Selling at Retail Fairs and Shows

With summer in full swing, many producer, artisans and professional crafters are hitting the retail show circuit to sell their unique products!  Over the years, I have seen many small companies makes their living by working these shows fast and hard during the ‘show season’ — relaxing and creating during the off times.  Serious money can be made from this business plan if you know how to work the system.

Family at FairI am certainly not an expert in this area, but one of my business partners, Don Debelak, featured a post on his blog:  One Stop Invention Shop.  Here are some of his tips:


Selling Your Product at Fairs This Summer

Products that sell really well at fairs and shows have the following characteristics:

  • Demonstrates or Tries Out Well:   If your product demonstrates well, you will get attention, people will believe in your product’s promises because they have seen it works and often, if the product meets a need in their life, they will buy.
  • Simple, Direct Message:  Make sure your product has a very simple message.
  • Low-Priced:  Products that sell really well at shows and fairs are usually priced between $10 and $30.

Selling at fairs and shows can be grueling, but also fun if you take the right approach.  I sold gourmet food products at Farmers Markets and mall kiosks for years and was able to implement some basic tactics that increased engagement and sales:

  1. Engage EVERYONE that comes by your both.  And I don’t mean asking them:  Can I help you?  99% of the time you will get an instant:  No, I am just looking.  Often, just selling hello and asking them if they are enjoying the show is enough to break the ice and start a friendly conversation.
  2. Always stand, not sit, in your booth — or at least use a stool where you will be at eye level with the folks that stop by your booth.
  3. Use an special give away or incentive for folks to stop at your booth.  As a gourmet food producer, it was easy to give away free sample of the food I was selling.  I have seen other producers give away bookmarks that included their contact information.  Others have given away pens, pads, tiny gift packs …. use your imagination!
  4. Wear your best smile, your most comfortable shoes, and bring lots of water or drinks with you!

If you are having trouble locating and finding shows, Don Debelak has some excellent advice:

You want shows that appeal to your target customer, where at least half of the people are potential customers.  You also want to start with local shows….

First contact your local chamber of commerce or convention center to get a list of upcoming shows or fairs.  Then get the name of the show’s promoter and call him or her and ask for a guide from last year’s show or fair.  Also tell the promoter that you are interested in having a booth at the show and ask if he or she can give you tips on things like booth location, booth design, and how to sell to the show’s attendees.  The promoter has it in his or her own interest to help you succeed, so use him or her as a resource….


Last, but not least, enjoy the show.  Some of my fondest memories are running a booth in shows just like this.  And you never know, a potential store buyer may attend and want to stock your products in their retail outlet!  I landed one of my biggest wholesale accounts through this method — a sporting goods store who wanted to add a line of gourmet foods to their new kitchen accessories department.  Who would have know!!

Are you exhibiting in some shows this summer?  Please share your experiences with us!


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