Sunday, 10 April 2011

BCTF 2011 Review (well a guide really)

Since I have had a couple of days 'rest' trying to get back to normal (or what ever normal is) I thought I would write a post about BCTF just in case there were any crafters out there who would like to give it a go themselves but are a little unsure.
(layout of stand mocked up on the PC)

The BCTF (British Craft Trade Fair) is a trade fair featuring the UK and Ireland's leading designer makers set in the Yorkshire Show Ground in Harrogate every April. At which over 4,000 buyers and visitors attend. Last year was my first year exhibiting and to be honest I didn't have a clue what to expect, the organisers website is extremely helpful with lots of hints and tips of what you will need to exhibit but I thought it might be nice to hear a little input from an exhibitor, first hand. I'm not going to lie, there is a lot of preparation needed before exhibiting and can be a very time consuming process but I'm sure if you are like me and you really want your crafting business to be a success then a little hard work is nothing out of the ordinary ;) It is fun though too, you will meet lots of other like minded people who have the same passions as yourself, buyers from boutiques and galleries who are looking for new and exciting products to stock, students from near by colleges (some people aren't keen on students coming to look around, but I think its good that we are there to inspire the next generation of designer/makers, after all if we didn't then crafting would be a dying art at which would be lost) and general visitors which are normally people who would like to exhibit and are there to find out what its all about or friends and family of the exhibitors.
(price lists and press release)

You will also see members of the press there who are looking for designer/makers or products to feature. I will try to cover all aspects of what you will need to exhibit and explain what I did last year and how I used what I learnt to exhibit this year. OK so things to think about:: stand layout/theme, press packs, press release, price lists (trade and retail), business cards, stock that you will be exhibiting, pro-formas and whether you are willing to sell 'sale or return', will you have anyone else on your stand with you, questions you may be asked by buyers.
(press pack)

Stand layout/theme :: think about your products and the audience that your products are aimed at so if you sell children's toys make your stand fun and colourful, or if you sell glass or ceramics maybe it needs to look sleek and sophisticated?? Try to use as much of your exhibiting space as you can, I have found that it keeps buyers at your stand longer as they are looking at all the products you have on show. As my bags/accessories are colourful I try to keep the stand as neutral as possible to make the bags 'pop' so to speak. This wasn't a planned strategy last year as I've said before I had no experience of this but it worked so I carried this theme through to this year adding bits and bobs here and there.

(press pack CD)

Press packs/press release :: its not compulsory but I would recommend writing a press release. Last year my press packs were very simple: typed copy of press release, CD including a few images of my work and a business card. These were just put into a A5 envelope with 'bagladee - press release' on the front.

I would advise not spending too much money on exhibiting in your first year, even though newcomers get a discount it is still a substantial amount of money and until you find out how the buyers/market receive your product I think its best to keep it to a budget. This year knowing what I had learnt the year before, my press packs were still a typed copy of press release, CD including images but I popped them in a little gift bag and added a few extra goodies. As you can see from the picture above (press pack) I fastened a business card on the front and embellished it with a felt flower. I always struggle to write a press release but as always there is a minefield of information on the Internet, Google "How to write a press release" you will find lots of sites that tell you how the layout should look and what content you should include.

Price lists :: well I think that this subject is always a difficult one and not everyone agrees. You will need to consider your retail price, I would guess that you have already established this and are quite happy with them. OK now consider this, most buyers will want to double your 'trade' price and add 20% (for vat). So technically speaking if you half your retail cost and then deduct 20% you will get your trade price. Now don't faint or panic when you see that you will be making them for a pittance/loss. Take a deep breath! Not everyone does this, I certainly don't. Just use this as a guideline, I always work out what it costs to make the item and how much of your time. Now I know you're probably thinking well that's how I would out my prices for selling. Well maybe you will realise that you have been underselling yourself. I did last year! You want to make a little profit from your work don't you? Try and find a happy balance between your retail and trade price. Buyers who have a brick and mortar shop can always charge more than the rrp price, that is up to them. Since you only have the Internet and are among a competitive market try not to overprice your items.

Now sometimes I contradict myself, handmade goods are special and not something that you should sell at a lower price just because people tell you they are too expensive. Yes we can all go to Primark/tesco/China and buy things for next to nothing but remember, what you are selling is an exclusive product because its made and designed by you, there is a certain charm, quality and uniqueness about owning something handmade. Its a tough one and I have spent many hours battling it out on paper. You could always offer a little bit more discount if they order in batches, say if you bought 1 it would cost £10 if you bought 5 it would cost £40. Does this make sense, if anyone is struggling with pricing, I'm not an expert but I would be will to help where I can, drop me a line

(stand on set up day)

Business cards :: pretty self explanatory this one, just make sure you have enough to give out I would say 100 is a good start, its always good to include your name, email address, website (if you have one) and a few words or picture of what you do.

Stock you will be exhibiting :: you don't need masses of stock, you cant sell while you are at the trade fair, you can only take orders on a proforma/sale or return basis. So a good selection of what you have to offer is sufficient.

Pro-forma/Sale or Return :: OK now the difference between the two is, pro-forma is where the buyer places an order with you and you give them a copy of the pro-forma order form (whether that be at the show or you email it to them once you return home from the trade fair), they then arrange with you to make payment by what ever means deemed by yourself and then you dispatch the goods at a date agreed with your buyer. I normally say 4-6 weeks for a large order.

Sale or return is much different and if favoured by galleries. This where you send a selection of goods without payment with an agreement of say 12 weeks, where if your products sell they will pay you (probably minus a commission fee, if they have not already placed this fee on top of your retail price). If after the 12 weeks the products have not sold then the gallery will return the items to you (in the condition originally sent). I have to say because of the nature of my bags (only 3 of each made) I am not really a fan of sale or return, but I must stress that this will limit the amount of orders you can take as there are a lot of galleries attend BCTF. So think about this carefully.

(close up shot of stand)

Phew!! are you still there reading, well done if you have made it this far!! :D Last things to add is maybe you would like someone to be on the stand with you, if can be very tiring days and although there are a lot of lovely people to talk to if its your first year then you maybe want a friend or family member to be there to support you. Also think about what questions the buyers might ask you, "is it all made by yourself, are they your own designs, what is your background (have you studied this or is it self taught), do you do commissioned work, do you do sale or return, what is your lead time for orders, do you do discount on bulk orders". Don't be afraid or feel intimidated this is your opportunity to sell positive and enthusiastic, they are interested, they wouldn't be asking otherwise.

Lastly even though it looks scary and a lot of hard work, it is sooooo much fun and so inspiring and uplifting to exhibit amongst such talented designer/makers. On the last day of last year I signed up for this year as I had such a ball and again this year signed up for 2012 on the last day. If you do decide to exhibit or are already an existing exhibitor please pop by my stand next year and say hello, I would love to meet you all.

A big hello to all of you lovely people I met again from last year and the newbies this year, thanks for a great show, looking forward to next year already!


  1. wow... what a fantastic guide! I'm glad you had a good show and I look forward to seeing you again next year! Take Care, CRAIG

  2. gud luck. i'm agree with you about the price list, sometime the other people say that our price are expensive but they don't know it's special and we put our heart to make it.

  3. Well done for doing it - it seems all that work and stress was worth it :-) x

  4. I just found your blog when searching for trade show advice, wonderful post, you have answered so many questions and your work is gorgeous too.

  5. I am pleased to know about this trade show. The main method to make your trade booth attractive is to keep things organized and try to provide maximum information regarding the trade show displays. Your post is going to help a lot of people in organizing the trade booth.


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