This page is part of our Display Workshop learning module.
Many of the things we’ve discussed in retail display also apply to craft booth display. But there are some specific considerations for craft show booths.
A craft booth is a small space that needs to create a big impact in a short time. It needs to say who you are and what you do and it needs to say that from a distance.
What should your craft booth look like? One of the best ways to start planning is to look at other craft booths – attend fairs and shows and really look at how the booth displays have been set up and how the crafts have been displayed. You can also learn a lot from websites like Pinterest where you’ll find many posts about crafts and craft displays.
Picking a theme can help to focus your ideas and simplify your display. Think about who your customers are and work out a theme that will appeal to them. The theme or overall feel of your booth should represent who you are, what you do, and showcase what makes you unique.
Your booth should reflect what you make. For example, if your work has a retro or nostalgic feel, reflect that throughout your display, from the colours to the lettering you use for your hangtags, and choose vintage props to display your work. If you do wildcrafting you could use outdoor items, such as beach rocks and driftwood, for your display. If you make contemporary jewellery, you might want to make your display clean and uncluttered, and choose backgrounds that contrast with the jewellery items. Make the look of your booth part of the story of your crafts.
Your theme should be part of all aspects of the display. Colours, materials, even your marketing materials and signage should all be coordinated to give the same impression. Consistency in theme and color of your booth helps customers remember you and recognize your products.
Think about displaying your items the way customers would use them. Things that go together could be grouped together. This will help customers imagine how they would use your products. Your display should complement and show off the crafts, not compete with them. The crafts should be what your eye goes to; the background, shelves and props should stay in the background. If you are sharing a booth with another person, make an attempt to coordinate the colours and theme so that the entire booth has a cohesive feel.
You can show customers that you are the maker by having a small sign saying “all work made by me” or a photo of you at work, or even by demonstrating what you make. Knowing how something is made, and having spoken to the person who made it, can be a big selling point for buyers.
Your booth should create an atmosphere that will welcome people and bring them in. Where can you find ideas? Take a good look when you are shopping – see how other craft booths, shops and shopping websites use colour to help achieve their look and feel.
Colour is part of your theme. The colours you choose should work well together and show off your crafts not compete for attention. If you are making red and green Christmas crafts, for example, they might get lost if they are displayed on a tablecloth with a red and green print. Experiment well before the craft show to see what works best for your products. Choose colors that make your products show up well.
Consider how contrast can be used to help you attract attention to a specific product – for example, light products displayed on a dark background, or smooth products like ceramics, displayed on a textured background like burlap. Solid colors make a good background to display items with prints and patterns.
If you have printed tags and business cards, or a logo, you could use the same colours in your booth and signage. This creates a coordinated look and helps customers remember your brand. Alternatively, you could choose a colour that complements or contrasts with your marketing materials and shows them off.
Remember though, that showcasing the crafts is your main objective. The colours you choose should match your theme and the mood you want to create. Bright pastels can help you create a cheerful sunny look. Soft vintage colours work well for a nostalgic look. Colours from nature work with an eco look, and so on. Sometimes no colour works best – white can give you a clean contemporary look and black can make a dramatic background that shows off your items. If you are using a backdrop behind your table, match it to your overall design, but again make sure that it doesn’t take attention away from your product.
For a full discussion of how colours work to enhance each other in a colour scheme, take a look at our How to Work with Colour page.
Props and Materials
You can buy display stands and props that are designed for retail display. Prices and materials vary. If you don’t have the budget, or don’t like the look of retail displays, then look for ways to make your own, and fit the props to the overall theme of your booth.
There are ways to keep your displays affordable and still look professional. For a Christmas craft fair, take advantage of holiday sales on decorative display items. Office supply shops have great back to school sales. Vintage and thrift shops always have bargains.
You can use all kinds of things to make your props. For example, you don’t always need a tablecloth for a table covering – you could use a length of fabric or curtains from the bargain bin. Look around with an open mind for interesting finds – even a shower curtain might provide the look you need.
