Display Workshop


This workshop is about creating effective displays in a retail setting or for a craft fair. In the first chapter, we will look at basic design elements and how they apply to creating displays. The second chapter is about creating an effective retail space, and the third chapter provides information to help you set up a craft booth display. In addition, we have made a separate Working with Colour page to go along with this workshop.

You can work through the chapters individually or as a group. Each chapter is printable. At the top of your browser choose “File”, “Print Preview” in order to print the chapter.


Chapter 1: Design Elements

This workshop is about creating effective displays in a retail setting or for a craft fair. In this chapter, we will look at basic design elements and how they apply to creating displays.

There are elements of design we can use to help us focus the buyer’s attention on our products. We can use them to focus attention to specific displays or specific areas of a retail shop. We can also use them to bring elements together to make a pleasing arrangement of products in a display.

These design elements include: Colour, Contrast, Repetition, Harmony, Emphasis and Balance.


In 2013, The Labrador Craft Marketing Working Group undertook the Labrador Craft Study. Craft producers and businesses from across Labrador participated in the discussions. The study resulted in a craft development strategy that we are now implementing. The document is available on our Documents page.


The first item in the strategy is to develop a Labrador-wide communications network for the craft sector. We have set up a mailing list, Craft News, to communicate with the craft community throughout Labrador, as well as this website. You can also find Craft Labrador on Facebook and X.


Grouping similar colours is not the only way to use colour in display. Understanding colour is important, and our How to Work with Colour page will help you understand how colour works. Colour can be used to continue the theme of your logo, or your shop, or to create a theme for specific displays. You can use colour to create an ambiance or feeling, or to mark the seasons or a holiday.


You can create contrast by placing opposite elements next to each other. The colors white and black provide the greatest degree of contrast. Complementary colors also contrast with one another. Contrast can be used to create visual interest and to direct the viewer’s attention to a particular point of interest, the focal point of a design.

You can also create contrast with texture (rough & smooth) or shape (large & small, or simple & complex). Contrasting textures are useful for making objects stand out. A smooth silver bracelet will stand out on a textured surface like burlap or velvet. It won’t stand out if it is placed on a smooth mirror.


Repetition not only attracts the eye, it also creates a sense of order in the display. It can also create rhythm, gently guiding the viewer through the space, or through the items in a display.


Harmony can be created by bringing together elements that are similar in some way. It could be a similar theme, colour scheme, or material, or the items could be grouped by similar use.

Emphasis or Focal Point

This is the spot you are guiding your customer to. You can use a number of display elements to create the focal point, the part of the display you want your visitor to stop at and take a look. The focal point can be highlighted by lighting, for example, or by being at the top of a display, or by being a contrasting colour.


The Term Balance refers to the equal distribution of visual weight in a design. What does that mean? It means that the objects we are viewing have the same impact left and right as we are viewing them. When something is balanced it gives a sense of order. When something is unbalanced it can make the viewer feel uncomfortable. There are different types of balance in display design – symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance and radial balance.

Understanding Balance

Balance is an important concept in design and includes many elements.

Symmetrical balance is created when two sides of a display are the same, a mirror image of each other. Symmetrical balance is formal and very stable. It uses repetition to create visual interest. It can sometimes be a bit boring.

Asymmetrical balance is created when the two sides of a display are different, but the visual impact, or level of interest, is the same on each side. For example, one side of a display might have a large object and the other side a group of small objects. The group of objects can carry the same level of visual interest as the large object on the other side. Asymmetrical balance is useful in display because it keeps the viewer’s eye moving through the display. Asymmetrical balance can be more casual and more dynamic than symmetrical balance in a display.

Radial balance is created when there is a focal point in the centre and items of equal interest are placed around it, like the numbers on the face of a clock. In display, you might use radial balance on a round table where customers might be on any side of the table, and see the same thing. Radial balance, like symmetrical balance can sometimes be a bit boring. Visual interest can be created by varying the surrounding items slightly – using different colours, for example.

How Design Elements Create Balance in Our Displays

Size: Larger objects have more visual weight, or visual interest.

Position: Interestingly, the further an object is from the centre of a display, the more visual weight it has, so that a small object on the outer edge of a display can balance a large object at the centre of a display.

