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Keys to Successful Vendor Events

Keys to Successful Vendor Events main article image
Posted on July 3, 2021 by Libby Trostle

As an artisan, vendor events can be an excellent way to get your items in front of customers, and if done well, these events can be very lucrative. I often see frantic posts in social media groups asking for advice on vendor events. Whether it’s your first event or you are a seasoned veteran, your events can be successful if you consider some tried and true tips for success.

There are many things to consider – booth size, signage, set-up, payment methods, and more. This article will help you evaluate all the angles to ensure you are doing everything possible to achieve success.

Consider Booth Size

Bigger isn’t always better. When deciding on the size of the booth to rent, you want to be realistic about projecting the number of items you will sell and the overall revenue you will bring in. Double the space, often at double the cost, does not guarantee double the sales. It may be wise to start with a smaller booth and pack it well with a variety of items – particularly if you have no idea what is of interest to the event attendees.

Consider the competition, the target audience, and the venue. How many other vendors will be competing with you by selling similar items? Are the people attending the event considered your target audience? How many people are expected? And, what is the purpose of the event? Is it a craft show, where people come ready to peruse and purchase, or is it a wine festival where shopping may be an afterthought? What sort of advertising and promotion is taking place?

If it is your first time participating in the venue, it’s challenging to know the answers to these questions, but they are critical when deciding on your time and money investment. 

One Christmas, I was a first-time vendor at a holiday farmers’ market. When I arrived, I was instructed to set up my things in the booth next to the “cookie lady.” I shrugged and looked at my husband as we took off in search of the infamous vendor with our Rubbermaid totes in tow. As a regular attendee at the market, the cookie lady was well-known for her cookies, although she sold plants and small crafts as well.  As an established vendor, she was able to pre-sell orders in advance. With a long history with the venue, the cookie lady could easily project her earnings and make informed decisions about booth size, the amount and assortment of products to bring, and other important decisions. As a new vendor, you will not have this advantage, so it is essential to do as much research in advance as you can.

Select Table Coverings for a Great Impression

Having a professional setup that attracts the interest of potential buyers is critical. The selection of table coverings may seem insignificant but is foundational to a professional appearance. All table coverings should cover the entire table and extend to the ground. Eight-foot tables are standard, although some venues may supply different sizes. It’s important to know in advance so that you can prepare accordingly.  Many contracts may include this information. If not – ask.

It is a good idea to invest in at least one table covering that features your business name or logo. It will make your booth memorable to shoppers and will help to brand your business. There are a plethora of companies that make branded table coverings – Vistaprint, 4Imprint, and NextDayDisplay are just a few names you may recognize. Your local print shop may also be a great source.

Table coverings must also be clean and free of wrinkles and odors. Finally, covers should match or coordinate. Busy patterns will detract from your display, so solid colors are recommended.

Display Your Items for Best Visual Impact

According to experts, 80% of retail buying decisions are made based on visual impact. Effective arrangement of your items will create visual interest and will draw your buyers in. Display items on your tables at varying heights by using crates, stands, and easels. These items can be purchased at local craft stores such as Michaels and Joann, or you can choose to upcycle materials by repurposing old milk crates and stands. Whichever options you choose, make sure they complement your brand.

Displaying garments can be a bit tricky. Generally, you will want to hang these items on portable clothes racks or other vertical displays so that buyers can easily view sizes and designs and feel the materials. However, if you are limited on space, one option may be to display samples and have packaged items (i.e., shirts) in a variety of sizes and ready for quick sale. 

To the extent possible, your booth should encourage customers to touch your merchandise, sample your wares, and experience your products. For example, if you sell books, provide a sample copy for customers to view. If you sell candles or soaps, make sure customers have an opportunity to smell them, and so on. 

There is a balance between a well-stocked booth and a cluttered one. Similar items should be grouped for an organized look. Informational signage may help market or draw attention to featured items but should not be excessive. Too many signs will detract from the merchandise itself – buyers will spend more time reading instructions than enjoying your products.

All merchandise should be clearly marked with a price. Nothing is more frustrating to a buyer than to pick up an item that does not have a price tag. Some buyers may ask the price – others will walk away, and you will lose a sale. 

Be Prepared to Make a Sale

The name of the game is sales – and it’s game day! Have your payment options figured out well in advance. Cash is king, but not everyone carries it. Most people prefer to pay with debit or credit cards. 

If you plan on accepting cash, you may want to simplify your pricing model. Whole numbers in easy to add increments (i.e., 5, 10, 15)  will make math easy for you in what can be an already stressful situation. Have a calculator on hand to total orders, and taxes, if applicable. (We’ll get to the tax part in just a moment. Wink.)  Be sure to have plenty of change. You don’t want to lose a sale because you can’t make the proper change.  

Accepting debit and credit card payments is easy if you have a smartphone or tablet with at least 4G internet service. Several payment processors offer payment processing apps for accepting on-site payments. Paypal, Clover, and Square also provide card and chip readers that connect directly to your device to make processing fast and easy. 

I use Paypal since it is the processor that I also use for my website payments. With the Paypal Here app, I can preload all my items, their cost, and the applicable tax rate into the system. Then, on game day, I simply select the items from the list, and the software totals the sale and applicable taxes. Paypal also offers a unique QR code that I print on a sign, allowing buyers to snap a photo and send money to my account instantly.  

Now, to those pesky taxes. You will want to comply with all applicable state and local laws and collect and remit taxes as required. This is part of being a professional, legitimate business. If you are not set up to accept sales tax in a particular state, some jurisdictions allow you to apply for a temporary business vendor license. Talk with your accountant or the appropriate state or municipal agency directly to learn more.

Boost Your Marketing

Every customer visit to your booth may not result in a sale, but each visit provides an opportunity for you to market your company. Have plenty of business cards with you. Hand out to customers who express an interest but aren’t quite ready to purchase. Include your e-commerce web address on the cards – and encourage customers to shop with you online. 

A business card should also accompany every sale.  Again, let customers know you sell online and invite them to shop with you in the future.

A flyer or brochure that highlights all your product offerings may also be beneficial. Make sure that any collateral materials you hand out look professional and are free of grammatical errors.

Vendor events also provide an excellent opportunity for you to grow your email list. When accepting debit or credit card payments, be sure to ask for the customer’s email address so that you can send them a receipt.   

You may also entice customers to sign up for your mailing list by offering a chance to win a door prize. Email lists will allow you to notify customers of other events or new product offerings.

Be Approachable and Have Fun

It’s not only important that your booth is inviting but that you, and anyone else assisting you at the event, appear friendly and approachable. This includes standing and being ready to speak with visitors. Yes, I know – your feet and back hurt because you’ve been standing for hours. Trust me; there will be time for a hot bath and a glass of wine later!  

Greet customers with a smile and make eye contact. Your best customer service etiquette should be on display. Avoid side conversations with other vendors or co-workers. If you need to grab something to eat, do so away from the sales area. Customers may hesitate to visit your booth, fearful of interrupting your lunch, and let’s face it – it’s just unprofessional to have a mouthful of food.

Finally, relax and have fun. You will meet lots of great people, regardless of whether or not they become customers. Making new acquaintances and interacting with all sorts of people is absolutely my favorite part of my business. Hopefully, it is yours, as well. 

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