Styrofoam can be used in many ways – covered, it can be a backing, or a riser, or fill for a basket. You could buy display props or shelving that you would be able to re-use in your home. Or you could re-use containers – a storage tub could be used to bring your crafts to the fair, and then, covered with a cloth, that same tub could be used as a riser to display your crafts.
Check online to find ideas for different types of materials you can use to make your own displays. You’ll find that other craft makers are doing interesting things for their displays – using a burlap covered PVC pipe for bracelet displays, or a vintage cake tray as a tiered display rack, making custom ring trays from wooden boxes, or making fabric mannequins for necklace displays. Look online, and then take a look around for things that you can use to make custom displays. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised at the number of affordable and interesting objects that can be used to show off your crafts.
Outdoor and vintage items used as props should be well cleaned. You don’t want to be surprised by something that crawls out of your driftwood – and don’t forget to include a mirror in your display if you have things customers may want to try on.
Consider weight and transportation when choosing your props. Remember that you will have to load everything in and out of the car.
If you are going to use your display more than once, make sure you can put it together and take it apart without damaging it.
When visiting craft fairs or retail shops, pay attention to how other sellers display things – what kind of fixtures they use and how they’ve built their display.
If you make your, props, stands and banners, be sure that they are sturdy –to keep your crafts safe and to ensure nobody gets hurt. Keep wires out of the way (possibly taped to the floor). Make sure your table covering is not so long that someone might trip over it and your boxes are stored where no one will trip over them.
Lighting can be used to highlight the major pieces in the craft show booth. Ask about power points before the show so you can have the right power bars or extension cords with you. If you don’t have a power connection, battery powered lights are available in a variety of shapes and types.
Using the Space
At a craft fair, your booth will probably come with a table, tablecloth and curtained backdrop. Check with the organizers to see how big the space and the table are and what colours are being used. Sometimes there is also a wall or curtain separating the booths at the sides.
In the small area of a craft booth, you want to show your products to their best advantage and capitalize on the space. From far away, your booth will look empty if your products are all lying flat on the table. Using props, boxes or shelving creates height, expands your display space and adds visual interest to your display. When you are planning your props, make sure you can still serve customers through your display.
Your booth setup should make traffic flow easily with a place that feels comfortable for the customer to stop and purchase an item. As we learned in the chapter about Retail Display, items you want to sell should be displayed in the prime area between waist height and eye level. If you have items you don’t want handled too much, you could use a glass case or place the items somewhere where the customer has to ask for your assistance to touch them. Small items that you would like your customers to rummage through could be grouped in containers.
During the show, pay attention to how customers interact with your products. If something is not working, don’t be afraid to rearrange it during the show.
Once you have your display figured out, plan for replacement items as you sell your products. This will keep your display looking fresh and attractive throughout the fair. As you sell off your items you can use something else – something like flyers, business cards, or even a flower arrangement to help fill the empty space. It’s hard to know exactly how many products to bring, but it is better to have too much rather than too little.
You can store extra items behind the backdrop our under the table. Table coverings should reach the ground so you can hide your containers.
Have a dedicated place for your cashbox and packaging. Decide how much space you will need for transactions and to store business cards, extra price tags and hangtags. You might need a small table for a workspace behind your display table.
Clutter vs Abundance
Abundance gives a positive feeling – clutter doesn’t. What is the difference?
If there aren’t enough products on display, customers won’t be attracted and the booth could look picked clean. On the other hand, too much stuff with no organization can look messy and unprofessional. To avoid a cluttered look, you can group your products within the display. You’ll find a discussion about Grouping in the Retail Display chapter of this guide.
You can group small items in containers. To avoid looking empty, you could put them in smaller containers as your supply runs low.
If you are using signs or a banner, they should match the overall look and theme of your display. Try to use lettering that is clear and easy to read. Make sure there is enough contrast between the background and the lettering to make it easy to see the words. Avoid handwritten signs unless there is a reason for using handwriting, for example, if you do calligraphy or if you use a decorative blackboard as part of your display.
