Wednesday, November 5, 2014

9 tips for holiday shopping at craft shows

by Bev Feldman of Linkouture

The holiday season is rapidly approaching. Halloween costumes and candy have quickly been replaced with ornaments and menorahs. Shopping lists are being compiled and presents are being bought and tucked away.

Handmade products make some of the best holiday presents. They are unique and special, and they can often be specified to the recipient’s taste (with enough notice to the artist, of course!) Here are 9 tips to help make your handmade holiday shopping a success.

Gift image by The Patterned Peacock

1. Plan ahead
Time is a sneaky thing. You start out thinking you have months until the holidays, and before you know it’s a week before the holidays and you haven’t started your shopping. If you want a custom handmade piece for your spouse/friend/mom, you want to make sure to give the maker sufficient notice. Contact them early and check what his/her deadline is for custom orders. Even a few weeks before December 24 may not be enough time. 
2. See where your favorite artists will be selling
Most artists have a list of what upcoming shows they will be at on their websites or Facebook pages. If not, send them a quick e-mail. They will be happy to have your repeat (or first) business, and you can plan accordingly.

3. Check out what artists will be selling at the shows you will be attending
It can be really overwhelming sometimes to walk into a show and see booth after booth of handmade goodies. Where to even begin? If you know you are going to a specific show, check out to see what artists will be there so you have a sense of what to expect and you’re not quite as overwhelmed when you get there. 

Cranberry freshwater pearl and sterling silver gift set by Linkouture
4. Bring a list
Make a list of everyone for whom you want to buy presents and some ideas of what you would like to buy for them. Think about what their interests are, what colors they like. Do they love wearing jewelry? Have they mentioned to you that they broke their favorite mug or that they need a new case for their new computer? 

5. Check for entrance fees and discounts
At some shows you have to pay even before you have even bought anything. Before you go to the event, check online to see if there are any discounts. Some shows have a coupon you can print and bring with you which will save you a few dollars.

Ornaments by Happy Owl Glassworks, photo by Jessica Burko

6. Bring cash
Between entrance fees and snacks, it’s good to have at least $10 in cash on you. Of course, it’s also good to bring more cash to pay for your gifts, and it will help you to budget. Most artists accept credit cards, but we do lose a small percentage of our sales to pay for credit card fees so cash payments are often preferred.

7. Leave your coat in the car
Holiday craft shows can get really crowded and very hot. The last thing you want to do is lug around your giant winter coat. (Plus, you will want to keep your hands free for all those presents you will be buying!) If for some reason you aren't able to, check to see if the show has a coat check. 

8. Go with a friend or trusted shopping partner
Whenever buying gifts for my family members, I always like to check with my husband who can help me to decide if I come across something that I think one of them will like. Admittedly, going to craft fairs isn't his favorite activity, so I have friends that I also like to go with can give me their opinion. 

Teal & black cowl scarf by Loomination

9. If shopping with a gift recipient, find an excuse to sneak away
On several occasions I have had husbands return to my booth after their wives noted that they really liked a piece of my jewelry. It takes the guess work out for them and they don't have to worry about finding a present later. If you are shopping with someone for whom you want to buy a gift and they have shown an interest in something, find an excuse to return to that booth without them. Tell them you have to use the restroom or you have to make a phone call, and return to the maker's booth. Let them know you are on a secret mission, and we will make sure to get that item wrapped and paid for as inconspicuously as possible!

To see what upcoming holidays shows Boston Handmade members will be at, click here


  1. These are great tips. With the Boston Christmas festival coming up this weekend, it's perfect timing too.

    1. Glad you found them helpful and i hope you enjoyed the festival!

  2. I have not done this in the past few years to be honest, but after reading your tips have to try to take a look when some of our local ones are running. Thanks for the reminder and some great tips, too :)

    1. That's great, Janine! I hope you do end up checking some of them out.

  3. I'm reading this and realizing how intense the craft fairs I've been to have been, especially before the holidays.
    So yes to leaving the jacket in the car and to being prepared! Last time we went to one, my husband forgot cash and so did I. So we fell in love with items and then had to run out to find an ATM.

    1. They are really intense. I went to huge one last year to scope out to potentially do this year (I opted not to), there were so many vendors!

  4. I hope I will find a good craft show here. Bringing CASH & having a LIST are both great tips. I'm so bad with keeping cash on hand, and if I don't have a list, I'm useless.
    Great tips, Bev!

    1. I'm terrible about keeping cash on me also, but as a seller I know how nice it is when someone pays with cash instead of a credit card :-)


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