Not long ago, I recall eagerly anticipating one of the few local and annual craft festivals to participate in for the first time, only to call its booking site for its dates and to find out that the prior year marked the festival’s final event. In this high tech age, the convenience of online buying and selling has resulted in the phasing out of many annual arts and crafts fairs. Because of fewer local arts and crafts festivals, those searching for these events must turn to traveling to neighboring states. While shopping for arts and crafts at the click of a button online is a luxury and competition for local craft fairs, it does not go without drawbacks and will never completely take the place of local arts and crafts fairs. A careful comparison of both selling crafts online and at physical arts and crafts fairs will provide awareness and appreciation of both options.
In weighing the benefits of selling arts and crafts online, artists and crafters are first attracted to less expensive listing, selling, or annual fees that cover longer display times online in contrast to the higher application and booth fees required at physical arts and crafts fairs for shorter display times. Specifically, an artist or crafter wanting to sell 100 items on the craft website Etsy pays a total of $20 for theses items to be listed for four months; whereas, they pay a starting price of $60 to sell these 100 items for two days at a local craft fair. To add to this, the short-term nature of arts and crafts fairs requires that sellers enroll in multiple fairs to achieve steady sales. Secondly, one of the pros to selling arts and crafts online is an exposure to customers from all around the country or world unlike at arts and crafts fairs where you are exposed to fewer customers mainly from your local area. In addition, selling arts and crafts online has the benefit of not being physically demanding as it is at arts and crafts fairs. For example, while an arts and crafts fair requires physical labor in transporting items and setting up a booth, a craft or personal website requires only photography and writing skills. A further advantage to selling online is freedom from availability conflicts with other jobs that one may have. In other words, having an online craft shop doesn’t require your constant physical presence; whereas, an arts and crafts fair requires that an artist or crafter take off from another job to be present for as long as eight hours straight for several days.
Now, consider the benefits of selling at arts and crafts fairs that give it its unique appeal. Especially important, customers receive direct contact with the products and sellers allowing them to observe exact product details including quality, materials, colors, and sizes and to ask more questions from sellers, which reduces the need for returns and increases sales. On the contrary, handmade arts and crafts sold online lack tangibility leading customers to rely solely on a photo and brief description that may not capture the full details putting a sale at risk for returns. Even more, trust is established through the face-to-face nature of arts and crafts rather than feedback ratings involved in online arts and crafts shops. Also advantageous, arts and crafts fairs reduce wait times between buyers and sellers. An online seller’s wait time involves awaiting payment from unseen potential customers who may pay late or never (due to indecisiveness) and an online buyer’s wait time involves awaiting the order. In contrast, arts and crafts fairs provide sellers with immediate payment and buyers with their purchase at hand, which also eliminates shipping efforts and costs. Moreover, selling at local arts and crafts festivals reduces competition among sellers as opposed to selling online where the abundance of national and international sellers makes your arts and crafts less unique.
Having weighed the pros and cons of selling arts and crafts online versus selling them at physical arts and crafts fairs, sellers and buyers can value the qualities of both. Online arts and crafts shops appeal to sellers who desire high exposure, are budget-conscious, are well-known, and who have busy schedules; while local arts and crafts fairs appeal to individuals who are hands-on, are personable, who value trust and reliability, and who desire to stand out. Whether you prefer one option over the other or you, like me, are attracted to both options, both physical and virtual arts and crafts shops have something great to offer.