If you are selling at a craft fair, you want people to remember your crafts and the name of your business. A banner can help you with that. A banner with your name or the name of your business makes it easier for customers to find you.
Think about how you can make your banner more stylish. Ask about different materials that the print shop can use, or examples of other work they have done. Or use your design skills to make your own. You could paint on weathered wood, appliqué on cloth, or write on a chalk board. Make sure whatever you use goes with the theme of your display and remains professional looking.
Just like at a retail store, customers will want to know your prices, so clearly label items and display a price list if possible Try to match the style of your labels or hangtags with your display and the type of goods you are selling.
Everything in your booth should be priced, and labelled for the customer. Without basic information about the materials and the cost, the customer might walk away rather than ask for help.
Business Cards and Hangtags
Business Cards are important to have so that visitors to your booth can contact you after the show. You can print your own or get them printed inexpensively. They can also double as hangtags.
Hangtags and carefully-designed packaging will add to the professional look of your craft products. Many producers don’t like to put their name on their crafts, but for customers, knowing the name of the producer helps to sell the product. Visitors like to know that the craft they are purchasing is hand made in Labrador by a Labrador producer. They also like to learn the story of the craft and the traditions that go into the making of it.
Preparing for the Craft Show
Do a mock-up at home
You can reduce the stress of setting up by planning your booth well in advance of the show. Ask the organiser for the booth and table dimensions, and set up a space at home where you can practise your display. Experiment with what goes where, and look at it from the front as a buyer would, and then also from behind to make sure you have space for your sales items and packaging. Consider where you will sit and if you can sell through the display. When you have your layout complete, draw a plan of it or take a photo on your phone that you can check with while you are setting up
Practice packing up your car with your display. You might need a second vehicle or to take two trips or you might be able to change your storage boxes so they all fit in. If you need a dolly to move heavy items, find out if there are some available at the show or if you need to bring your own. Pack your items well, with blankets or padding to protect them.
Always check with the organizers to see what’s included with your craft booth – for example:
- Is there an electrical outlet?
- Is there internet access (wifi)?
- Is there cell phone service?
- Is there public liability insurance?
- Are chairs and table provided?
- What size is the booth? What size is the table?
- Are there curtains behind and/or between booths? What colour are they?
- Does the fair have a theme?
- How will participants be receiving non-cash payments? There may not be internet access or phone lines for credit and debit machines.
Price everything as you pack, or before you pack so you don’t have to worry about it when you are setting up your booth. Make sure you have a good amount of change and a cashbox and receipt book. You might want to bring a notebook where you record all of your sales from craft fairs.
Craft Show Checklist
The ultimate guide to what to bring to a craft fair by The Design Trust
Consider making yourself a checklist while you are planning for the show. Craft show checklists reduce stress and can help you put together everything you need to take to make things run smoothly. Here are some suggestions for things you might want to consider for your list.
- Booth decoration: table cloths, additional fabric draping, chair or stool, backdrop, floor covering (if necessary), props, lights, powerbar, extension cord.
- Shop information: business cards, banner and/or signs, brochures, camera to record your booth display for future use, a notepad.
- Sales and packaging items: cash box and change, receipt book, pens, pricing sheet, price tags, hangtags, bags, tissue paper, boxes.
- Thing you might need to hold things together: safety pins, push pins and tacks, paper clips, clothespins, scissors, tape (Scotch tape, masking, packing or duct tape), string, Super Glue, hot glue gun, needle and thread.
- Things you might need to keep your crafts looking neat: polishing cloth, iron or steamer, lint brush.
- Tools: pliers, screwdriver, wire cutters, hammer.
- Set-up and clean-up items: water, dustpan, trash bags, containers to transport materials, dolly to carry supplies to your booth.
- Personal or emergency items: small first aid kit, water, paper towels, moist wipes, tissues, gum or mints, phone charger.
- Clothing: clothing items in case it is hotter or colder than you expected. If the fair is in an arena, the floor can be very cold. Bring something warm for your feet.
- Snacks and drinks: you might not get a chance to leave the booth to get a snack.