Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. When you purchase an item through one of my affiliate links, I may get a small kickback, at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own. Read my affiliate policy here.
Now that we’ve covered some of the things that you should be doing to both present yourself and your booth well at vendor shows, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite part: what to bring with you!
I looked up many of these lists before I packed up for my first vendor show, so I know how helpful they can be! But I neglected to research some of the most important tips! I don’t want you to start on the wrong foot, so I shared these utmost important tips and trade secrets with you in my first two blog posts: How to Present Yourself and How to Present Your Booth.
Here’s some of the things I bring with me to every show:
If you plan on attending outdoor events, it’s imperative that you have a canopy. Not just for rain, but also to beat the sun for you and your shoppers. If the sun is beating down on your products, they’ll likely be too hot to touch and people won’t want to browse your stuff. It’s 100% worth it to invest in a higher quality canopy. This is the exact one that we bought in 2018 and it has been a champ with us! I highly recommend the 10’x10’ because that’s the most common booth size. I also highly recommend the white tent because even though those other colors are attractive, sometimes event organizers require white canopies to make everything look cohesive at their events. You don’t want the reason not to attend because you bought a red canopy instead of a white one. Get the white one.
I will never go back to 6ft tables that don’t fold in the middle. These folding 6ft tables are easier to carry, get through doorways, and fit in the car. Do yourself a favor and buy 6ft tables that fold in the middle. Also look for ones with flat ends (not curved) so that you can make the most of your space and make them flush with a wall or another table.
Next to the canopy, this is hands down my favorite purchase I made for pop up events. You should know that we fit everything, yes I mean everything into our 2001 Honda Accord, so if it doesn’t fold, it doesn’t come with us. I originally did not have this hand cart. But I finally broke down and bought it and I’m so glad I did!!! It has saved me trips to the car, headaches, and backaches.
I touched on this in my first blog post, but you absolutely need a tall stool or chair. You want to stay eye level with your customers. You don't want to look too comfy.
Don’t miss this! You need a way to raise up your merchandise to eye-level. Bed risers are a cheap and easy way to do this! I bring one set for every table I bring. And EVERYONE, shoppers and other vendors, comments on how much better this setup is. You’ll look more professional, shoppers will appreciate it, and you’ll sell more!
Nothing looks as unprofessional as a tablecloth that doesn’t go to the floor. You need a banquet / floor length tablecloth. For a six foot table, you need a 90” x 132” cloth. When I add the bed risers, it’s not quite long enough to cover all sides, so I adjust mine to cover the front. I have a little showing in the back, but that’s fine because that’s not what customers see. I recommend a SOLID COLOR that won’t show too much dirt. Your candy, fish, heart print cloth looks fine by itself, but once you add products, it’s far too busy.
Professional Merchandise Bags
As mentioned in this blog post, please don’t reuse bags for this. I’m all about being eco-friendly, but you want a great experience from the beginning to the end. Send your customer home with a polished bag. You can add your own branding with a stamp or sticker. I get my stickers at Vistaprint. Get $20 off your first $40 order.
Your customers should know who you are when they come to your booth! Reinforce your messaging and brand. Not every customer will walk up and start a conversation to learn more, they’d rather just read your sign. Provide one. I got mine at Vistaprint. It’s really nice because it rolls up quickly and takes two seconds to set up. Get $20 off your first $40 order.
If you’re selling clothes, bring a dressing room if you have the space! Oftentimes I was the only vendor with a dressing room, and it paid off. Customers really appreciated having the option to try things on without stripping in front of everyone.
Even if you can’t bring a dressing room, you should definitely bring a long mirror. If you’re only selling accessories like hats or jewelry, you can bring a smaller sized mirror. Yes it was a pain to pack a long mirror, but it always paid off.
Get yourself a locking money box. It shows that you are professional. Keep your box locked at all times, even if you’re still in the booth. If your booth is small or you like to walk around, consider wearing a fanny pack to keep your cash close at hand.
Your customers have limited cash on hand. They want to use their credit or debit card. Be ready to accept their payment. “But Christine, what about FEES?!” Well, it costs money to run a business. That should be a given. Build the cost of doing business into the cost of your products. If you’re super stingy you can set a minimum order price, i.e. “$10 minimum for Credit”. But don’t charge your customer separately by adding on $1 or 3%, it’s TACKY! You want your customers to come back to you, not run away. You’re a real business, act like one! P.s. if you don’t have a way to accept payments on the go yet, sign up for Square using my link. It’s free to sign up, the fees are reasonable, and if you’re a new customer you can get free processing on your first $1000.
SNACKS!!! (WATER AND BACKUP SUPPLIES, TOO!)
You’ll get hungry. I’m always hungry at shows! Bring your own snacks to eat in between customers. Your snacks should be relatively clean (not greasy fries), soundless (think twice about your munchy celery), odorless (no tuna sandwiches), and quick to eat (cut that pb&j into fourths so you only commit to one piece at a time). Bring water to stay hydrated. And bring some backup supplies -- lint roller, scissors, tape, pen, notepad, extra tags, hand sanitizer, napkins, etc.
Cards to handout
Half of the reason you are at an event is pure marketing. Sure sales are great, but it’s also very important to get your name out there. Give people cards with contact info on it to connect with you later after the show. I get mine created at Vistaprint. Get $20 off your first $40 order.
A Way to Collect Emails
Speaking of marketing, you want to make the most use of this show. So have a way to collect emails. For the first half of the shows I just had a clipboard with a sign up sheet. It worked and cost me nothing! Then I realized I could speed up the process and make things wayyy easier on myself if I digitized it. What happened with the sign up sheet is that I’d get home and have to type up all those emails in a spreadsheet and sometimes I couldn’t interpret people’s handwriting accurately. So now I have a tablet (an used older edition ipad from eBay) that hosts nothing but an internet connection to my landing page. I use Flodesk to create a landing page sign up as well as an email sequence. So immediately when someone signs up they are in my system. They start getting emails immediately that welcome them, remind them who I am, and encourage them to shop online. Get Flodesk for 50% off with my link.
So after 3 blog posts, you now have my complete strategy guide to doing vendor and craft shows. There is nothing I held back in this department! Now it’s up to you! Go get ‘em!
If you’d like to discuss your marketing or business plan with a real life human, let’s set up a one-on-one business coaching call. The first session is free! No credit card required to book.
Is there anything you would add to the list?
Hey! I'm Christine, I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner who has learned by trial and error. I write helpful articles that help you take your next steps in business. Occasionally I like to mix things up and dash in a bit of lifestyle topics. Thanks for being here!