Fair advice

I have been asked over the last year for my advice on trading at vintage fairs….well after 15 years retail experience, with 8 in Visual Merchandising, I thought I better put pen to paper (well finger tip to keypad)

Here are my top tips for preparing and doing a fair!

1. Research, Research, Research!

Don’t blindly accept every fair that comes along, instead do your research to discover if this fair/event is the best for you. Remember that the aim is to make money and there’s nothing worse than turning up with the wrong stock package for the location and then lose money. So, check out the type of customer that will be there and consider which stock you have that would be suitable… for affluent areas take your best dresses, students love a bargain. Ask questions of the event organiser: What was the footfall last fair? (do you want to do one with only 200 visitors vs 1000 visitors) When was the last fair there which could include with another event organiser? There is nothing worse than turning up and discovering there was a fair in the town the day/week before! Who else will be trading at the event? If you sell vintage jewellery you don’t want to do a fair where there are 10 other jewellery sellers! How many traders vs the footfall? Think that 20 traders for 800 customers is better than 50 traders for 400 customers. Just basic maths really! Will there be a fitting room and will it be manned? Be demanding of the organiser with all your questions up front.

2. Preparation is key!

  • Choose your stock considering the customer that is likely to be there. Then it all needs to be clearly priced with your brand on every label. This is for 2 reasons: purchased items leave with your brand label on to remind the customer who you are but also, if stock goes walk about/left in the fitting room it can successfully find its way back to you. This doesn’t have to be expensive…think about getting an ink stamp made so you can add it to basic labels. Think about your pricing structure….flat pricing (all dresses £20) or Good, Better, Best (£15/30/40) for example. Customers get confused by random pricing so be clear on your strategy
  • Establish how you are going to Visual Merchandise your stall. Drawing  a plan on paper at this stage will ensure you pack the right kit and save you time on the day. Are you having mannequins, tables, signs, rails etc. Think that your stall is your shop, your brand...it needs to be eye-catching and stand out from the rest. Also think about how to merchandise your stock…are you product blocking (all shirts together), era blocking (all 60s together)? The problem with vintage is it’s all one offs…the only time this happens on the high street is in sale time, so be careful your stall doesn’t look like a bargain basement.
  • Consider how you are going to communicate your pricing at high level. Point of Sale (P.O.S) highlights key prices along with your brand to help customers as well as excite them. This should look professional not a badly hand written sign on the back of A4….always think that this is your shop, your brand! Again, this doesnt have to be expensive..just think about your finish.
  • How are you going to market you and your brand? When customers leave they need to remember you, and hopefully join you on Facebook, Twitter, read your blog etc as well as go online and shop, shop, shop! Think business cards, postcards, carrier bags with your brand on…whatever you choose, give them to everyone even if they don’t buy from you!

3. Shout about it!

Tell everyone where you are going to be, spread the word about the fair on social network sites, your website, blog etc. Take pictures of your best stock and show people to get them excited.

Send these also to the event organiser…can they shout about the traders through their blogs? Are they telling the press about the event…if they are wouldn’t it be great if they used pictures of your stock!

4. Pack up!

Gosh I’m not a fan of loading the van! Be organised with this part, don’t just throw your beautiful dresses in the back and hope for the best. Lay them in suit/dress bags or rail out your van if you have one. Put the clothes  rails in last as you will need these first when you set up. Think that it could be raining when you get there. Write a checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything: especially float, credit card machine, P.O.S, and other bits you may need like scissors, pen, etc

5. Unload and set up!

Hopefully there wont be too many steps to the venue! Set out your stall to your plan and then stand back and review. Look from every angle…what will the customers see when they approach you.

Hang your brand sign in a prominent place. Put out your postcards, remove all rubbish, empty boxes etc which will detract from the overall impact.

6. Choose your attitude

This is a phrase I have learnt in business but rings true through life. If you have done all of the above the only thing you can now impact is how you come across to the customers. What are you wearing? Are you smiling? Where are you standing? Sounds obvious but sitting at the back of your stall reading a paper isn’t going to get you sales….nor is it a great impression of your brand! Don’t go for the hard sell either, relax, have fun, make friends!

7. And finally…

Afterwards you should take time to evaluate how you did. Firstly put away your stock in an organised way to help for next time. Then it’s time to talk money. Whether it’s a business or a hobby the objective is to take money! So now you need to do your sums>Your sales minus your cost price of the stock is your Gross Profit.  Then you need to take off all your expenses: petrol, car parking, lunch, stall price….this will then give you your Net Profit. Hopefully this is a healthy figure! But remember your time is money too…whats left should be your pay (or what you can re-invest)….if its only £20 you need to ask yourself if this is enough? If you’re doing it out of love then  great but really….would you work a whole long day anywhere else for £20?

It’s not easy but it is great fun. You meet people and feel part of a vintage community! I have done fairs and made a major loss…but through experience and following these tips, I now ensure the events I do are likely to give me a good return

Good Luck……

P.S. Your Vintage Life will be appearing at a venue near you…check out the Events page on the webite!


Cheer up the rainy days and your autumn wardrobe with This Weeks Giveaway! This lovely vintage necklace in glorious autumnal colours could be yours….

Simply: 1. Sign up to the blog 2. Let us know which brolly you like best in yesterdays blog by leaving us a comment 3. Tell your friends through Facebook, Twitter etc so they can join in the vintage fun!

Winner will be drawn on Thursday 29th September x

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