Trade Shows for Craft Gallery Buyers
by James Dillehay, author of seven books, is a nationally recognized
expert on how to sell crafts. Courtesy of craftmarketer.com
There are trade shows for almost every industry and interest group
including crafts. Trade shows serve as outlets for the latest trends
and designs in products and services provided to any given trade. Attendees
include store buyers, interior designers, architects, museum buyers,
sales reps and mail order catalog buyers.
When you’re ready to expand on a large scale, wholesale shows
are the logical means. Before you sign up for one though, you should
have a clear picture of what trade shows require of you and what you
can expect to gain. Most important, you should also be clear how you
want your business to grow. You may receive orders for your work totaling
tens of thousands of dollars.
A wholesale craft business requires substantial inventory and the production
capacity to fulfill orders on a deadline.
Wholesale business can mean longer work schedules, delays in getting
payments for orders, higher exhibit costs, and hiring help to fill larger
Large craft trade shows give you easy access to thousands of buyers.
These buyers are keenly aware of what sells and what doesn’t in
their stores. Talking to them gives invaluable guidance for designing
and producing art and crafts products.
Use trade shows to learn what trends are coming in specific market
groups, like interiors or fashion.
Trade shows make it easy to develop relations with store owners in
a friendly, relaxed way. Some of these personal connections can last
for many years. Big shows can mean big orders. Many craft exhibitors
get enough business from these shows to last all year. I know of two
sisters who wove clothing and displayed at the Dallas Market Center.
They took over $20,000 in wholesale orders on Saturday. Feeling they
had more business than they could handle, they decided not to open their
booth the next day.
There are several organizations that produce trade shows for crafts.
Click here for a list of some.
At these events, you can see what other artists in your medium produce
for the wholesale crafts trade. Don’t be discouraged if you find
a number of competing exhibitors in your media. The more products you
see similar to yours, the greater the likelihood of your success because
their presence indicates an existing demand.
It is quite likely, your crafts can be marketed through several different
wholesale trade markets. Gift trade shows can work for many items you
make. Fashion shows are a targeted way for marketing clothing and accessories.
Interior designers and architects attend trade shows for products used
in designing crafts and office decor.
A more complete list of the major craft trade show promoters are listed
in the Appendix of The Basic Guide to Selling Arts & Crafts.
You can also find reviews of trade shows published in craft periodicals
like The Crafts Report and Sunshine Artist Magazine.
It’s important that you find the right show for what you’re
selling. If the show doesn’t reach a receptive market for your
product, the financial and emotional disappointment could be a serious
Research the show carefully. Attend the event in person, talk to past
exhibitors, read reviews of the event in trade magazines like The
Crafts Report. Call the show management. It’s in their
best interests too that you find the appropriate show for your products.
It’s worth an exploratory trip to see what happens at these events.
Managers are likely to give you a guest pass if you call in advance
and explain you wish to attend to evaluate the show.
If you already have wholesale accounts, ask them which shows they attend
that might work well for you. What do they look for when they go there?
What kind of displays draw their interest?
In researching a trade show, find out the following:
- Is this show going to attract the kind of buyers that want your
product? How many attend the show? What was last year's sales and
attendance? This information should be available from the management
when you request an application. If it isn't, call and talk to the
manager before you apply.
- How many other exhibitors?
- Does the show coincide with any other large trade show nearby? Sometimes
promoters tie their show dates and locations closely to draw more
attendees. List all trade show schedules and compare the dates.
- What will be the total cost of doing the show? Booth rental fees
on the larger trade shows will cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000.
Add $100 to $300 more for corner or specific spots. How big is the
space? How are cancellations handled? If you ship your display, what
will the freight cost?
- What do you get for your money? Is electricity, backdrops, tables,
chairs, parking, and unloading fees included in the rental or are
they a separate charge? Must union electricians and dock workers be
paid for setup?
- Where is the show held? Is this the first time in a new location?
Location changes often affect attendance. How easy is unloading and
- Can you produce the inventory to fill large orders? Can you deliver
on time? You'll be taking orders to ship at later dates, so it's important
that you know in advance the amount of orders you can fill and when
you can fill them.
- Can you afford to sell to large stores that require payment terms
of 30 to 60 days? What if an account delays or fails to pay for an
even longer time? Can you continue to buy materials, exhibit at shows,
and other operating costs?
- Are you willing to hire employees to keep up with the demands of
- Exhibiting at a major wholesale trade show isn't for the timid.
Besides the high cost of booth rental, trade fairs require intense
personal stamina and enthusiasm. Demands go far beyond the more relaxed,
local art and craft shows.
Get more information about the business of selling your craft at The
Crafts Report and visit their back
The above article is copyrighted and excerpted from the book The
Basic Guide to Selling Arts & Crafts by James Dillehay, member
of the advisory boards to the National Craft Association and ArtisanStreet.com.