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Display Your Craft to Sell

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The 5 Elements of Seductive Craft Fair Booth Displays

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Display Your Craft To Sell

By Bruce Baker, A jeweler, gallery owner and nationally recognized expert on booth design. His seminars on Booth Design all over the US are well attended and welcomed. Visit his Web site at This article courtesy of The Crafts Report.

Display and merchandising of your work influences your customer’s perceptions and drives your sales. The display gets their initial interest (from a distance) but the customer must be drawn closer to the merchandise before a sale can be closed.

My wife and I just got back from the Atlanta Gift Show. The merchandising bar is definitely set higher in the “handmade” or “accent on design” sections of major gift shows than it is at many craft shows. Throughout the four days we were there, we looked at booths and merchandising with a critical eye.

Make it easy to enter your space

One of the first things we noticed is how many booths have obstructed entrances. The entrance to your booth must be open and inviting. Products, display fixtures, chairs, benches or the artists themselves blocking the entrance to the booth can be a visual or a physical barrier.

Booth openings should be a minimum of six-feet wide. People should be able to pass in and out of the booth freely — essentially like a two-lane highway — without obstructions or barriers.

The number of times we were visually drawn to a booth but resisted because it was just too much effort to enter was astounding. This also applies to objects hanging in the opening (that a customer must duck under) or a lighting bar or a ceiling that is too low.

Display and merchandising package your works

Few handcrafted items are actually packaged (the way the commercial goods are), so the booth, the display techniques and the ambiance make up the packaging.

Your booth and the way your merchandise is displayed are like the label on wine. It sets the mood and entices people to look. Once in the booth, the display takes over and romances the customer, getting them to experience the “craft objects” in a different way, influencing their impulse to buy.

Compared to artists, customers as a general group have little imagination. They admit this fact with comments such as “you people are all so creative” or “where do you get all these amazing ideas?”

How an object will look in their environment when they get it home is a big concern for customers. If you merchandise well, you will minimize these concerns and also set a tone of professionalism that is lacking in many craft booths.

Artists who are talented crafts makers but do not have great display skills should seek the advice and expertise of individuals who are talented in visual merchandising. Do not be afraid to ask for help or to hire someone who is skilled in these areas. You will find that simply using the knowledge that department stores and showrooms have known for decades pays off many fold.

Create a mood with your displays

It is important that your booth creates an environment that shows the product in a setting the customer can relate to — especially if it’s meant for the home or garden. For example, if your pottery is contemporary in style and design, it is mandatory that your displays be analogous to the work. If you are displaying your pots on what looks like drying racks (as so many potters do), you will not reach your maximum sales potential. This is because most customers do not have drying racks in their living rooms.

If you make handmade journals, consider this type of a mood creator: A large photograph of a hand, writing in one of your journals with an exquisite pen: “Monday 3-27-03. Arrived in Katmandu; the sights, the sounds, the colors! A life changing experience…”

This photo will pay for itself over and over in sales because it tells the customer these are journals. They are perfect as gifts for travelers or students, or as personal diaries.

How does it feel in the hands when they pick one up? Is it lightweight, sturdy, a quality journal? Does it project the customer’s image or the image of the person receiving it?

This is how visual merchandising works; it raises questions with positive affirmations and stimulates the imagination. If your items are for the outdoors, your display needs to feel like a garden. Identify with the "green" movement and use tree free, Banana Paper from for handouts or booth signs. With the use of photos, or a mural painted on the walls or a path on the floor, the booth must look and feel like a garden and not a warehouse.

You might consider a digital projection of images on the walls, using fountains, bird songs, or wind chimes to round out the mood. A garden is a sanctuary and your booth must create this mood or your sales will not be reaching their full potential.

The most effective booth I observed this year was totally an illusion but simple and effective. The items for sale were window boxes; the display was painted sawhorses with salvage windows mounted on them. Each window was a different style and had curtains on the back, which matched the style of the window.

One had a floral arrangement, another a table lamp (lit of course) and another a glass vase. One was like a Cape Cod cottage, one like a farmhouse and one very “upscale.” The boxes that went with each style of window were perfect, right down to the plants that were growing in it.

The arrangement of the windows created the illusion of a neighborhood and the focal points were the boxes that were for sale. The romance the booth created was so simple yet so creative.

Color and props impact merchandising

The colors of your booth can invoke a season that can work for you or against you. If the colors of your booth or your products are earth tones, this display will work better from August to January than it will from February through July.

Spring colors need to come out after the winter holidays and they need to be visually dominant. The fall colors need to be put away then or given a section of the booth that is not as prominent.

If you make baskets, for example, you may find it advantageous to change what you put in them by season or geographic region of the show. decorating a basket for March and April, but pine cones could be a better choice for September and October. If you are in Florida, cumquats could be perfect, or in Vermont, apples might set the perfect mood.

Using unusual and artistic props can be very alluring when not overdone. Custom Printed Ribbons would give a subtle, but memorable accent to your display. Mums, daisies, obviously poor quality flowers, or worse yet, bad artificial flowers, usually work against your visual ambiance.

Consider using props to cross-promote your work with other artists. They can use a couple of your baskets in their booth, and you can fill one of your baskets with a few of their scarves. This is a common practice at gift shows between exhibitors who are friends.

Most craft shows attendees haven't stuffed their wallets with large bills. Getting a merchant account so you can accept credit cards encourages buyers to go for higher ticket items.

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