Quantity: A group of small objects carries more weight, or has more visual interest and can be used to balance a large object.

Isolation: An object displayed on its own has more visual interest. When we have a single object, or a simple group, a shape is created around the object by the negative space in the background. That shape contrasts with and balances the object on display.

Diagonals: Diagonal arrangements pull the viewer’s eye through the display. Horizontal and vertical orientations have less visual impact than diagonals.

Colour and Value: Brighter colours have more visual weight than lighter colours. Dark objects have more visual weight than lighter objects.

Shape: A complex shape has more visual interest than a simple shape. A small complex object can balance a large simple object.

Texture: a heavy texture has more visual interest than one with no texture. Textures can be used to contrast with the objects on display.Experiment with different design elements to create balance in your displays. A balanced display is satisfying.

Experimenting helps you to identify the design elements that do and don’t work for you.

Design Principles in Visual Merchandising

In a retail shop, how you lay out the shop and create displays is often called Visual Merchandising. We will look at some of the design principles that are useful in visual merchandising including grouping, placement and layout.

Odd Numbers and Groups of Three: When arranging flowers, it’s always easier to arrange odd numbers. The same principle applies when creating a display – odd numbers are easier to work with and it often helps to work in sets of three. It could be a group of three of the same item, or similar items, or a group of short medium and tall, or even three groups of three.

The rule of three also works when you are setting up different levels – three levels often work really well. Odd numbers and asymmetrical designs help keep the viewer’s eye moving through the display.

Pyramid Shape: You can attract attention to a grouping by creating a display that is larger at the bottom and smaller at the top. This creates a triangle or pyramid shape that draws the eye to the top of the display, your focal point. The pyramid or triangle shape can be created by shelving, by stacking or even hanging items in a wall display. The customer’s eye will go to the top of the display.

Blocking: Blocking means using a group of the same item together to create an element of your display. For example, it could be a pile of folded linens, or a row of vases that are all the same colour.

Repetition: As we learned in the section about Balance, repetition can be used to create visual impact. Repetition can be used in different ways. It could be a colour or shape that repeats throughout the shop, or display, or it could be the same object in different sizes or colours, or a row of the same item displayed as a block.

Position: Position is important. The area between waist level and eye-height is the most effective part of the display. Products you want to draw attention to should be in this area.

Clutter or Space? In general, more expensive items shouldn’t be crowded because it makes them seem less valuable. Lower priced items, like your point of sale souvenirs can be crowded together, as customers will perceive them as lower priced.

Chapter 2: Retail Display


In 2013, The Labrador Craft Marketing Working Group undertook the Labrador Craft Study. Craft producers and businesses from across Labrador participated in the discussions. The study resulted in a craft development strategy that we are now implementing. The document is available on our Documents page.


The first item in the strategy is to develop a Labrador-wide communications network for the craft sector. We have set up a mailing list, Craft News, to communicate with the craft community throughout Labrador, as well as this website. You can also find Craft Labrador on Facebook and X.

Designing a Retail Space

Decide on theme that will unify your merchandise. Your displays don’t need to look exactly alike, but they should be compatible or blend in with each other. The overall look and feel of your shop should reflect the type of merchandise you sell and the environment you are selling in.Where can you find ideas? Look around when visiting other retail shops. When you are travelling take some time and look at craft shops in the communities you are travelling through. See how they display items similar to yours; see how they have done the overall decoration of the shop. What works or doesn’t work in these shops. What ideas could you adapt to your own retail space?

You can also find good ideas for your retail shop by going to craft shows. You will see a wide variety of creative displays in one visit.

And of course you can find ideas on the internet. Pinterest, for example, has many boards about crafts, displaying crafts and visual merchandising.

Creating a Layout for Your Retail Space

What kind of display units do you need for your retail space? Do you need some permanent shelving, and some moveable displays? Craft businesses often inherit a retail space with existing display shelves. Are you able to move the shelving, or is it permanently in place?

If you are able to move things around, or if you are in a new space and designing your own shelving, you can try planning things out before you set up your space.

