How to Earn Cash From the ‘Fairs Circuit’

‘Oi, you… turn that bloody Alarm off!’

Crafts- Market /Craft fair with stall holderThese, and a few other choice words, were not the only things that were ringing in my ears on that very early, wet and windy Sunday morning.

‘I’m trying, I’m trying‘, I retorted, although I knew that no one would be able to hear me above the din of the loud alarm claxon which was still deafening my eardrums.

Technically, none of this was my fault – I had been assured that the alarm would not be set from the night before, but I knew my protestations wouldn’t cut the mustard with the residents whom I had rudely awoken from their slumbers within this secluded farm hotel setting.

This scene took place almost 20 years ago, when, in my guise of an antiques fair organiser. I was going through the motions of setting up my monthly antiques fair in a farmyard… of all places.

The location, I must admit, sounds a bit dire, but that was far from the case. It was a working farm, the owners of which had created very comfortable and, some would say, chic accommodation within their outbuildings, as a way to supplement their meagre farming income

I had persuaded them to rent me one of their other unused barns, once a month, which I used to host ‘Farmyard Fairs’, the name for my antiques fair enterprise.

On this particular morning I had arrived early to clean up the barn from a party held the previous night. Clearing out all the empty beer bottles and sweeping up always took quite a while, but had to be done before I could even begin setting up for my event.

Once the venue was spick-and-span, I then went out to put up my ‘fair signage’ – advertising street signs for the event, with arrows pointing the way. Previously I had always put these out on the prior Saturday evening – that was until I realised that the local ‘yoof’ were pouring out of the pub at closing time and were rotating all my signs so they pointed the wrong way!

And now, on top of everything else I had set off the alarm and woken up most of the paying residential guests, guaranteeing my status as ‘Mr Popular’ for the day… and people think running a fair is easy.

As one visitor remarked, when paying his 50 pence entrance money later that morning: ‘Money for old rope, this antiques fair lark – all you gotta do is open the doors and sit back and collect the money!‘… Yeah right!

I tell you this tale, not to put you off getting involved in such a venture, but simply to illustrate that no such enterprise exists without its trials and tribulations. But to my mind it’s still all worth the effort!

There are two ways to earn good money from the ‘fairs circuit’:

1. As a fairs organiser (antiques, craft, school, or Christmas fair etc).

2. As an exhibitor, displaying your goods at such fairs.

I have been both a fair organiser (for different events) and an exhibitor, and can assure you that both ways can be very profitable indeed, once you have learnt the ropes.

At some point I will write a guide on how to organise successful fairs, but in this blog post I want to focus on one of the challenges of being an exhibitor: how to pick a good fair venue.

And if you are stuck for an idea for what to sell at a local fair, you might be interested in my latest business blueprint, just posted to my website, The Profit Box, entitled…

‘How I generated total sales of £339 – with a net profit of £211.48 – as a fair exhibitor, during the course of one single day.’

These were my sales and profit figures from a fair which I attended just two weeks ago, and my Profit Box blueprint shows you exactly how I went about achieving this, with instructions showing how you could do the same.

Meanwhile, here are my guidelines for picking a good fair as an exhibitor…

stallfinderTo facilitate your search for a compatible fair to suit your products, I would like to suggest a wonderful website – This site features a nationwide searchable database enabling you to find venues by county search and by product specialisation.

High visitor numbers – THE most important factor is to pick a fair with high visitor numbers. You need a steady stream of potential customers flowing past your stand in order to make your day a success. The easiest way to know the attendance figures is to ask the fair organiser for their previous visitor statistics.

Entrance fees – Pick a fair which charges their visiting customers an entrance fee. This factor alone will help to validate their type of customer base. If a visitor is prepared to pay a couple of pounds to enter a fair, the chances are they will be happy and capable of paying for higher ticket items being displayed within the fair.

Qualify visitor numbers with the entrance fees charged – Fairs which make no charge at the door might generate a lot of visitor numbers, but you should accept that many of those visitors might just be looking for a little free ‘visual entertainment’.

Evaluate your stand cost – Fairs organisers will charge their exhibitors fees after taking into account the following factors:

  • The amount of time the fair will be open – This could range from a few hours to a few days, or even at the really high end, up to a week.
  • How many years the fair has been established and whether they have proven regular visitor attendance rates.
  • The physical location of the venue – Let’s face it, the most you’d expect to pay when visiting a fair held at a local scout hut would be in the region of 50p to a pound, whereas if you attended a more professionally organised event, held perhaps at a stately home, then you would expect to pay a higher entrance fee.

Stand cost versus the value of your stock – Your job is to take these same factors into account and evaluate the possible return you might make based upon the average retail value of your stock. For instance, you are unlikely to return a profit if the average price of your stock is £5: considering a stand cost in the region of £100–£200, you would need a lot of sales before you broke even.

Until next time, have a great week.

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