Selling soap craft fairs! Very similar to selling at farmers markets. This venue is relatively easy, as long as your price is good, and even better if there is no competition. When I had my little store on main street, there was no competition. I attended a lot of events within a 700 mile radius and always made a profit and gained wholesale and mail order customers. Following are some of the things learned from these events.
If you are looking for places to sell your wonderful soap, the internet is a great place to start. And start asking other artisans (not soapmakers, lol) where the good places are. The words to type into the search engines would be:
- your area, be that state, town or otherwise well known name
- use the words: events, music festivals, festivals, farmers markets, Christmas, Xmas, home and garden show
- depending on your area, you may need to add more descriptive words that may be used in advertising these events, such as rodeo, boat races, chili cook off, etc.
- if you are interested in wholesaling to stores, use the words wholesale show, or gift show
- decide how far you are willing to travel and check those areas as well
- consider the events participants, the Indy 500 has a half million visitors, but they are men and they will want guy stuff instead, like beer and car parts
- ask the people down at your local tourist information place, they always know what’s up and coming.
I did have a formula calculated on sales vs. attendance (or foot traffic). I did these numbers informally and they are not scientific, but I was trying to know which events did better than others. And very loosely, it was 17% (or 17 cents per person) at Xmas shows and 7% (7 cents per person) at festivals, per day. Which means that if 5,000 people were expected at the Xmas show then the sales income could be $850.00 for one day, and at festivals with 5,000 attending per day, sales could be $350. This formula applied to perhaps half of the events, and the other half it did not and thus defied my loosely scientifically based system.
The one absolute sign of a not-so-good sales day will be bad weather. Nothing keeps people away like the weather. Even if the weather isn’t that bad.
At local events, have a small basket of samples of your natural soap on hand, like a 1/2 or 1/4 of a hotel bar size. This way people can try it first and fall in love with the naturalness. Use the pieces at the ends of your soap logs for the samples. Samples at local events better allows for these prospective customers to find you again easily. If you are out of town, then don’t bother with samples, as you are too far away to easily buy from in the future.
I’ve been to $10 for-a-table events and $1,000 for-a-table events, and I can’t say that the table cost is indicative of the future sales. Today, to travel to an event out of town, I usually do not go over $400 for a table and it must have high foot traffic, 20,000 and up.
Christmas craft shows sell more than say, festivals. People are there with a purpose and cash. They want to get their shopping done, they want unique items, and almost everyone loves luxurious natural soap.
At festivals, they want something a little unique as a reminder of the event. Yet, chances are that you will gain wholesale or mail-order customers at these types of events. And selling soap at craft fairs during the year will be similar in sales to festivals.
Table or booth placement is important too. Given an arena setting, the outside ring against the wall sells better than the inside rows. And corners sell better than not, and this is why they cost more too. Visibility comes into play here. An admitting fee my deter some customers. I went to a large 7-day music festival where 100,000 people attended the previous year. But this year they started charging Admittance and this caused a lot of people, especially some of the 1,000,000 locals to not attend. And you could even stand up on the road and watch the music for free! Yes, we made money and customers, but not as well as we should have.
At another festival, held on a cobblestone main street for the past 2 decades, organizers decided to add another street off this cobblestone street at the end. People/customers had no idea that there were vendors around the corner.
Farmers markets are good because they are close with low cost tables. You can be home by late afternoon with $100’s and paid only $10 for table space.
Outside events usually mean that you need to supply your own table, chairs, and canopy. The EZ-ups are easier for sure, they are meant as portable sun shelters and serve well to keep the sun and any moisture off. They usually have tent pegs that go into the ground, but if you are in a parking lot, you’ll need something like sand filled milk jugs or a roped concrete block attached to your canopy legs. Consider having a plastic sheet of some type, tarp or vinyl table cloth to throw over your natural soaps in case of rain. It doesn’t take much moisture to ruin your labels. Some vendors just have a sun umbrella, which is way easier to carry and put up, but cover less.
Selling natural soap wholesale can be good in that you have a constant customer where there is no selling by yourself. The downside is that they only pay wholesale prices, which can be half of what retail is. I usually wholesale at 30% less, and of course the retailers can charge more than you do anyways to make up the difference.
Selling soap at craft fairs can be easy and difficult. Some of the better Xmas craft shows are juried, which means that they (the event’s board members) wish to inspect and examine your work of art and decide whether or not to approve your application. And they often have their vendors selected by May of that year. These are sometimes tough to get into and their tables are expensive. I tried for a couple of years to get into one of the biggest on the west coast, vendors from across the country came to this one, and they rejected me. Their tables were $1600!! Which, apparently, would have been easily recovered. I checked their vendor list and it looked like they continued to allow a couple of soapmakers that had attended previous years.
Which leads to another point. How many soapmakers will there be at this event? Have the event organizer tell you if another soapmaker is there, and what type of soap. If you can, find out the name of the other soapmaker and see if that soap has a website, then you can scope out their soaps and other products. My friend who sells locally just old me that the last time she went to our local farmers market – there were 6 soap makers. I could see two, maybe 3, but what are the last 3 people thinking?
Price determination can be a problem, and lots of people have advice on how to choose this number. And they are all probably right. You will know how much each type of bar costs you, but you need to account for your time and labels. I’ve noticed that a penny a gram seems prevalent. So a 300g bar would be $3.00. More importantly, I’d probably let the competition dictate my price by asking 10% less than theirs.
Find a niche with your natural soap. Your unique selling perspective, something locally special or some different method. Here’s a few examples, such as:
- using water from mineral rich hot springs (test it first)
- or artisan wells
- bars wrapped in recycled comic book pages (w/tissue)
- using plants locally grown, environmentally friendly bars with no-labels.
Be prepared for copycats! My friend, a soapmaker, was at an event with another (expensive) soap maker, and the expensive one was friendly of course, talking about soaps etc., but my friend did notice her looking intently at her Camouflage bar, a khaki colored bar made for covering up scent. Later that day, a friend of the expensive one bought one of my friends Camouflage bars, and sure enough, 6 weeks later, the expensive one had a “Commando” bar, with the same scent and colors. Not impressed but comical, we had a good laugh that the Commando bar is one you use when you won’t be wearing anything underneath.
In my store, a man came in and was quickly looking and smelling, not in a customer type of way (we could tell who the competitors were by the way they acted). Then after smelling my natural bug repellent soap, he says that he is a soapmaker and he has a bug repellent bar that he calls “Mountain Man”. Click on the Labeling page link below for thoughts and ideas on natural soap names, “Mountain Man” included.
More info regarding selling at a Farmers Market, which is a little different than a craft fair.
Here’s a great little website on finding craft fairs and more, and there are various type of pages similar to this one for every area.
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