You can start by creating a floorplan. First draw out the floorplan of your shop on graph paper. One square on the graph paper could equal one foot, for example, or 6 inches. Then, measure out your counter space, the size of your shelves and displays, the areas that your doors and windows take up, and draw them out on a separate sheet, keeping the proportions correct.

Cut out your drawings of display furnishings and door and window shapes, and try moving them around to get the best layout. Remember you need a clear space of about 4 feet in front of your counter and aisles of at least 3 feet. It’s easier to move furniture around on paper than in real life, and you can try out a variety of layouts before you settle on anything.

When you have a layout you like on paper, you can take the next step of taping out your floorplan using masking tape on the floor of your retail space. Can you easily walk around things? Are you likely to bump into a delicate display while moving around? Can you move easily from the sales counter to the front of the shop?

Having some moveable displays gives you an opportunity to change things up on a regular basis. You should change your displays at least seasonally. It keeps things looking fresh and allows you to highlight different items. Returning customers will notice things they didn’t notice before. Older merchandise in a new location will look like a newly arrived product.

If you are in a location that gets large groups of visitors, like bus tours or cruise ships, you should think about how a group of people can move around your shop. You may want to change your displays when you are expecting a group tour, putting popular items up front and making sure there is extra room near the cash.

Small, valuable items should be located near the cash where you can keep an eye on them, possibly in a glass fronted cabinet. Customers are more likely to buy items they can pick up and feel, but shoplifters are more likely to take them as well. You might want to have some items out, but a larger number of them behind glass.


Your overall theme and the props you use for display should reflect the type of customer you want to appeal to. If you are in an area where many of your customers are ecotourists, you might want to bring the natural world into your shop, using driftwood and beach rocks to use as props for your display. If your shop has a retro theme, you might want to use antique or vintage household items as props for your displays. Even old windows and doors can make decorative backdrops.

If your shop is in a museum there are probably clear guidelines for the theme and there may be restrictions on bringing natural objects into a controlled environment. Make sure you check and even if you’re not in a museum, your outdoor and vintage items should be well cleaned to make sure they won’t leave a mark on your products.


The signs you use should match the overall look and theme of your retail space or match the overall theme and look of your logo. Try to use fonts that are clear and easy to read and make sure there is enough contrast between the background and the lettering to make it easy to see the words. Handwritten signs should be avoided unless there is a reason for using handwriting, for example, if you do calligraphy and make beautiful hand made labels, or if you use a decorative blackboard for messages and use decorative writing on it.


Make the best use of the visible areas of the store and place the items you want to show off in prominent positions. Remember that the most effective part of a display is between waist height and eye level. The items you want to sell most should be in that area. Vertical displays have the most impact, so use shelves or risers to create height in your displays. Using levels means customers can see more of the products on display. Place your products only to the height that customers can reach. The area above that can be used for display or signage. The lower shelves can be used to store extra stock.

Traffic Flow

Watch how customers move throughout the store, and place the most important items you want to promote on their route. Make sure that items that go together are easy to find or displayed together.


Lighting is important to the look and feel of your shop. Look for ways to use light to highlight displays or to highlight specific items. Customers aren’t attracted to dark corners.


Window displays and the exterior of your shop should be an extension of your overall theme. Window displays should attract the customer’s interest and make them want to come in and explore the shop. These displays should also be changed regularly to showcase your merchandise.

Remember that some craft items could be damaged by constant exposure to the light. You could use a plastic film with UV filters over your windows, or be careful to put only colour safe items in the window.


Grouping Similar Items Creates Harmony in a Display

Grouping items that could be used together: You could create a grouping of clothing items and jewellery that go together, or a table display using linens and ceramics. This helps your customer to see how to use the products and may encourage sales of coordinating items. It can also save time for the customer by identifying things that go together.

Grouping by category or type: This is the most common way of displaying items in retail stores. Clothing, slippers, jewellery – each of these could be a separate category. Within each category there may be other groupings – a group of silver jewellery, a display of earrings, or items made by one producer – are possible groupings within the jewellery category.

Grouping by theme: Your theme might be seasonal, for example, where different holiday items are grouped together. The seasonal holiday is the theme that brings harmony to the display.

