How to Make a Killing Selling at Bead and Jewellery Shows!

Many beaders make a comfortable living selling at shows every weekend. Some say it's a lot of fun and they make a killing, but it is hard work!

It involves rising early, driving hundreds of miles, setting up your display, selling at lightning speed - and then taking it down again, traveling back, and often repeating everything the next day in a different part of the country. It's also a lot more expensive than a craft fair to hire the space. However, despite the cost of a few hundred dollars (£80 to £180) for a 6-foot table, it is possible to take US$1,500 a day with the right stock.

How to Get into Shows

Google to find where the shows are, and e-mail the organizers for availability.

As with smaller craft fairs, go to visit first to see your jewelry fits in and can compete with the other sellers. Take note of which booths have the largest crowds and what people are buying. Talk to some of the vendors to get an idea of the show's success. Sellers are very friendly people, so don't be shy!

You'll need to book a few months or even longer ahead to get in the better shows - all require a deposit, with the balance due at a least month in advance.

Lighting & extras
Some shows charge for electricity, tables and chairs, and others supply free. You need display lights to attract customers to your stand and to show jewelry at its best. Larger shows hire lighting for around US$100, but most of the time you will need to bring your own. Halogen lamps on a strand from a builder's merchant are cheap to buy and very powerful. Or use spot lights with a clamp so they can be fixed anywhere - bring as many as you can.

It's also a good idea to price tag most of your items to encourage buyers. And don't forget a strong trolley with wheels to transport your stock from your car to the show, plus a calculator to add prices.

How to Display at Jewelry Shows
As it's expensive to exhibit, you must make the most of the space. This means increasing the area all ways you can, like creating a display behind your table. Some people even display under the table. To create more space, we occasionally use a Perspex case on top of the table with beads inside.

To display behind your table use gridwall with hooks and brackets. Gridwall can be purchased from any shop fitting suppliers and is usually 2-feet x 4-feet or 6-feet high. It's inexpensive, versatile, and fast to assemble and take down. Metal hooks just clip into the grid between spaces.

If you have a small car, get 4-feet gridwall. However, if you can transport, 6-feet is best because it can be supported by its own stand with legs. You'll need to make a wooden support to hold clamps to clip onto the table (see picture), for the shorter gridwall. If you're renting an enclosed booth with walls, it may be possible to hang the gridwall using long metal S hooks purchased from a hardware store.

Table cover
Cover your table with black velvet, this looks best for jewelry. Tables are usually 6 x 2 feet, so you would need fabric around 8 x 3 feet, allowing extra to overhang down the sides.

Roller banners
Roller banners are affordable, lightweight, free-standing, stands that are easily erected in seconds. Picture shows two banners together. Most measure 6-feet x 2-feet erected, but just a 2-feet roll when closed. One of these banners displayed by your stand will attract everyone to look at your jewelry. You can order online for around US$100.

When designing your roller banner, consider that 6-feet will allow quite a lot of copy and photos. Ensure all pictures are at least 3-megabytes in size, otherwise they won't appear sharp. You may want a black rather than white background, as it usually looks better. If you only have space for the roller banner behind a table, design one with the bottom-third blank (as that part will be hidden).

Bargain box
Have you noticed how many exhibitors at shows have a bargain box? It's common because it's not only an easy way to sell your old jewelry, but it also attracts visitors to your other items. Position one at a far corner of your display, away from where you're standing. You should be guarding your most valuable jewelry.

Price items in your bargain box low and in such a way as to encourage customers to spend more. For instance, you may be selling cheap bracelets here for $6 each. Use your printer to make a sign, and then get it laminated:

"Only $6 each - or two for $10". Or better still: "Only $8 each - or 3 for $20", depending on what you're selling and the market.

Multi-day Shows
I find one-day shows are best, but if you decide to exhibit at a longer fair, take your most valuable items away in the evening. Then drape a dust cloth (available from builder's merchants) over everything else. Finally, never leave valuables in an empty car.

