The Summer season is almost behind us and most of us will have already placed our orders for the most important selling period in retail – Christmas. As we head into the busiest time of the year, we’ll be girding our loins for 5am starts (or earlier) made in complete darkness, fumbling to dress without waking our partners and children, filling flasks with coffee, de-icing the car – where are my gloves!! – setting the satnav (or in my case, having my trusty road atlas to hand), tuning in to early, EARLY, morning radio and hoping there hasn’t been an accident en route. We’ll arrive, unload, park up, set up, hopefully enjoy a coffee and biscuit (or sometimes a bacon roll) and then be happy, smiley people for 6ish hours followed by breaking down, repacking the car, resetting the satnav, arriving home (in the dark), restocking, banking and finally falling into bed only to do it all over again the next day. But that’s our choice. This is what we know we’ve signed up for so we all do it with humour and in good spirits, working alongside our fellow stall holders and fair organisers towards a common goal – to make a living and raise money for the charities that are hosting us.
That doesn’t mean that occasionally we don’t sit down and reflect on what on earth we’re doing to ourselves and why we don’t ‘just’ create an on-line business and sit back and watch the money role in, especially when creating a website is relatively easy and inexpensive these days. But once that’s done, how are you going to attract visitors when you’re an unknown brand in a competitive market? There are SEO, on-line ads and social media to think about, but first you need to know what you’re doing and second, have the time to do it! It all seems a far cry from your idea to create a business selling something that you passionately believe in, only to find that you’re struggling to convince others. We all know that on-line sales are increasing, and the high street is struggling, so having an on-line presence is important. But Fairs can be a huge benefit to your business so here are a few reminders about why we’re all out there, travelling to Fairs up and down the country whether we’re a new start-up or an experienced hand.
- They bring you into direct contact with customers where you have an opportunity to talk about your product face to face. If you have a unique story to tell, talk about it, people are interested and are more likely to listen and learn rather than read bout it on your website.
- They allow customers to touch, feel the quality and try on which is still very important to many. It’s more time for you to spend with customers developing a rapport. Even if they don’t buy, they’re more likely to remember you if you’ve spent time chatting to them.
- To capitalise on your time spent ‘chatting’, you can give them something to remember you by. Images work better than words so some lovely product and lifestyle shots will do the trick especially if there’s a special offer linked to an online order.
- By running a competition at the Fair to win one of your products, you’ll be able to gather email addresses for future mailings and ask customers to like and follow your social media etc. It all helps build an online presence just remember to do it legally and adhere to GDPR regulations.
- They provide a fantastic opportunity to research your product making sure that what you’re offering customers is what they really want and not just what you think they want
- You’re able to research your price points, range, sizes, materials, colours, packaging anything that could affect your brands appeal. If you disagree with any findings, then ask yourself what you can do or say that will convince customers to change their mind – for example, the quality of your products, the ‘handmade’ element, craftmanship etc. Face to face feedback is invaluable and much easier to glean than via a questionnaire on a website. Of course, you could then test out customers reactions to any changes you decide to make.
- You never know who’s going to be at the Fair. Many stallholders have a tale to tell about a journalist approaching them for a story having seen them at an event. Free PR is never to be sneezed at! Similarly, Fair Organisers research new stalls by visiting ‘competitive’ events and so your reputation grows.
Going to a Fair may seem like a huge amount of effort but being able to offer customer service in an old-fashioned way still has merit. You’ll improve your sales technique and build confidence in your own brand the more you talk to customers. Everything that you learn in this face to face scenario will help you develop your brand. The marketing opportunities they offer can build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website and don’t forget, you’re helping each charity raise money for its cause at the same time….it’s a win, win situation – if you can stand the dark mornings!!
By Susie Palmer – SusieP Accessories
It is very important that you do your own publicity for your business/stall and do not just rely on the Fair Organisers. The Stallholders who publicise themselves within a fair are usually the ones that do the best and get invited back. You can do this in a number of ways:-
*Making a mailing list and emailing your customers at the beginning of a season telling them all the events you will be at but be aware of new Data Protection restrictions
*Putting an events page on your website so your customers can look up where you are going to be
*Putting fair flyers in your carrier bags for customers to see where you are going to be next
*Posting on Social Media – do use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
Make the most of your stall
*Provide good lighting
*Use height (its free) rather than everything just spread out on the table
*Use good table coverings such as a tablecloth
*PRICE ALL PRODUCTS
*Laminate any notices you make up
*Display your name in accordance with Trading Standards
*Put up a small laminated sign saying ‘10% of sales donated to the Charity’