Grouping by colour: Colour schemes, seasonal displays and coordinated outfits are all ways to group by colour. Colour can also be used to set the theme of your seasonal displays – fall colours, pastels in spring, festive colours at Christmas. Grouping by colour works for clothing displays as well. For additional information, see our How to Work with Colour page.

Grouping by price: In gift shops you will often see containers of small items near the cash. These are items that have been grouped by price, to serve a specific need. They might be point of sale items that appeal as add-ons to the purchase. In shops with a lot of visitor traffic they are often items that sell well to large tour groups – postcards, keychains, magnets, etc.

Chapter 3: Business Planning

It’s possible to turn a hobby into a business but it will require planning. There are many questions you will need to answer in order to develop your business plan. Sometimes it might seem overly complicated, but don’t forget that the agencies listed in Chapter 2 can help you to figure out what information you need for your business.

When preparing a business plan, you will have to imagine your first year of operations. If you have a small craft production business – making more of a product that you already make – that planning could be very easy. You might already have clients to sell to. You might be able to just multiply the amount of raw materials and the number of products you will be able to sell to get information about your costs and sales. You might be able to work from a space in your home that you already have set up.

But, if you are planning to expand your production beyond that, or to open a retail business, you will need to do some work to plan your business. Prepare by learning as much as you can about running a craft business. You don’t have to do that on your own; there are many agencies in Labrador that can help you, even if your business is just an idea right now.

Here are some of the things you might have to consider.


In 2013, The Labrador Craft Marketing Working Group undertook the Labrador Craft Study. Craft producers and businesses from across Labrador participated in the discussions. The study resulted in a craft development strategy that we are now implementing. The document is available on our Documents page.


The first item in the strategy is to develop a Labrador-wide communications network for the craft sector. We have set up a mailing list, Craft News, to communicate with the craft community throughout Labrador, as well as this website. You can also find Craft Labrador on Facebook and X.

Your Business Idea

Can you describe your business idea? Talk to a friend, or imagine you are telling a friend about your business idea. Take a few notes and see if you can come up with a description of your business.

  • Are you producing crafts or selling retail, or both?
  • What are your products or services and what is special about them?
  • Where are you located? Why is this a good location?
  • Who you plan to sell to?
  • Describe yourself as the business operator.

How do you identify your products/services?


In 2013, The Labrador Craft Marketing Working Group undertook the Labrador Craft Study. Craft producers and businesses from across Labrador participated in the discussions. The study resulted in a craft development strategy that we are now implementing. The document is available on our Documents page.


The first item in the strategy is to develop a Labrador-wide communications network for the craft sector. We have set up a mailing list, Craft News, to communicate with the craft community throughout Labrador, as well as this website. You can also find Craft Labrador on Facebook and X.

  • Whether you are a producer or are selling retail, have you identified what customers want to see more of?
  • Is there a gap in the market? For example are there visitors looking for souvenirs at a certain price and not being able to find them in local shops? Is there a different style, colour or size range that would sell better?
  • Consider the quality of your product, the uniqueness of your design, traditional designs, your skills, and how your product reflects a visit to this area.
  • Packaging and labelling is important. A hangtag tells the story and the story sells the craft. What story are you telling with your crafts?

What Type of Business: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership or Corporation?

If your business is a Sole Proprietorship, you are self-employed and you are doing everything yourself in order to operate the business. You, as the proprietor are personally liable for everything to do with the business. Many small businesses are sole proprietorships.

If your business is a Partnership, you and one or more other persons are working together to conduct your business. The responsibility for all aspects of the business would be shared among the partners, including responsibility for debts incurred by any of the partners on behalf of the business. Another form of partnership is a limited partnership—a legal partnership where some owners assume responsibility up to the amount invested. A legal partnership will have a partnership agreement that states what work each partner does and the financial contribution of each, and how the income will be shared.

If your business is a Corporation in Newfoundland and Labrador it is considered to be a legal entity that is separate from the owners and shareholders. Shareholders are not personally liable for the debts, obligations or acts of the corporation. A corporation has to be registered with the province and has to file annual return.

There are additional options for groups who want to start a business. They could consider a Not-for-Profit Corporation, a Co-op, even a Charity. There are different regulations for each type of business. Groups can contact their TCAR (Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation) Economic Development Officer for information.

