In Business: Selling at a Tradeshow

Guest Post by Camilla -

Butterscotch & Beesting

For many designer-makers, the next step up from taking part in events like The Crafty Fox Market is a trade show. Trade shows can be a really good way for retailers to see your work. Buyers come to find fresh and exciting suppliers and hopefully place orders.  Press and bloggers also come along to see what’s new.

Camilla Westergaard is the girl behind the Butterscotch & Beesting Circus.  When she’s not under the big top, designing curious clown prints and fabric in faded neon shades, she moonlights for Folksy where she is working on a whole weekend of tips and advice for designers and makers, called the Folksy Summer School.

Camilla Westergaard.jpg

Camilla shares her experiences....

There are loads of different trade shows depending on what you make and who you want to sell to (The Design Trust has a long list on its website ), so do your research and work out which one will be best for you.

I chose Pulse because its Launchpad area showcases new designers and offers them a discounted rate. Even so, it’s a pretty big investment in time and money, so you want to get it right. I picked up some tips while I was there, and thought it would be nice to share. 

  My Butterscotch & Beesting stand at Pulse

  My Butterscotch & Beesting stand at Pulse

                     Sian Zeng

                     Sian Zeng

Plan your stand

Work out exactly how your stand will look in advance. Check the dimensions and height of your space. Also check the floorplans, so you know if you have a middle position or a corner (when I arrived, a wall I thought was there wasn’t, and I had to change my shelf fittings and display).

Sian Zeng plans her stand virtually. “I plan my stand completely in Photoshop before I go, so I know exactly where everything goes and when I get there I don’t need to worry about things not fitting.”

Cecily Vessey builds a mock-up. “If you can, clear a space at home and physically lay out your stand before you go because it’s very hard to imagine space.”

Cecily Vessey

Cecily Vessey

Before you go

If things go well, you’ll get lots of press and shops asking you to email them product shots. But you’ll probably be wiped out after the show, so get your product images ready in a dropbox beforehand, so you can share them when you get back without all the hassle of email attachments and inbox limits. Get your website updated with your latest products too, so it’s ready for all the new clicks it’s going to get.

Don’t panic

Everyone works differently. You might be someone who likes to plan every detail way in advance, or you might work best under some serious last-minute pressure. Understanding how you function should take some of the panic out of the preparations. So if you’re normally to be found finishing work the night before a deadline (um, hello me), accept that’s how you do things and it will (almost probably!!) be ok. Make lists, plan your days, and focus on one thing at a time.

Know your prices

Buyers want to know your wholesale prices, retail prices and their mark-up. Most shops work on a 2.4 mark-up, so if your wholesale price is £10, they’ll want to sell it for £24. They also want to know your lead times (how long an order takes) and if you have a minimum order. Have an order form ready with all that information, so you can fill it in on the day or give them one to take away.

                                                                                                    Emily Bucknell

                                                                                                    Emily Bucknell

 “Being organised is my top tip,” says Emily Bucknell

You’re selling yourself not just your work to the buyers, so if you’re on the ball with your prices and lead times, they’ll have more confidence in you, and probably be more likely to want to work with you.

Have something to take-away

Buyers are there to see what’s new, but they might not want to place orders there and then, especially if it’s your first show or they haven’t seen you before. So it helps to give them something to take away and think about. I had a simple catalogue, but it doesn’t have to be expensive – a sheet with your details and good shots of your work will help buyers remember who you are and what you make.


Getting noticed

There are so many businesses at a trade show, visitors’ brains must go into overload. You want to stand out in that crowd.

“It helps to have a prop or something to draw people in and start a conversation,” say Christian and Josh from Live in Print who had a letterpress machine to show their wonderful work in action.  Or even something simple like the tin box on Ketchup on Everything's stand which had everyone voting for their favourite animal.

Ketchup on Everything’s  awesome stand, where visitors posted votes for their favourite alphabet animal.

Ketchup on Everything’s awesome stand, where visitors posted votes for their favourite alphabet animal.

Ketchup on Everything

Ketchup on Everything

Live In Print ’s stand, complete with fabulous crowd-drawing letterpress   

Live In Print’s stand, complete with fabulous crowd-drawing letterpress


Be yourself

It can be intimidating meeting buyers and press, but don’t be afraid to be yourself or to ask questions. “You don’t have to pretend to be someone else or know everything. Just be passionate about what you do and that will come across,” says Kay Vincent from Ketchup on Everything.

Make friends

You’re going to be there for a while, and by the end of the week your neighbours will feel like family. Make the most of it. Having crafting buddies who are in pretty much the same boat as you is one of the best bits about being a designer/maker. “Make friends with your neighbours,” is Laura Spring’s top tip. “They’re not your competitors. They can give you support and advice, and you can give it back – no one knows everything.”

Laura’s Spring ’s fabulous duffles

Laura’s Spring’s fabulous duffles

Take notes

I took a small box full of revision cards to scribble reminders about who people were, what they were interested in or what they needed from me, and even what they looked like, so I could staple on their business card and follow it up after the show. You think you’ll remember, but by Day 3 not forgetting your parking ticket is a feat of wonder.

Bring a helper…

Doing a trade show is hard work. Plus you need to eat and have a scoot around. So get someone to help you. Chose your shoes wisely. Mine were flat and very yellow.

Freya’s  beautiful screenprinted wallpaper   

Freya’s beautiful screenprinted wallpaper


My shoes

My shoes

HOME SLICE   - one of my favourites on a scoot around

HOME SLICE  - one of my favourites on a scoot around