Hindsight, they say, is 20-20. Looking back on the past, you see everything much clearer than when you were experiencing it at the time, you are also looking back with the knowledge and experience you gained when living through it. Taking chances and learning from mistakes are a crucial part of life, and definitely part of starting and growing your own business. If you are looking to start developing your business, there are some lessons that can only be learned through experience but we have some handy tips and pieces of advice to share from our journey at OnlyWillow.

Part 1; Craft Fairs and Markets

OnlyWillow first started attending craft fairs and markets back in 2014. One of the most important things we can recommend is to visit the market first, before you invest in a stall. There are a lot of factors to think about when deciding if a particular fair will be suited to you and your product, and therefore whether it will be worth investing your time and money.

Our stall at the Royal Mills in Manchester, August 2016

Customers

A customer browsing at Appleby Fair in August 2016

You want to take the time to assess the other traders involved, for example are they selling items at a similar quality and price range? For example, if it’s a local car boot style bric-a-brac market that day, the customers attending will not be interested in buying hand crafted artisan silver jewellery. You want to know if the fairs attract the sort of customer that will be interested in your product. If it is well known to have a specifically vintage theme, you know that you can leave the more contemporary pieces at home. Knowing your customer is the first step to being successful in any retail environment, successful supply and demand is having the right stock to suit the right customer, at the right time.

Not a lot of newcomers know that when you book a table or stall, you can ask the organisers about the other traders that have already signed up. You don’t want to be the only jewellery seller at a food market, just like you don’t want to be part of a fair that is exclusively only one type of retailer. That means there will be too much competition and it can become boring for a customer, the whole ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ metaphor is well known for a reason. Instead try for a bit more ‘variety is the spice of life’. Keeping a customer visually stimulated will prolong their shopping experience, and is more likely to lead to a successful purchase.

Here at Holmes Mill, Clitheroe, in March 2018, was the start of a busy craft fair circuit for us that year.

Did you know it takes a person, on average, four seconds to decide if the are going to buy based on what they see? Those first impressions are crucial. Making your stall easy to shop, with your product clear to see, whilst also creating a recognisable brand aesthetic, could make all the difference.

Competitors

Here we shared a stall with @clayonwords in Leeds, way back in October 2015. The table looks full but not over cluttered and the contrast of colours and products makes it interesting and attractive to browse.

Creating relationships with the other crafters as well as the market organisers is important. Sharing stalls and tables with another trader can reduce costs. Well established and popular markets tend to be more expensive, which means you will need to sell more to ensure you turn a profit. An extra pair of hands means you can take a break without the chance of missing a sale, and when first starting out you might not have an excess of product, so sharing can help the table seem fuller and more established. The well-known markets cost more because they tend to have a more guaranteed footfall, so although it can be tricky to justify the cost when you first start out, it is usually worth the extra investment. A day on a market is focused on sales, which is important but you lose making time, so it must be worth it.

Winton Craft Fair April 2017

Building these business relationships can lead to lots of opportunities you may not have had otherwise. This year OnlyWillow was supposed to attend Kendal Calling alongside Hannah’s Vintage, someone we met through attending markets and whose gorgeous vintage clothing complements our range of jewellery beautifully. Unfortunately, with festivals understandably cancelled this Summer, we are not taking part this time, but look forward to the opportunity when it’s safe in the future.

Conclusion

Detail shot of our jewellery busts displayed on our trusty yet rustic stepladder, from a fair at Lancaster Castle in October 2017.

If you dedicate some time into researching the market beforehand, more often than not this will increase the return on your initial investment. Even with our shop in Kirkby Stephen, OnlyWillow would normally still attend a select few markets throughout the year, that we have found to be most lucrative and suited to our brand. We love to get out there and interact with customers, it can be a great research tool for expanding our range, we can maintain our business relationships and hopefully expand our customer base.

We hope you have found these tips helpful, we have focused on what we learned attending craft markets in this post as that is where we started to grow as a company, but we have more lessons learned to share in our next blog so keep an eye out for Obstacles and Warnings; Part 2 on Wednesday.

Finally, a quick but sincere thank you to all our fellow crafters, traders and especially the organisers at all of the many, many craft fairs and vintage markets we have attended over the years. Without your support and companionship in those formative years, we may not have achieved our goal of opening our own permanent shop. This season so far a lot of fairs are cancelled but we can’t wait to get out there again when it is safe to do so, either in front or behind the table, to support this industry that supported us, and hope you will too.

Stay Safe and Shop Local where you can.

For even more OnlyWillow, visit our Instagram and Facebook.

Written by Siobhan Green.