Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tips for Exhibiting at Fairs and Festivals

June 13, 2017 by mbrophy  
Filed under How-To Zone

One of the main differences between exhibiting at a flea market and a county or state fair is the application and selection process. Big fairs have high traffic and limited booth space. This translates to large profits for vendors, but also lots of competition. Marla Calico, president and CEO of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE), shares some tips on what it takes to create a successful exhibit for a larger fair.

Be Unique
“I would focus on uniqueness and something along a theme,” says Calico. “For example, focus on just selling jewelry opposed to jewelry, candles, and tools. It’s likely that the fair is looking for something specific. The more you’re focused the better off you are.” In flea markets, having a bunch of different product categories can work to your advantage. But, for a fair, “Exhibitors who come in with a hodgepodge are rarely considered,” say says. “Fairs want a variety of products, but they want that variety from different booths.”

Plan Ahead
Because fairs are so selective, competitive, and profitable their exhibitor spaces tend to have very high retention rates. For new vendors trying to get in, it’s never too early to start the inquiry process. “The lead time is going to be months, not weeks,” says Calico. Many exhibitors re-sign for next year’s fair before the event is even over. “It never hurts to make an inquiry. Start out by asking: What is your process? Can I see an application? Are you accepting for this year? It starts as a fact-finding mission.”

Attention to Detail
“Applications can be very specific,” says Calico. They often ask for references and a complete product list. She says any type of incomplete application will likely go in the trash. Once an application meets the initial qualifications, then fair management will look at the product selection and uniqueness of what you’re offering. But it’s important to follow all instructions completely to even have your application considered.

Get Familiar
Calico says that the best thing you can do when first considering exhibiting at a fair is to go visit the fair and area you are interested in. “Make sure your offering something that is not already being filled. Each fair is looking for the best possible balance for their guests.” So, go to the fair and see what’s offered and how you can position yourself differently. “It’s a competition,” stresses Calico. “Every booth is vying for customers’ time attention and dollars.”

Even if you’re not ready to exhibit at a large fair this summer or fall, now is the time to start planning for next season. “One critical thing from moving from flea to fairs is understanding the length of time and commitment,” continues Calico. “If you’re signing on for a large top fair, it may run for four weeks and most don’t offer partial booth spaces. You make a commitment for the entire timeframe and to operate your booth all the hours the event is open.”

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