Many shows require you to purchase your own public liability insurance before they'll accept your booking. This covers you being sued if someone trips over your lighting stand and breaks their back.

In the US insurance is essentially - shop around for the best quote. Insurance is the UK can easy be purchased online - Google search "craft fair insurance".

How to sell to Customers
Chat to prospects Talk to potential customers - if not, they'll think you're not really interested. Greet them, compliment what they're wearing, and ask questions. Let them know that you're available to answer their queries. Striking up a conversation about jewelry they're wearing, can lead very smoothly into a discussion about yours.

When chatting with customers, don't rush - listen carefully and pause before you reply. Make them feel important and that you value what they say. Talk positively, assuming they're going to buy:

"What color would you like?", "is it for yourself or a gift?" this sort of thing.

Rather than say "may I help you", be more-personal and ask them what they think is best about the show or "have you come far?" Even chatting about the weather can help build a bond and lead to a sale.

When a prospect is trying on a piece of your jewelry, suggest ways they can use it to accessorize different outfits. The more realistic they can imagine wearing it, the closer they'll get to buying. Talk to them as if you've known them for years. How to approach customers When there's a possibility someone may look at your display, always stand up. So they can see you're keen and you can talk eye-to-eye. It's also easier to move from one end of the booth to the other and to hand jewelry to the prospect.

Body language is important too. Never fold your arms or look away - they'll subconsciously feel you're not interested. Make it easy for them to approach you, and if you recognize an existing customer, great them warmly by shaking their hands. If they try a piece on, offer a mirror so they can see what it looks like. Take at least two mirrors.

Never eat if someone's near your booth, because potential buyers won't want to disturb you with a sale. However, keep a bowl of candy or a box of chocolates on your stand to offer browsers - another excuse to talk to them.

Make it Easy to Pay
Accept credit cards and checks - people spend more with plastic. Buyers will also run out of cash, so make sure you know where the nearest ATM is to tell them. Only accept checks with a guarantee card, and write the number and their name on the back. If you haven't a credit card merchant account, it's simpler to arrange than you think, see the previous section.

Market Your Website too
Much of the profit from a bead show may not be made until after you leave - promote your website all ways you can. Give leaflets out advertising your site, along with discount vouchers or free shipping for so many days later. That way you can tell from the code that the order originated from the show. Buyers on the day may not have time to look at all you have.

Sell Add-ons
Artisan jewelry deserves special care. After you sell a piece, always ask if they would like to buy something to keep it clean. Suggest extras like rouge cloths, jewelry cleaners and protective bags that customers can buy to keep their jewelry. Offer free gift wrapping, especially if your show is just before a special date, like Valentine's Day. You could even sell bead books and jewelry boxes.

Jewelry Care Tips Help Sales
With everything you sell, enclose a little card explaining how to care for all types of your jewelry. Ensure your name and contact details are included, as customers will keep this. Something like:

• Protect from knocks, chemicals, sunlight and extreme temperatures.

• Take off before washing or swimming.

• Be careful not to accidentally get hair spray or deodorant on jewelry.

• Remove rings when working with your hands or using abrasives.

• Carefully wipe jewelry with a soft chamois after wearing to remove oils and salt.

• Store jewelry separately so pieces won't scratch each other, and keep necklaces flat to reduce stretching.

• Sterling silver tarnishes naturally, so requires occasional cleaning.

• Store jewelry in plastic bags with an interlocking seal.

Types of cleaning cloths
Polish sterling silver and other metals like brass and copper with a Sunshine Cloth. This soft chamois is impregnated with a fine powdered metal polishing compound. For gemstones, a Selvyt Polishing Cloth is best - made from natural cotton coated with a special binding giving a velvety texture that ensures dust particles are lifted off the surface being polished. If you want to remove scratches, use a polishing cloth containing rouge.



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