5 Lessons Learnt from our First Shared Stall
Updated: Apr 15, 2019
1. Customers need to be prompted (and they're okay with it!)
One key thing I noticed about halfway through the day was that no-one was seeing the amazing range of cards we had available because they weren't flicking through the selection. People were too shy to pick up and smell the soaps (which are incredible). They were too shy to see all of the prints (we could only display 3 at a time so I kept rotating them).
People didn't fill in the newsletter, nor did they take a card... all the written prompts just weren't enough.
I'm not saying that people weren't interested at all, quite the opposite! Once prompted to take a card or sign up to the newsletter and take a free postcard, or smell the soaps, they often did so with enthusiasm.
And saying the words "please look through and there's no pressure to buy" is a bit cliche, sure, but if you say it and really mean it (which I did), people are happy and often they do buy because they've experienced a new smell, or a new design that catches their fancy.
I was inspired by my stall partner Rebecca, who has an amazing range of ceramics which need to be interacted with in order to be fully appreciated. They're tactile and the weight of each piece in your hand really shows the quality more than your eye ever could, does that make sense? So she graciously prompts each customer to not be scared about breaking them, to pick them up and feel them.
It's always kind to pre-empt a fellow human's existing concern (i.e. I don't want to look through or smell this item and then not buy it because that would be awkward... or I don't want to pick up this ceramic piece because I might drop it). Address these head on and make people more relaxed and happy.
2. What you like as a customer may not be what others like
I have been to many, many fairs as a customer (nothing beats a vegan fair though am I right?) and I'll be the first to admit that I get freaked out by stall holders who stand over their stalls and try to get eye contact, and I generally rush past them whilst humming a complacent tune. (Hello it's me, Heather INFP and all round recluse)...
So I noticed that the stalls I paid most attention to, and enjoyed looking at the most were the ones where our (mine and the stall-holders) eye-sight lines were broken, either by a stand or hanging objects so I could come right up to the stall and enjoy looking without feeling like they were going to jump up and start talking to me. Again there's that "no pressure" mentality.
I'm a classic underbuyer (are you one too?) so the decision to buy something is usually a really personal thing (unless it's food)... if you see me stuck at a stall, I'm frantically scanning through my brain-calendar for birthdays, (April, niece, June, sister, nephew, July, mom, niece and on and on...) or for reasons not to buy (is it sustainable? ethical? do I really need it? where was it made? Is it too much "in principle" whatever that means).
And the idea of walking up to a stall, looking at a price, internally gasping, putting it back gently and trying to sneak off like a ninja makes me socially anxious. Weird I know.
So when I hosted a stall, I knew what I wanted. An A-frame to break eye contact. Clear prices so people knew what they were getting even 2 feet away from the table. Clear instructions (which as we see from point 1 didn't actually work that much). I tailored it very much to my personal shopping style.
I mentioned all this to Rebecca, and she said none of that had ever even occurred to her, and then I watched as most people who came up to the stall actually did enjoy eye contact and conversation. ha ha ha ha ha.
Long story short, what you like as a customer may not be what customers like... or even think about... so don't over-analyse too much, and keep it simple.
3. Think more carefully about your audience
We certainly had a lovely day, and met lots of nice people (can I bring the bland words like kind and nice back in from hiding please? I think they're just fine!) and learnt a lot, but it was a sustainability fair, and perhaps we didn't look closely enough at just how niche the market audience was going to be.
Lesson learnt, we will be doing way more craft fairs, and maybe some more sustainability fairs with our zero-waste essentials range.
4. Have fun and don't just talk about your business
I had a lot of fun doing this stall and it was great to chat with the other stall holders. Some of my best conversations with customers were nothing to do with Chester Creatives, and you know what? That's okay.
If I can chat to people about vegan junk food or ask about their zero-waste journey or about how plant-based milks beat dairy in every single sustainability study, I'm a happy lass, and the customers are happy too.
5. Important questions to ask the stall organiser in advance
The dimensions of the table are not the be all and end all, you'll also want to ask if there are plug sockets near your table (we knew there'd be power but we didn't bring fairy lights because we couldn't find our extension cable, turns out the plug sockets were literally behind our table, we wouldn't have even needed an extension cable. And all the tables were laid out in advance, so it wouldn't have been difficult to ask).
You should also ask about the space in between the tables. This was more important than I gave it credit, especially with the A-frame overhead.
Also ask about toilets, potable water, refreshments and food vendors etc. We had all of that of course, but I had idiotically made an assumption that there would be savoury food stall for lunch. Thankfully Dan went out to the Green Room in Warrington and picked up some incredible burgers and curry for us all.
You'll also want to ask how many stalls there are in total, so you don't go in and think well this is smaller/bigger than I expected.
What do you think?
Did I miss anything out? Do you have any stall tips that aren't included in the above? Do you agree with me about broken sight-lines or am I just a weirdo introvert? haha.
Comment below if you want to (no pressure! ha) and let me know.