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A Travelling Cook: August 2012

A Travelling Cook

A Travelling Cook: August 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Past writing : A satirical look at craft markets

I used to run a craft business called Polka Dot Rabbit for 5 years. I made lots of crafts and sold them at markets, online, in shops. I also did works for exhibitions nationally and commissioned pieces. I wrote this piece of part of my old craft blog. It's important to place it in a historical context. It was the time of Etsy in the mid 2000's, a US originated craft online shop, where a burgeoning DIY and crafting scene seemed all of a sudden everywhere, thanks to the Internet.   At its peak there were over 60 craft markets in Melbourne each holding weekly or monthly markets full of earnest stall holders with their badges and bunting and zip lock bags full of change wanting for customers to part with their cash in response to their hard made creations. Many young women started their own creative businesses for the first time ever, finding their finesse rewarded with enough money to pay for more materials, markets fees and dinner and drinks and for a lucky few, a successful career. Never had craft stores like Spotlight and Lincraft had so many customers as hoards and twenty somethings descended on haberdaIry stores each day to buy fabric and bobbins and thread and everything in between. But the bubble DID burst as handmade became hand designed and businesses like print (screen printing, computer designed images, t shirts etc) thrived whilst those of us with threads and needles developed RSI and a long hard look at ourselves when we realised the dollar value of our work was minimal and we were (mostly) women running one person sweat shops unable to compete with mass produced goods. But i enjoyed the creative outlet, made some great friends, had some great publicity and made a teeny bit of money. I wrote this piece originally on my craft website in 2011.

Ahhh I love a good craft market. My first foray into selling crafts was a small craft market a few years ago at a little shop front in High St, Northcote. Since then I've been retailing in bricks and motar and online shops (including my own ) but I still hold a soft spot for the craft market. There's so many of them these days, over 50 in Melbourne alone at last count, although of course some a weekly, others monthly and yet more are seasonal. But they're all competing for stall holders and of course, the essential, customers! I am far from the doyenne of craft markets, I don't attend them weekly or even monthly. Think of me more as a casual observer who flits in and out.

Good things to do
  • Before you visit a prospective market to sell at, go and have a look at it yourself. What are people selling? Do your wares fit in and contrast or compliment other things being sold? It can be surprising sometimes. I make a lot of recycled crafts, but they've never been popular at environment events or places like CERES, even though I craft with a sustainable ethos. But they sell fine at general craft markets.
  • Have a think about money. How much is a stall? How much will you need to sell to cover your stall fee and lunch and tram ticket/cab fare? Is someone helping you out? You should buy their lunch too.
  • Get there early. If there are any problems with your stall space, you've more chance of resolving them before everyone sets up.
  • Be very nice to your neighbouring stall holders. They're people to chat to when it's quiet, and you can mind each other stalls during loo breaks and coffee breaks. You'll often find other stall holders are your first customers to boot! It's also wonderful to chat to kindred spirits about the realities of being a crafter, retailing, running a small business and the pains of dealing with the general public.
  • Branding is a very good idea. Think a visible sign that draws people over, swing tags with your logo, business cards, brown paper bags with your logo stamped on them. Even a mailing list.

pic from here
  • Think about displaying your wares in the best way possible. Height is always good. As I don't drive, I do have to travel very light, so I can't do the most dramatic displays, but I can make sure things are neatly displayed and colourful. Flowers and a few decorations don't hurt.
  • Always put prominent price labels. People generally won't bother asking, make it easy for them.
  • Have a range of differently priced goods.
  • Consider having a sale on the day. I always sell heaps of comic wallets if I offer two wallets for less than the cost of buying two single ones.
  • Bring plenty of change. More than you need. Just go to the bank during the week and get a heap. Make it easy.

  • Try stock up on your goods in advance of the market. Don't be like me, making things late at night the night before. I really try not to do that any more.

Some things that make a good craft market:
  • Good location close to public transport and passing traffic.
  • Good lighting.
  • Alcohol and/or food stalls. These keep people at the premises longer
  • Is there the option of trestle table and chair hire (especially appreciated by those of us who are non drivers)?
Things to take besides your stock:
  • sticky tape
  • scissors
  • drinks
  • change for coffee/caffienated beverage
  • painkillers
  • snacks
  • a mailing list
  • business cards
  • carry bags (no, not nasty plastic ones). I use recycled paper bags upon request.

Bad things about craft markets
  • It can be quite daunting being a stall holder at a craft market. You are literally putting your wares out there for people to look at, touch, comment on and (hopefully) buy. People will therefore feel quite free to comment and ask questions, even to the extend of asking you about a particular item making it clear they are hopefully to make their own. Not such an issue for personal use but dodgy if they are planning to sell them!
  • You need to work out where you stand on photos. Copycats are sadly an issue for most of us.
  • The most common comment I get is "ooh that's a good idea!". Hard not to roll my eyes.
  • A pet peeve of mine is customers who come and try and chat to you when you are setting up, even an hour before the market starts. I get a bit flustered trying to set things up and hold a polite conversation.
  • Some people will look at your things for ages and not buy a single thing. Sad but true. Give them a business card anyway, they might buy something else in the future.
  • Be careful with crowds. Stock can get stolen. I find it's not uncommon for people to pick up an item and say 'can I just show this to my friend over there'....
  • It's also very frustrating when people stand directly in front of your stall to look at the stall next to you, hold lengthy conversations in front of your stall or park their prams in front of your stall. Kinda rude really as all of the above mean when you consider other customers can't sell your wares.
  • Children. Badly behaved children. I've had children steal my stock, drop stock on the floor and leave it there, break things, LICK my badges and I've seen others smear their food filthy hands on another stallholders hand made quilts. I've tried polite comments to the parent/s in the past but they usually pretend not to hear.
  • Some markets are just a bit crap really. I did a craft market in a pub once, and it was horrendous. Over crowded with stalls which meant that foot traffic from room to room had to deal with people stopping to try and see stock (creating a domino kind of effect on the people walking behind) and the rooms were so dark you couldn't actually see the stock. I didn't feel any better that the market organiser walked around with fist fulls of $50 notes braying on her phone that she'd made so much money.
  • It's really annoying seeing people selling stuff at a handmade market that isn't handmade. I did a craft market a few months ago and sat next to a woman selling ceramic (unadulterated) mugs which she told me she'd bought at a warehouse factory. Same with dodgy imported stuff. Pisses me off no end.
  • Similarily, you will see people selling things as vintage when you know they bought the jewellery components off etsy from a factory in Singapore. It's just the way it is.
  • It's also really annoying if you see someone selling fistfuls of stock when your sales are crawling. Jealousy, sigh.
  • Have I mentioned that some people sell crap and other people buy it? Beauty is apparently, in the eye of the beholder. Or the japanese paper on sale at Spotlight.
  • A lot of stall holders are into swapping wares. It's a bit awkward when all they sell is children's wares and you have no children in your life to buy them for. Sorry about that.
If I haven't put you off, I'm happy to chat to folks about markets more. Please feel free to add your thoughts to this post. I know I might have pissed a few people off, but this is a bit tongue in cheek...

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