What sells at a craft festival? Some ideas...

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Forum topic by pashley posted 07-13-2008 02:47 PM 4235 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1044 posts in 4259 days

07-13-2008 02:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: craft festival rustic

Well guys, just got back from the Corn Hill Arts Festival here in Rochester, NY. Corn Hill is a one of those important stops on the craft show tour, from what I understand. I like it because they have a wide variety of stuff. Being the entrepeneur that one day hopes to sell at shows like this, I was on the lookout for the “hot thing” and found it.

This was a fella from Tennessee that was selling essentially rustic furniture. There were settees, planters and birdhouses with little tufts of moss attached here and there:

Now in this picture, you see a whole bunch of his product. I thought it was just stuff put out for people to choose, and that the red tags were prices. Boy, was I surprised! These were pieces that were sold, and the red tags were people’s “claim checks”! Wow.

Personally, I didn’t think this type of product would be a hot item. BUT, looking at the prices, I see why. Birdhouse were only $25, and large settees were $125 – low prices, when you consider the product. Also, this was something you put in your garden / backyard, and something a woman would most likely buy. The last time I went, iron “Shepherd’s crook” – type plant hangers were the big thing – again they went for around $25. At a smaller craft fair last year, which booth was mobbed? One selling these gourd-shaped birdhouses, again, around $25. Seeing a pattern here guys?!

Something a woman would most likely buy for around $25, for a garden or backyard decoration.

Also, I saw this very nice birdhouses. The raised carving detail is some sort of resin, or plastic, attached to an otherwise simple birdhouse. These went for around $250. My wife witnessed a lately take home two – about a $500 dollar order! Guess that guy had his tent fee paid for that weekend! Here’s the pics:

So, I think I see a pattern here – Something a woman would most likely buy for around $25, for a garden or backyard decoration.

How about you? Have you found this pattern at craft shows as well? If not, what buying patterns have you seen?

-- Have a blessed day!

12 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4189 days

#1 posted 07-13-2008 06:18 PM

Target Women. Jewelry and women’s clothing sell well always,
almost as well as the food. Everything else is a crapshoot.

Women will throw their disposable income at adornments for
themselves and their daughters. They will buy things to beautify
their homes more readily as well.

Shoddy birdhouses priced cheap are often good sellers – probably
because they are an easy decision, they can be placed outside so
there is none of the “where would I put it?” drama you get with
furniture pieces.

I’ve seen craftspeople choke at shows with all sorts of work you
would hope would sell well. If you make what you like to make
you may attract only the poor and non-buyers. Be cautious that

Same as with cabinet-work – targeting the affluent works.

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 4259 days

#2 posted 07-13-2008 11:45 PM

Copy that, Loren.

As per my observations, Woman, buying decorative things (either personal or household/garden) – and not expensive stuff at that.

So which is better a slow dime, or a fast nickel? That is, is it better to sell 100 things at $5, or 5 things at $100? I’d say the latter…

-- Have a blessed day!

View Josh's profile


119 posts in 4479 days

#3 posted 07-14-2008 01:46 AM

Women have been killing me this year. I have a shop selling birdhouses, benches, and planters. It seems the women are the ones saying no this year. I have been in sales for years, and this is new for me. I have a feeling it’s because times are a little tougher. Mama is holding onto that money.

Those planters would sell better if he put some flowers in them. Not everyone can put two and two together.

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4437 days

#4 posted 07-14-2008 02:22 AM

Craft shows are an interesting event. I used to do quite a few shows and it never ceased to amaze me that folks would throw so much money into buying food for the day and yet balk at a $25-$30 hand made piece of whatever that will last much longer than the indigestion from the greasy food they spent so much on.

You can drive yourself crazy trying to find “what works” or “what sells” at any one particular show. Those planters that the fella was selling so many of this year may not sale at all next year. Then again, he may sell a lot of them because people remember him and come back the next year looking for them.

With that said, you have to market to women at these craft shows. Most men go to craft shows, generally, because their wives/girlfriend, etc. drug them there.

You have to have something that is enough different from the guy in the next booth to get noticed by people walking by or they will just keep walking. We’ve all been to shows where it looks like one booth is just like the next, they all look like they came out of the Cherry Tree catalog or the Winfield Collection.

You’ve got to be different and make a mark for yourself in that little nitch.

I used to sell knitted Christmas stockings and other knitting things. I sold tons of the stockings because I had something unique. I would sell premade ones for $25 and then sold ones made to order for $35. The made to order ones sold well because they were personalized with someone’s name. Because of the personalization I would get repeat orders several years in a row because there’s always a new baby and new baby must have a stocking like the last one. So if you can get something like that going you’re on a nice road. Sometimes I would go home with almost everything I took to the show but still had a great show because I sold so many made-to-order stockings. It was a good gig. I got burned out and gave it up. You can only make so many stockings before you swear you’ll get sick if you see another one!

Long and short—- market to women, find something unique that will catch their eye while they are walking by, and pick a nice price point. The price point is dependent on the show. $25 at the street fair may not go so well because its out-of-this-world expensive, but at a show like the Fort Worth Main Street Arts Festival – $25 is cheapo junk.

