Surviving an Outdoor Winter Market
1. Try to avoid them if possible. If the majority of the market is indoors and they've stuck you on the path on the way out, customers are done shopping by the time they've seen you. (And in my case have bi-passed the 17 other soap makers inside before being presented by my herbal soap & shampoo bars, very different from the other competitors). Or you'll be before they even enter the market and they'll give the time old excuse, "Well, I JUST got here, going to make the first loop and see you on the way out." Then the exit is conveniently, for them, on the other side of the building.
You will be judged by your customers. The fact you're outside it means it's a cheaper booth or you applied too late, the market was full etc. Customers will say passive aggressive comments like, "Maybe next year you'll get inside," or "You must be so cold out here all by yourself!"
If the entire market is outdoors, you have a better chance. It makes you at par with the other vendors, invites cheer and merry, and the idea of pink cheeked carollers. It also means you are likely to have more space than you would inside.
2. Have a propane heater and sides for your tent (have a 10x10 tent). This makes a huge difference for your mood and longevity of vending an outdoor market. If it's more than a one day market, bring along the big tank of propane. It's less waste of mini tanks you can't refill and don't know how to recycle and you're less likely to run out of juice half way through the day. Don't bring an electric heater, electric will hate you.
3. Bring LED lights. It gets dark early in the winter and there's nothing worse than your customers not able to see
your products. A string of Christmas lights are quaint, or even better add a lamp from your house. It'll create instant ambience and appropriate lighting for your wares. Avoid fluorescent lighting. That can make you and your stuff look creepy. These days there are warm orange glow LEDs that are way easier on the eyes.
4. Bring a battery bank. There may be electricity for your lamps and lights and phone and square debit reader but, there may not be. I bought a bank from Canadian Tire for under $200 and it's essential for off-grid living and outdoor markets/ festivals, and can boost your car if you need it to!
5. Have a credit reader linked up to your phone. (No one has cash on the way OUT of a craft fair, they barely have the paper stuff on the way in). I use square debit reader, and to be honest the majority of my sales are done by card. The debit reader is $60 upfront but only 10 cents per transaction versus 2.4% of entire sale for the credit only readers. If you're signing up for square use my referral and we both get $1000 worth of free transactions. I track all of my inventory with square including cash transactions, so I can look at best selling items and I can obsessively check my sales throughout the day without counting bills like a maniac.
6. Decorate with garlands. Bring cedar bows from your garden or the side of the highway. If you're outside you may as well look the part.
7. Put down a Plywood/ wooden platform. The set up can be on cold soggy grass, and to prevent ruining your cosy boots and day (and health) put down the piece of plywood that's been floating in your van since you took that trip that time. It'll be a relief to stand on something dry and now warm, from the propane heat whirring at your feet.
8. Play some music, if you're not sick of Christmas jingles yet.
9. Have a pitch to draw people in. They're tired by this point and they need to be gracefully invited into your booth or else they're bee lining it to the van before spending more money on cool stuff they can't resist. Have your pitch include why you're different than the rest and what solution you bring to their problem.
10. A sheet or tarp to cover products overnight. When condensation freezes overnight, it melts in the brisk sun and drips all over your products. This happened to my neighbour who had to air out her knitted goods, and luckily my soaps were spared by luck of remembering to cover them up properly. It also gives a (false?) sense of security when leaving them overnight. Bring the cash from your till home and if you have small items like jewelry put them away or truck them back and forth. Usually there's some security on hand. I also do a protection spell... remember to remove it the next morning or else NO ONE will come in at all!
Any other tips please comment below!
You can always order herbal products online, you don't need to track me down at outdoor markets!