was next to someone with the wrap weights and she was able to wrap them around both of our tent legs. Talk about saving the day!
- Tent Walls – This was a recent purchase I made for a show that was supposed to be outdoors on a potentially rainy day. Although it did not end up raining (thank goodness), I was able to securely close up my tent with the 4 walls and leave my table and display set up overnight and only had to pack up my more expensive inventory. The walls are also fantastic for sunny days to block a bit of that heat and light!
- Display Items – this includes everything besides your table that you use to showcase and display your product! Crates, shelves, peg board and wire walls, jars, greenery, pricing signage, decorative lights, banners and other signage, etc.
- Power Cords and lighting – I have yet to go to a show where I have had access to power or have needed to bring lighting for a later afternoon/night show. If this is you and you are unsure of what to bring try reaching out to the coordinator of the show or even to an artists who has attended the show in the past (most shows will still have the past years’ artists listed on their websites so you can reach out to them!)
Showtime: Or should I say “SHOWTIME!!!”?? Okay, you are all set up, your inventory looks great, now it is time to get down to the details. These are the things that will help make your actual show day a success and help you maintain comfort, confidence and peace of mind throughout the day(s). Some of these items my not be a necessity to you but they are a cumulation of things that at some point I have found myself wishing I had at a show.
- Extra Business cards and a business card holder! I can not tell you how many times I have forgotten to print extra business cards or forgotten to have a way to display them at a show!
- Phone & Power Bank – I have a solar charger that I can use at outdoor shows that I found on Amazon. I am careful not to be on my phone too much during shows to help my battery last but a lot of people will use the portable power banks which I do think is a great investment!
- Credit Card reader – I have two of these JUST in case! I have yet to forget both of them but have definitely lent my spare out to other artists who have forgotten theirs!! If you have an newer iPhone I believe there is also an extra adapter you need for some of the credit card readers so add that to your list if that’s you!
- Cash and something to keep it in- less and less people pay in cash but at craft shows you have quite a mixed bag and don’t want to miss out on a sale because you don’t have change! Be sure to bring a mix of smaller bills and have a safe place to stash them.
- Pad of paper and pens – Although I have moved to tracking specific sales via square, I still like to jot down my cash sales on paper. I have also found the paper useful if I get a custom order at a show. People can take the pad and pen and write down their address and contact information for me while I help other customers instead of having to stop everything and enter the information into my phone. It is also a handy way to jot down notes about things to add to this list!
- Newsletter sign up sheet – I have yet to have one of these at my table because I don’t send out newsletters but it is a great thing to have if you are a blogger or if you send out that kind of marketing!
- Mirror – I STILL have to buy one of these for my shows this coming up year. I plan on getting a cheap handheld one from Walmart. Despite the fact that people take more and more selfies each and every day, people still want to see themselves in a mirror! This may not apply to you and your product but if it does, it is a must have!
- Shopping Bags and Tissue – I finally gave in this year and started bringing shopping bags for my customers. I usually use recycled gift bags, paper grocery bags with handles (Kroger and Whole Foods have this kind of paper bag) and even plastic grocery bags – these are actually great if it is a rainy show! I have not yet had to break down and BUY paper shopping bags but I believe this year I may have to do so!
- Additional Supplies – Sharpies, Scissors, Hole Punch, Price tags, Twine/String, Tape, Safety Pins, Lint Roller (if you use black tablecloths this is a must have!), Trash Bags, Paper Towels (I once spilled my FULL 31oz cup of coffee and had to run all the way across the building to the bathroom to get paper towels to wipe it up before it got on my or my neighboring artists stuff!) Logo Stamp (I still want one of these!) and a Clipboard!
- Water and snacks – Food at craft shows can be pricey depending on where you are, and personally unless I’m doing REALLY well that day, I don’t spend any extra money on food and drinks. I like to shop in the clearance section at Kroger and buy protein bars for 50 cents a piece (or less!) and stockpile them for show season!
- Chapstick, Lotion, Layers & hand warmers – all items that I have left at home and desperately needed at some of my winter shows, especially the outdoor ones! No one likes to be freezing cold or have chapped lips and skin all day!
- Hand sanitizer/wipes & Bandaids – I remember the first time I felt compelled to use the hand sanitizer I Brought with me to a show when the only bathrooms available where porta-potties with empty hand-sanitizer dispensers!
- Sunglasses, Hat, Sunscreen & Bug Spray – I have been plagued by bugs and severely burned at shows before so these items stay in my car year round!
- Advil or pain reliever of choice – This is something I never carried with me until I got a migraine at a show! I rarely take pain meds but I was so stinking miserable until one of my fellow artists gave me some Motrin!
- Camera and Something to work on during the show – The first to showcase your booth, set up and product and the second to showcase your mad making skills to your customers! People LOVE getting to see you doing your thing!
Create a “Market Box” – My final recommendation is to create a Market Box/Tote/Bag that you keep the essentials in! I actually keep the following things in my car throughout the entire market season (and some of them year round).
- Water & Snacks, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Chapstick, Bug Spray, Towels, Hand Sanitizer, Wipes, extra pens and small pads of paper, extra business cards, extra price tags & string, sharpie, scissors, lint roller, lotion, pain reliever, essential oils.
Well… There you have it! I hope this was helpful to you in some way or another, I have created a printable version of this list that you can download and use for your upcoming shows. I would LOVE to hear what you would add to this list! What are your Market Day Must haves??
Download your free PDF version of this checklist to use at your upcoming shows below:
Never miss a blog post: