Driving Away Our Customers

Getting back on message, here’s another comment from my This Scene Is Dead post to explore:

“I’m not a crafter, but was an enthusiastic attendee for a while, but have now stopped going to craft fairs because they just tend to feel a bit half hearted and lame, with demoralised sellers.” Secondhand Safari Suzy.

Firstly, let me say that you should check out Suzy’s project, Second Hand Safari, where she and her family are attempting to live an entire year without buying anything new. So far, she’s doing really well and her blog is a great read.

Secondly – this is heartbreaking to hear. That craft fairs are now so ubiquitous and are perceived like this by one-time-supporters is a hideous state of affairs. Sadly, this is not the only comment to this effect that I received from my posts and it’s clear that people who are our target market are being turned off because of haphazardly organised events. It’s doing us all a diservice.

It also highlights that for customers, finding a good craft fair is just as much of a minefield as exhibitors. How do you spot the good uns from the bad? How do you know when to keep on walking or when to stop in? My rule of thumb is if there is a sign with “fayre” on it, don’t even break your stride. You’ll know though once you’re in, you’ll spot the tell-tale signs – the sparsely populated hall, the knitted toilet roll cosies and the dubious home baking will be dead giveaways.

A good event will have clear, eye-catching signage which entices both customers and exhibitors to find out more. I’m sure I’m not the only person who will have seen a poster for an event and thought, “Wow, that looks great, I want to be involved” and then gone online to sign up as an exhibitor, or updated my diary with this must-not-miss happening. Regular events will have a brand identity to build up trust from their customers and exhibitors. You’ll see them mentioned in the press, you’ll see a buzz about it online (for all the right reasons).

Similarly though, it’s your duty, both as a customer and exhibitor to contribute to the buzz – have you had a great experience? Blog about it. Tweet it. Mention it on Facebook. Tell your friends. Email your mum. Casually drop it into conversation with your colleagues. Not so good experience? Report the facts in the same way – people need to know (but do be careful to remain balanced, no one likes being bitchy for the sake of it).

It all adds up to create a picture of how an event is doing and will help those considering visiting it to assess whether to make the effort or not. This is particularly helpful for exhibitors travelling from far away or people taking days off, etc. I still get people emailing me asking about THAT EVENT, months later, from my blog report.

I hope Suzy and all the others like her can find some good events in her area (though she won’t be buying anything for a year!) and that we can entice her back into the fold one day.

Photo taken by me in Portsoy a few years ago, outside a craft fair that not only had dolphins but also vaguely racist knitted dolls. Nice.

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2 thoughts on “Driving Away Our Customers

  1. I have to agree. One of the reasons we like to attend craft fairs is to scout out potential new suppliers for our shop. We’ve stopped doing this recently because, frankly, it’s often been quite a depressing experience – a fair held in a barely-lit nightclub with a sticky floor and exhausted, unhappy sellers isn’t much of a draw, to be honest.

    We’re very glad, however, that we made the effort to attend the DesignMarket show at the Fruitmarket in Edinburgh at the weekend. It was brilliant!

    A tightly-curated showcase for work of the highest standard across many disciplines. The sellers we spoke to were as friendly and professional as you could hope for, but they were also relaxed and confident in a way we rarely see at this type of event. We nipped in for ten minutes and stayed for over an hour. We came home with a stack of new-to-us suppliers who we’re interested in stocking, and we felt inspired and excited by all the creative people we met. It reminded us how good craft and design fairs can be.

    Wish there were more shows like this, and less of the other sort.

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