Registration, Permits, Licences

You may need to register your business with the municipality. Each town has its own bylaws and regulations. There may be an annual fee or licence.

If you have a new building, there may be environmental and other considerations.

You will have to register with Canada Revenue Agency for a business number. You will need a business number if you are purchasing supplies wholesale, if you have employee payroll deductions and/or if you are collecting HST.

If your business brings in more than $30,000 per year you will have to register to collect and remit HST. If you do collect HST, you can also deduct the HST you pay on items you purchase for your business. For more information see GST/HST for Craft Businesses.

BizPaL (Business Permits & Licenses) is an online service offered by Industry Canada in partnership with provincial and municipal governments that provides Canadian businesses with access to information about permits and licenses. BizPaL may not have information for small municipalities, so you should also check with your town office.

What will you call your business?

Coming up with a name for your business that is unique, easy to remember, and tells customers something about the business can be a challenge. Try it out – see what others think when they hear it. Print it out – see how it looks on paper, on a business card or hangtag. Your name is part of the story you tell to the customer to help sell your crafts.

In order to protect your business name, you can register it with the province. Corporations have to register their name.

You can research business names on the provincial registry of deeds and companies to see if your business name is already in use and registered within the province.

Who is your market? Who will buy your crafts – how could you sell them?

Your market includes everyone you sell your products and services to, whether you are selling wholesale or retail. Understanding your market, and what they want and need will help you to make craft items, or products that will sell. In order to make your craft business successful over time, you may have to consider selling in different places and different ways. You may also have to consider making different types of products for different types of customers. How will you match your products to your clientele?

  • How will you reach your customers? Are you selling wholesale to existing craft shops that already have a client base? Are they shops that you already have a relationship with, or will you need to build a relationship?
  • Will you make products for the local market for visitors, or both?
  • Will you sell retail at craft fairs where you can reach a large number of people?
  • Will you sell online – from your own website, or from a marketplace like Etsy?
  • If you sell online, how will you ship items? What will it cost and how long will it take to reach customers?
  • Who are your competitors? How is your product or service different from what your competitors are offering? Have you researched the prices of competing products or services?

Operating a business: what are some of the considerations?

During the business planning phase you will need to imagine your costs to start the business and to operate the business during the first year.

Start-up costs may include:
  • Your workspace and renovations you may need.
  • Installation fees for utilities (e.g., phone, internet)
  • Financing
  • Raw materials
  • Equipment for your studio and office
  • Materials for your craft fair booth
  • Marketing materials – hangtags, business cards, online presence
  • For a retail space, you will also need to consider the cost of furnishings, cash register, debit machine, etc.
  • Skills development costs. You may need to learn a new skill related to producing crafts, or related to operating a business. Many of the support agencies listed in the previous chapter offer assistance with this.
Ongoing costs may include:
  • Utilities – heat light, phone, internet
  • Rent
  • Fees for craft fairs
  • Shipping costs
  • Financial costs: bank fees, accounting, insurance, permits
  • Possible legal fees
  • Employees
Cash flow projection:
  • You will have to consider how much money you will have coming in to the business and going out in costs over the entire year. That is your cash flow projection.
  • You may find that you have to spend more on materials and operating costs at some times of the year than you are bringing in in income. Your sales might be high at Christmas and during the tourism season, and slow during the rest of the year. This is something you will have to address in your business plan. Again, there are a number of agencies in Labrador that you can go to for help with this.
Craft production research:
  • Find out about requirements for labeling and safety regulations, for example, for products for children.
  • Find out about standard sizes.
  • Making samples and prototypes. Test the product and the market for it. What needs to be changed to make the product sell?
  • See if you can visit a similar craft business to see how they have set up their production, shop, etc.
  • Find reliable suppliers for good quality, appropriate raw materials. Consider shipping costs. If ordering from other countries, you will have to consider the exchange rate and duty as well.
  • You can develop a procedure, or checklist for quality control as part of your production process. You can find a quality standards discussion for traditional Labrador crafts on our Quality Standards page. We also have a copy of the old LCPA checklist.
  • Estimate your production costs. Make a prototype, do a sample run. Establish a wholesale and a retail price for each type of craft that you make. Your trial production run is a part of your start-up costs.
  • Product Line: As we learned in the pricing workshop, it is possible to earn more on some types of items than on others. Selling a lot of smaller souvenir items might be more profitable over the long term than selling a few high end items. Also, smaller items use up materials that may be left over from larger items. It is good to think about having a mix of products that would appeal to different buyers or be interesting at different times of the year.
Your schedule for producing crafts will depend on a number of factors including:
  • Length of time to get raw materials
  • Production time
  • Dates you need to have product for: e.g., Christmas craft fair, tourism season, cruise ship visit
  • Re-stocking: You may need to re-stock products at busy locations
Keeping records:

