As promised, now that we're half way through the year, here's a little update of where we stand, what we have learned, and what we are thinking of for the future.
Before i start, I need to get a few things off my chest, especially after yesterday when Paula ran the event for me. She was subjected to a lot of the comments and "ideas" that i hear every time, but as she wasn't used to being on the receiving end, it was difficult for her to get a response accepted. So to add my contribution, here is a list of the regular comments, and my response to them. These are not aimed at anyone in particular, just general things we hear every time we run a fair, as if it's our first fair and we've no idea what we're doing! Hopefully they'll raise a simle among our regulars.
1)"You need a bigger banner, nobody can see that from over the road" We've had this for three years because we have been running fairs for that long. To be honest, we've had banners of all sizes, the largest being some 15ft long and on it's own free-standing expanding wall - and it made no difference to when we only had a simple banner tied to the railings on the front of the car park. We've settled on a system of a permanent banner, and then one we raise on the day to say that we're open, and it is perfectly visible from across the road. It doesn't mean that because it's there, everyone who sees it will come in - they won't...
2)"You need some signs/banners/flyers the other side of the road" As if we haven't tried that. We have, at different times, had signs on the lamp posts, railings and on parked vehicles. We've put fliers under windscreen wipers, stood there for hours given them out and employed people to do the same. The return from that was around two punters for every 150 flyers given out. So, if we were to make a difference to the footfall, we'd need thousands of flyers, and people to stand there giving them out, which would raise the table fees to around £40 per table. Of course this doesn't mean we'd sell more, as we find that the punters who are cajoled to come in seldom buy anything.
Personally I would rather have 150 customers who come to buy, than an extra 150 who don't but who have cost us money to drag in.
3)"You should open for longer" Of course, that would mean so many more punters - except it won't, as the footfall after 4pm drops immediately to almost nothing. Plus the staff often need to prep the hall for the evening, so even if we're slow leaving, we're potentially in the way.
4)"You should advertise in...." Fabulous idea. Except of course we do, continually, online, in local media, and through placement of flyers and posters in local businesses, hairdressers, libraries, in fact everywhere that they have been proved to work. What we don't do is pay hundreds of pounds to advertise in glossy magazines or places that would mean increasing table fees. Our best results come from various craft networks, netmums, stallfinder etc. online. That is free to do, except for my time.
I could go on but, what's the point. Everyone's an expert in the craft fair world, we learned that in year one. Generally the loudest critics are the ones whose items don't sell. These tend to be completely out of kilter with what people expect to find at a fair, or simply not what people need. Of course the sellers who know their market, and sell decently hand crafted items, always do well, some of them have done better with our fairs than anywhere else they've tried, which reflects the quality of the customers we attract. We firmly believe that those who make good items sell well and those who haven't found their niche simply won't, and throwing more money at promoting the event won't change that for any of them.
The other thing we've tried this year is the odd Sunday fair, and to be honest it's too early to tell, but we have seen a difference in the footfall. Whether this was simply the weather we can't tell. But if there is a noticeable difference we'll revert to Saturday's only next year.
In terms of footfall, this is hard to predict. Yesterday (July 4th) we had a reasonable 115, considering there were so many other events running, plus tennis of course, and the British GP qualifying. Paula had her best selling day of the year, which is surprising as we had a day earlier in the year with 298 visitors and she only took £40 - so that proves that number don't mean everything.
Overall i feel that we're getting the balance right. Our pricing policy lets sellers have a table for £10 if the book three - which is proving very popular, and encourages the new sellers that we like to help and encourage. We feel that running a monthly fair is good for ensuring the returning buyers, and that the additional dates might not be necessary. Theming works, as we sold all of the table space for the Spring, Summer and Christmas fairs by March - where the remaining fairs were still being filled in May. In face we've still got a few tables left - but only a few.
We welcome feedback and of course ideas, preferably ones that aren't obvious or that we haven't already tried, but generally ideas can be useful, so feel free.
Onwards and Upwards