How to find and select the right contemporary craft or design fair for you

Craft and design fairs come in many different shapes and sizes – from local craft festivals to major international gift or furniture fairs with thousands of trade visitors.

Snowdon design and craft at Top Drawer 2011


So, how do you find out about craft or design fairs?

There are many different ways to find out about fairs:

  • do a google search
  • check out craft or design magazines, forums and blogs for reviews, advertisements, leaflets or classifieds
  • ask your peers
  • check out the online CV’s of people you admire to see where they show
  • or make your life easy … we have done all the hard work for you and have selected The Design Trust favourite 59 contemporary design and craft fairs with all the info, show dates and deadlines.

How do you select the right fair for you?

Alexandra Snowdon of Snowdon Design & Craft – whose products and stand is shown above – exhibited in January 2012 at giftware trade fair Top Drawer.

She commented: “My products include hand-printed cards, tote bags and prints. Most of my trade clients are currently small independent gift shops, book shops and galleries. Top Drawer was great for me as it gave me lots of exposure to buyers big and small and I was able to get valuable feedback on my new range of products.”

So how would you find the right fair for you? Firstly create a list of potential fairs and then start researching the following criteria:

Who attends this fair? Is it a trade or consumer show, or both? Are your potential clients visiting here? Is it a local, national or international show? Does the show attract high level buying clients or are there many tourists coming?

How many visitors will attend? Are visitor numbers in the 100’s or 1,000’s? What would you feel comfortable with?

When is the fair? Many fairs take place at conflicting times in the year such as end of January or September, and many Christmas craft fairs happen in November or early December.

Does the timing effect what you can sell? It is really important for you to know what buyers will be buying and when: trade fairs in January are aimed at Mother’s Day and wedding gifts, trade fairs in September are often aimed at Christmas. For fashion it is even more stringent.

Can you sell at the show or only take orders? At most trade shows you can only take orders that will be delivered later. At most consumer shows you sell on the spot, so you need to ensure that you have got enough stock and can wrap your products safely but nicely.

Where is the fair? Is it easy for you to get to, or do you need to find accommodation? Is there easy public transport, or plenty of parking (for you and visitors). London trade buyers are reluctant to leave the capital, so make sure that the people you want to visit actually will come. Also, many of the international shows can actually be more profitable than shows in the UK, due to lower stand prices, better exchange rates and prices, more costs that can be deducted, and subside through UK Trade & Investment.

Who else exhibits there? Are they high profile people in your sector, professionals or amateurs? Are you happy to have a stand next to them? Is the show very competitive for what you do or would you offer a gap in the market? Is it a selected show or can anybody show? What is the top and bottom price level of products?

How many stands are there? What are the types and sizes of the stands? How big is the show – from a couple of tables to 23 halls at the Milan Furniture Fair.

What is the profile of the fair in your sector? How long is the fair been going? Does it attract good press coverage? What are the ticket prices? Has the show grown or got smaller over the years?

What are the costs? How much does a stand cost (don’t forget to add the VAT!)? Do you need to pay an additional commission to the organisers on any sales (fairly common with craft fairs)? What is included in the fee? How much would electricity and lighting cost (often added separately, and can be very expensive depending on the show)? Can you bring your own chairs or do you have to pay? Would you need to pay for accommodation and travel costs, and potential help at the show? What would your transport cost be to get your products to and from the show?

What type of stand would you get? Do you need wall space or a corner space? Would you be at the front or back of a show (the latter is often far quieter)? What presentation material can you bring (for example many jewellery shows supply display cabinets)?

How long is the show on for? Some fairs have very long and late hours, and go on for a long time (The Milan Furniture Fair is on for 8 days!). Make sure that you know in advance, and potentially get help to enable you to do a show without a complete breakdown.

What promotion do they do? Have they got a good reputation with buyers and press? Where do they advertise?

Have they got special deals for first time exhibitors? Check this out as often there are special packages, group stands or special areas dedicated to new designers or crafts people. You often will get more training or support through workshops.

What support will they offer you? What will they do to promote you to potential buyers and press?

What are you chances of being selected? Some shows get far more applications than they have stands. Make sure that you know in advance what your chances are.

How will loading in and out work? This is often one of the main frustrations (at a time when you are either stressed or knackered)! Check if you get a time or parking space allocated, and how much time you will get.

The more information you can gather, the easier it will be to make your decision.

Top tip: I always strongly recommend that you visit a show prior to exhibiting, so that you can make a personal choice if the show is right for you. Talk to stand holders about their experience, most of them are quiet happy to give feedback to you. Check out if the show is full of people looking, or if people are actually buying.


Did you find this post useful? Feel free to let others know or tweet. What do you look for when selecting a new show? We look forward to your comments.

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4 Responses To "How to find and select the right contemporary craft or design fair for you"

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  1. says

    Thanks for the advice. I am unemployed so London is too expensive for me to travel too. I am so angry that many organisers are just theme parks and not craft fairs at all. I even go to craft places run by the National Trust only to find snowflake paper weights priced at 14 next to Bernard Leach Pottery. Trading Standards-should stop bad practice it’s one thing to say designer gift another to say hand crafted limited edition and so on. I have been to a craft fair that was taking money from unsuspecting people who find they are selling next to 5 pound scarves from china dressed up as Kath Kidson. So beware of local markets check them out first and report to trading standards bad practice.

    • Patricia says

      Dear Caroline
      Thank you for your additional comments. Indeed I have to say that I agree. As craft fairs have become increasingly popular it is crucial that you check the credentials of the organisers and ideally visit a fair in advance or talk to previous exhibitors.

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