Operating a craft business is the same as any other business and you will have to understand the financial side of the business and keep good records. Some of the support agencies have skills development programs that can help you to learn what you need to manage the financial side of your business. You can also hire bookkeeping help, but remember that will be an additional business expense.

  • You’ll have to consider how you will keep your files. You must be able to find your paperwork at the end of the year, and it’s easier to keep track of if you start with a filing system.
  • Billing system. You will have to have a system for sending out bills and recording payments. This might be part of your bookkeeping system.
  • Bank account: You will have to set up a business bank account or credit union account separate from your personal account. Some fees may be different for business accounts.
  • Keeping track of your inventory and materials.
  • Keep a list of suppliers and costs that you can easily refer to when you need to reorder.
  • Shipping: You may be selling products outside of your local area and will have to know shipping times and costs beforehand. You will also have to have appropriate packing materials to make sure your products arrive in good condition. Make sure you have tracking and insurance on all of your packages.
Production: home-based business, or separate studio space?
  • Where will you make your products: will you have a home studio, or a separate space?
  • Consider the costs if you have make renovations at home to accommodate your studio.
  • Do you need a separate space for an office or is there a clean space in your production area that could work as an office? Remember, office equipment and supplies may not be safe in some studio environments.
  • Will you work year round, or seasonally?
Advantages of a home-based business:
  • Lower cost and no commute. A dedicated workspace in your home can be claimed as a business expense.
  • Your time might be better spent in a home based business because you can work around family schedules. On the other hand, working from home might include interference from family activities.
Considerations if you need to find a studio space:
  • Zoning regulations: check with your municipality to see if your chosen location is zoned for the purpose.
  • If you are renting, is heat and light included in the rent?
  • Is the lighting sufficient to do your work? Is there good natural light?
  • For many crafts there are special considerations, for example if you are doing metalwork or using a kiln you will have safety requirements to consider.
  • Is there a sink, bathroom?
  • Is there storage space?
  • Is there space to do office work in the studio?
  • Is there a phone line or cell phone service? If you are selling from the space you will need to be able to process credit cards.
  • If you will be inviting clients to your studio space, is it appropriate for that? Is it easy to access?
  • What equipment do you need? Will it fit in the space you have or are planning to use?
Retail space considerations:
  • What are your insurance needs?
  • What government regulations apply to your business – municipal, provincial, federal?
  • Will you need to hire employees?
  • Do you have sufficient space for your products, packaging, office?
  • Will you be producing crafts on site? Is there space for that?
  • Do you have a washroom that clients can use? If not, is there a public washroom nearby?
  • How will you display your products? Find out more on our Display Workshop page.

If you have been able to imagine your business as you read through this section, you are well on the way to developing your business plan. It takes time to figure out everything, but there is always someone else who has been through something similar. You may find help from support agencies, from the internet or from people you know. Additional resources are listed in the next section.

Chapter 3: Booth Display


In 2013, The Labrador Craft Marketing Working Group undertook the Labrador Craft Study. Craft producers and businesses from across Labrador participated in the discussions. The study resulted in a craft development strategy that we are now implementing. The document is available on our Documents page.


The first item in the strategy is to develop a Labrador-wide communications network for the craft sector. We have set up a mailing list, Craft News, to communicate with the craft community throughout Labrador, as well as this website. You can also find Craft Labrador on Facebook and X.

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 colours 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.

Your Workspace

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.

Marketing Materials


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.
  • Giveaways
  • 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.