Craft Shows vs. Etsy?

I just finished my fifth craft show this past Saturday.  I participated in the 41st Annual Heritage Craft Fair in Framingham, MA.  It was my first time showing here, and I did not get the chance to visit this fair as a “customer” before applying.  But, I thought it seemed like a good fair to participate in because of its long history, the number of vendors (125 I think was the number I saw) and the expected attendance.

I worked pretty hard in the weeks leading up to the show to have a lot of inventory.  I knew from past shows that placemats are always my big sellers, so I cranked out many sets of those.  I also knew from past shows that my aprons are harder to sell in person because many of them are sized for women up to about a size 12 or 14, so I spent my last few weeks working on my new one-size Japanese style crossback apron.  I had about 95 items in total, and I thought my booth ended up looking pretty good  πŸ™‚

This was a new way of displaying my potholders, which I thought was really cute.
One of the things I like about doing craft shows is that I can see a lot of my products on display at once, and I am always amazed that I made it is all with my own hands!  It is very gratifying to see.  
But, to get back to this craft show in particular:  I would rate this show as being moderately successful for me.  It is really difficult to compare, however, to other shows I have done because this one was held at the end of March.  I have only ever done shows during the Holiday Season.  The attendance was bursty throughout the day, with times when the aisles were very crowded and times when the only other people in the hallways were other vendors.  Maybe this was because of the rain that was falling off and on during the day.  I had a lot of positive feedback on my booth and on specific items, which is always valuable when trying to determine if there is interest in your work.  For the most part, though, it seemed like people were doing more window shopping than buying, which I think had a lot to do with the time of year – Christmas wasn’t just around the corner so not as much gift buying going on.  I heard a lot of comments like “I LOOOOVE this apron.  If only I wore one.” or “That little girl’s apron is soooo sweet.  Too bad mine are grown.”  All in all, I ended up selling seven items, which made this an ok fair.  Maybe next year I will search out other fairs in the Spring so that I can compare. 
When the fair ended it was pouring out.  By the time I had everything packed and loaded back into my car, I was SOAKED.  Doing a craft show solo is definitely hard physical work setting up and tearing down your booth.  On the hour drive back home, I started asking myself  “Are craft shows really worth all the hard work?”  By the time I arrived home it would be almost a 12 hour day, and I knew that I would definitely be sore the next day.  Since the booth fee for this particular show was $70, the overhead for each of the items I sold was $10!!  Crazy!  Especially when you compare it to the overhead of selling on Etsy, which is less than half of that.  Granted on Etsy, I have never sold seven items in one day.  
I think the jury is still out for me if craft shows are really worth it.  I think I will need to do a lot more to see which are the right shows for my products.  I have already applied to the two shows I did last year and I am still on the look out for another show to do this fall  πŸ™‚

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