When I started an ecommerce business back in 2006, one of the ways I drove traffic to my site was by participating in weekend fairs and festivals to connect with customers face-to-face and sell my products offline. The exposure brought new customers and gave me a chance to better understand my market.
At first, I packed anything and everything I thought I might need, and setup took an exhausting couple of hours. My business was called The Organized Parent (I later sold it to FranklinCovey Products), yet ironically I felt anything but. Eventually, I noticed that “weekend warrior” retailers had the process down to a science, hardly breaking a sweat during setup.
After studying their secrets for selling at markets, fairs, festivals, and pop-ups, I changed up my organizing strategy. And here are the four steps that helped streamline the process.
1. Get a Portable Booth
Successful experiences start by designing a booth that’s transportable. Look for display items with built-in wheels or that are light or small enough to be moved around on a dolly.
Some events provide tables, while others rent them. It’s convenient to have some of your display waiting for you, but make sure table rental fees don’t eat into your profits. Folding tables are easy to carry in and out of an event, but you’ll want to choose ones that are durable. Also, don’t forget about signage, lighting, and display pieces, all of which will attract attention to your booth.
FURTHER READING: Need some helping brainstorming booth ideas? Take a look at these brilliant markets booths that turn foot traffic into sales.
“One of the most important steps that I've found to boost efficiency for transportation, set-up, and take-down, is doing a pre-event mock set-up in my backyard,” says Sarah Wittington, owner of The Smoothe Store, a merchant that sells merchandise for dachshund lovers. “I mark-off the size of the booth then fully set it up. From there, I label each display piece and the corresponding boxes of product. Then I create a basic drawing of the layout and load it to my tablet.”
On event day, Wittington packs her car according to the order noted in her drawing. “Setup is a breeze because I don't need to fuss over placement or think too hard about it,” she says.
2. Pack Smart
Image: Nutmeg's Facebook
When packing your products, it can help to choose containers that double as display items, such as decorative crates, bins or even old luggage. Cynthia Sutton owns The Silver Barn and Nutmeg's Kids in Round Top, Texas, where she sells home décor and children’s items. She participates in pop-up events throughout southeast Texas, and says the packing process requires some thought.
“Place departments, like jewelry, home and kids, and for each department decide what vendor and product I’m including,” she says. “Price and pack by department.”
When you get to the event, you’ll be able to unpack and display items quicker since things will be stored section by section.
3. Stay Organized
Boxes and totes that aren’t display items should be chosen wisely. Look for boxes that can stack and be tucked away. Collapsible totes are great for carrying soft items because they can be folded and stored inside one tote. If your booth uses a table, make sure to bring a long tablecloth so you can tuck your storage items away underneath. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring them back and forth to your vehicle to keep your booth looking tidy.
In addition to your products, you’ll need to organize supplies. Pack essential items like:
- A phone charger
- Extension cords
- Duct tape
- Safety pins
- Lint roller
- Pens or markers
- Cleaning wipes
- A notepad
- Paper towels
- Tape measure
- Binder clips
- Trash bags
It helps to keep a box dedicated to your show tools so you don’t have to repack the list for each event.
4. Track Inventory
You don’t want to run out of products, but you also don’t want to bring so much inventory that your booth looks cluttered. Resist the temptation to pack everything “just in case.”
“I want to bring the entire store since I just know that item will sell,” admits Sutton.
But eventually, you’ve got to stop adding to the stock you’re taking to an event. The amount of merchandise you bring will depend on the expected attendance of the show. A quick rule of thumb is to multiply the booth rental by 10 to determine a minimum of inventory to bring. If your booth was $300, plan on bringing at least $3,000 worth of product.
The more you sell, the less you have to pack up at the end of the show. Wittington suggests that you refrain from selling display products until near the end of the day. “That way you can have people order from your website on the spot rather than losing a sale,” she explains.
While choosing the right inventory to bring is an art, tracking it is a science. Make a list of everything you’re bringing, and have a system for keeping track of your both your inventory and sales. It can be as easy as creating a spreadsheet or ensuring the data is available in your POS software. Tracking inventory will help you choose the right product selection for future shows, as well as prepare for any orders you need to place with your vendors to restock.
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Don’t forget to keep track of your supplies, such as bags, packing material for customers and receipt books, and to replenish necessary items before the next event.
Moving Forward: Getting Organized For Weekend Sales Events
Participating in offline events is a great way for retailers to build customer relationships, test new products, and make more sales. And just a bit of planning can help make your weekend a less stressful — and more successful — one.
Do you have any great tips for staying organized for weekend sales events? Share your experiences in the comments below.