Mostly though, pick something you like to make. If you don’t like making it, no matter how many you make and sell you won’t like doing it.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4855 days

#5 posted 07-14-2008 02:56 AM

moss…all these years I could have been using moss…I did a “art” show this year. Didn’t sell a thing, didn’t have anything under $150.00. The guy selling birdhouses sold out at about $125.00 a whack. I guess I don’t see the point in setting up production line work to make $15.00 an hour with no job security or benefits. Maybe I’m just grumpy because I didn’t think of MOSS!!!!

View Greg Wurst's profile

Greg Wurst

796 posts in 4373 days

#6 posted 07-14-2008 03:01 AM

A lot of that “rustic” furniture can be thrown together pretty-quickly, and virtually no finishing is required. Also, the material can be free if you live on property with a lot of woods. I can see how you could sell them cheaply and still make a profit.

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 4322 days

#7 posted 07-19-2008 01:27 AM

I am with Greg, I have seen alot of thrown together rustic type furniture, one guy came thru town with a truckload of like furniture but I could tell he used a nailgun and slave labor to put it all together, which would be faster and you could sell it for cheap, just do not offer a lifetime warranty and get out of town quick… :) Alot of the above looks like some of the projects in Dawn King’s book “Rustic Garden Projects” especially the planter chair but she uses screws so at least her’s will hold up longer. Quality rustic furniture is going to use mostly mortise and tenon joinery and after putting in that much time to sell it for cheap would break you. I have done a few shows like Dennis I had nothing under 150.00 and hauled in 2500.00 Mesquite dining tables and chairs and pub tables just for show and to generate leads. But I always had a portfolio of all my past pieces for potential customers to look at. I always sold out on my small, cash and carry items like footstools, birdhouses, benches, etc. The crowds are pretty predictable, for every 20 cotton candy/corn cob eating people that come buy there will be one or two that will not mind spending a little money for something they want or a well-to-do couple building a new house and needing some unique or custom furniture.

But uniqueness is key and you should come up with a line that is original but diverse and many differnt items, and if one item gets a lot of response or looks, make a mental note of it. I was at one show where 5 vendors were selling the same thing, all selling barnwood framed prints for next to nothing. I could not see how they could survive like that. Also the region you are in will dictate what might be a hot item.
One show I saw alot of Texas AM and UT Longhorn painted small pieces flying out the door.

I myself will do one or two shows a year just to test the waters, network, get out of the house/shop, and see how many oohs and agghs I get for some new design or item, generate leads, and hand out alot of business cards.

The real money is in the big shows, but we need to win the lottery to get ready for that, and have a couple of semis of product ready, I saw one guy selling slab benches with an art-deco twist on the bases for 6-8K a pop and getting it :)

Anywayz.. Good Luck on whatever you will just take some research and testing the waters…

Ps: I am surprized you did not get tackled for pulling out a camera, around here I have seen some near fights over that where a vendor will get very upset if you try to take a picture of there stuff.. :)

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 4259 days

#8 posted 07-19-2008 04:22 AM

Thanks, Frank, good points.

I hear you about the camera; I thought someone might flip out, but they didn’t.

Also, what are the “big shows”? Can you drop a few names?

-- Have a blessed day!

View NY_Rocking_Chairs's profile


528 posts in 4138 days

#9 posted 07-20-2008 10:02 PM


I live in Arcade, NY out south-east of Buffalo. Letchworth is a large show (for NY) out here and happens Columbus Day Weekend in October. If you are looking to get into the craft show circuit, I recommend checking out Made-In-New-York. They have a website and a Yahoo group. They are a bunch of crafters who provide mutual support.

I cannot help you on the big show thing, though I am interested as well. I have not done a show personally though have been selling through my website and some local galleries. From the talk about the recent shows, the economy is really hurting them, sales and crowds are down, fees are up, etc.

-- Rich, anybody want a peanut?

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 4322 days

#10 posted 07-20-2008 10:38 PM

Hey Guys…the shows I was reffering to our the annual big ones, like High Point N.C. and Las Vegas Furniture Market, Dallas World Trade Center, etc….

But anyway check out this guys furniture he is out of new york and he is the one pulling 6K to 14K for one piece.

I think he recently married Holly Hunt of Holly Hunt LA, a big time interior designer…

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 4283 days

#11 posted 07-20-2008 11:34 PM

When I lived in the FL Panhandle I did a lot of craft shows. Sold a few things but more importantly I had a stash of business cards that I passed out that brought in the $$$$’s after the show in the form of commissioned work. I attracted people to my booth be either sitting on a stitching horse and sewing leather or doing small hand woodcarvings. The folks would stop to watch, talk and take away the cards even if they didn’t buy at the show. I found the shows to be the cheapest way to advertise. I couldn’t compete with folks selling leather bags and belts made in south America but I did sell a heck of a lot of carved wooded belt buckles and name plates with the persons name carved with runic letters.

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 4259 days

#12 posted 07-22-2008 04:04 AM

All great ideas. I just might jump in this pool.

-- Have a blessed day!

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