How to Succeed At Street Festivals
There are more opportunities than ever to sell your wares at outdoor events throughout the tri-state area. Between April and October, most small towns and urban neighborhoods in the region will host street fairs, festivals and farmer’s markets. During these warmer months there are enough opportunities for vendors to attend an event every weekend.
Admission into events is only half the battle. Selling enough of your product to turn a profit—or at least break even—week in and week out is usually the more difficult half of the equation. Consistent success even in the most adverse circumstances requires preparation and organization. Here are some tips to help your business succeed at the biggest or smallest fairs regardless of the weather.
- Presentation is everything. You could have the coolest or best tasting product in the world, but if your setup is bland and unimpressive people won’t look long enough to find out what you have to offer. Bright, colorful setups that catch the eye are great. Your products should be prominent and easily seen. A well-designed sign or banner never hurts. Investing in an attractive, well-organized display will pay dividends at every event you attend.
- Smile and be friendly. As a film character once said, personality goes a long way. People will want to talk to smiling people and the friendlier you are, the longer they’ll stick around and consider making a purchase. Pleasant conversation puts people in a buying mood.
- Dress to impress. You don’t need to dust off an old bridesmaid dress or a tuxedo, but dress in neat, attractive and comfortable clothing.
- Wear good, comfortable shoes. A vendor in pain is an unhappy vendor and an unhappy vendor makes for a poor salesperson.
- Prepare for your best sales day. Be confident and bring enough of your product to last through a good sales day. Running out of items halfway through the day is giving away money.
- Stay positive. The day could start slow and it might stay slow. Remember that no single event is going to make or break your year. Even if sales aren’t going that well, be kind and courteous to everyone who comes to your table. Word of mouth is important, and one happy customer can become ten happy customers down the road.
- Follow the organizer’s instructions. Unless there is a family or health emergency, never leave an event early. Sales could be horrendous. It could be cold, windy and miserable. It doesn’t matter. Empty and unoccupied festival spaces are an eyesore and embarrass the organizer. Know that leaving an event early is frowned upon and may cost you a space at the next event.
- Be prepared. Put together a checklist before the event and make sure you double check it before you leave in the morning. If you’re outdoors, bring something heavy to hold down any loose items (such as brochures) that you might have on your table. Bring a lockable cashbox. Bring warm clothes that can be layered and sunglasses.
- Be on time. Good festival organizers have everything scheduled to the T. Don’t show up late and expect them to make exceptions for you. Some will. Some won’t.
- Bring someone. It could be your husband, wife, kids, mom or dad. Someone to stay with you and help you out will make the day that much easier, and if you have to go back to your car, use the bathroom, or grab a bite to eat, they can man the fort while you’re gone.
- Be a good neighbor. Most fairs and festivals will place you next to other vendors. Yes, they are your competition, but it doesn’t have to be a zero sum blood match to sell more than the next person. Trust your product and respect theirs. Be courteous and friendly and you will usually receive the same treatment in return, making everyone’s day that much better.
Want to learn more? Rising Tide Capital will be hosting "How to Get Your Business Street Fair-Ready"
When: Thursday April 12, 2012, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: St. Paul's Lutheran Church Basement, 440 Hoboken Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306
William Clarke is Director of the Central Avenue Special Improvement District Management Corporation (CASID), a private not-for-profit organization which represents over 400 small businesses in the historic Jersey City Heights neighborhood. Clark spearheads the planning for the largest annual street fair in Jersey City, the Everything Jersey City Festival. In 2011, the ten-block festival attracted an estimated 30,000 visitors.