Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Wayne County Fair, Belleville, MI August 5-10, 2019
Fees: $100 deposit, $50 for 10' x 10' indoor space, $25 for electric
What we were selling: Photography prints, homemade greeting cards and sock snowmen (my wife and I shared the booth space.
This was my first fair and overall it wen't better than I feared, but not as well as I'd hoped.
This is my first review, so I'm not sure what etc best format is, so I'm just going to go through some bullet points first
• This was the fair's first year doing an indoor vendors area.
• The fair ran 10am to 10pm Monday through Saturday
• The vendors' area was open 2-10pm Tuesday to Thursday and 1-10pm Friday & Saturday
• There were 50 vendors
• Attendance was supposed to be 18,000 to 20,000 (I think it was much lower though)
• Overall, everyone was really nice from staff to vendors to attendees.
• There was a good variety among the vendors with minimal overlap.
• Most of the vendors were really good about helping each other out
• Setup and teardown went really smooth
• Parking was right near the vendor area
• Vendor area was indoors and locked up after hours
• At $50 for a booth it was a great deal
• There was hardly any traffic through the vendors area.
• The vendor area was right by the entrance, so most people only passed by the area on their way in or out of the fair. And since we didn't open until 2pm anyone who showed up between 10am and 2pm didn't notice us until they were leaving.
• Low sales pretty much across the board (mostly due to traffic)
• There was a bunch of drama. See below.
There was a lot of drama going on throughout due to two events
1) On the first day, one of the food vendors reported one of the other food vendors to the health department for selling peppers or pickles or something along those lines. It all seemed a bit mean spirited, because the two vendors were both selling similar products. Anyway, the health department came in and busted a bunch of vendors for stuff, including the vendor that originally contacted them. How Ironic. It made for a tense start to the week and the one vendor who got reported almost walked out on the event entirely because they were so angry.
Word is that this is going to result in there being no food vendors in the merchant area next year.
2) The fair was really strict on their attendance policy and revoked the $100 deposits of everyone that was not in their booth at opening each day. Some weren't notified until the second to the last day of the show that they were not getting their deposit back. This resulted in at least two, that I know of, barely breaking even. I'm sure some ended up being way in the hole. One of them ended up leaving a day early and another packed up halfway through the last day. This actually worked out for me, because the fair let me expand my booth into one of the empty space which really opened up my booth and increased the number of people that came into the booth.
I think the problems were all a result of this being the first year doing the indoor vendor area, so I suspect things will be better all around next year.
Anyway, aside from those hick-ups and the low traffic it was a nice show for us. A lot of people stopped in their tracks to admire my photography, and pretty much everyone under the age of 12 went on and on about how cute my wife's snowmen were. And although we did get lots of compliments we didn't get much in the line of sales. At times the booth felt more like a museum attraction than a retail booth. Up until the last day most people didn't even take the time to flip through my print bins.
I did sell 2 framed prints on the first day which paid for our booth space and then some, so that set me at ease for the rest of the fair, which unfortunately did not go as well. On the second day we didn't sell anything, and the rest of the week didn't get much better. In the end we sold about $325 worth of stuff split pretty evenly between my wife and I. My expectations were set pretty low from the start, so in that regard I consider the fair to have been a success for us. Full timers were probably disappointed.
I'm curious why this was moved from the Reviews category?
Did I miss something?
I've moved it to Reviews, Matt. All I can think is that perhaps you didn't click the right category. Its in the right place for awhile now.
That is an incredible amount of time to spend for so little return, despite the low booth fee. I realize this was your first fair, and it's a tough learning curve. Suggestions for the future: take a look at the show hours before you apply and see whether you want to invest that much time. Look at the venue:are fair goers really likely to be looking at and buying art/crafts? Does a $100 deposit for a $50 booth make sense?
We all started somewhere. In my 45 years of doing shows, many of them were not my best choices or seemed like a good idea at the time and simply didn't work out the way I'd hoped. Don't let this discourage you. Part of the game. Use art fair reviews like this site to give you a place to start in considering your show applications. Also think about your booth presentation: a number of very different items mixed up in the same small area is confusing and dicourages customer investigation. Good luck to you!
Matt, there are a lot of variable about why an artist does not do well. One thought is that this was not your target market. Feeling like a museum attraction ... been there and done that. That makes me think this was not your target audience.
The deposit was twice the booth rental. Never heard of that situation before. It almost sounds like they were using the deposit as an arm twisting situation instead of treating everyone like professionals.