Crafty Fox Market's ultimate guide to preparing for Christmas Markets
At the Crafty Fox Markets, we’re constantly impressed by the creativity and innovation of the designer-makers who sell their products with us. The most successful makers use their branding, their range of products, and their displays to project a coherent brand identity and a glimpse of a lifestyle that customers really want to buy into. This is especially true of the Christmas markets, where the festive atmosphere makes everything even more desirable!
Of course, merging brand identity, creative integrity, and seasonality can be a huge challenge, especially for designer-makers who are just starting out. For those who are newer to selling at markets, preparing for your first Christmas season can be the most daunting part of the year.
How much stock should you make? How will you organise your time in the run-up to the Christmas season? What can you do to make the markets themselves as stress-free as possible? These are all questions that you need to consider at this time of year.
1. Make stock in advance
Making lots of stock in advance might sound obvious, but it really is the best way to make sure that you remain calm and collected during the Christmas season. You don’t want to get to market-day and realise that you are running low on your bestselling products!
If you need to buy materials or tools before you can make your products, be sure to order these far in advance. As you near the festive period, things may start running out and postage can take longer, so beat the crowds and get your materials in order first. Then you can start making your products without interruption.
You should also identify which items are your bestsellers and note if this trend changes throughout the year. Products which fly off the stall in midsummer may be far less popular in the depths of winter. Plan accordingly and finish making or stocking up on the most popular items first.
“I generally start preparing my Christmas stock from June onwards. This allows some time to create new designs and also batch make stock in advance. As I have been running Hello Marilu for over two years now I have a much better understanding of what sells, and what doesn't, so I know what products to focus on.” – Mary-Ann Aveline, Hello Marilu
Another important thing to consider for the Christmas markets is how you can make these bestsellers giftable. Can you make other products more appealing by making them giftable? Could you group products together and make gift sets that fit with your brand?
“I like to have new, more expensive product ready for the Christmas period for my regular customers who want to see a “wow” product - the one that they shouldn’t be buying for themselves at this time of year but they have bought so much for other people that they deserve a treat. Or perhaps they could ask for it from someone, or maybe they will buy for themselves in the New Year.” – Beth Hart, Floozey.
“I do a lot of Christmas cards and small "giftable" objects when it comes to Christmas. I think a lot about stockings and what would be cute for someone to receive. As a print designer, I would adapt my prints on pouches, brooches and other 3D objects while the rest of the year I stay more on paper.” – Charlotte Martin, Martin Le Lapin.
2. Prepare your packaging
As with your products and materials, another thing to plan ahead is packaging. How will you package your products at Christmas markets? Can you put a festive spin on your usual packaging or will you need to purchase new wrappings or bags especially for the Christmas markets?
You should also think about longevity. Can you buy or make festive packaging that could be reused next year (or at another time of year) if you end up with too much? Think about what would fit best with your brand and make sure that you have enough of everything before the markets begin.
“I'm trying not to be too “seasonal” with my main products as it's very hard to sell Christmassy stock when the time has passed, and unfortunately it's still really hard to guess what is going to sell well. I make sure I don't put dates on anything (like a Merry Christmas 2018!) so I can reuse some stock for the following year. I can recommend requesting a small fee for gift wrapping so you don't lose money on extra packaging.” – Charlotte Martin, Martin Le Lapin.
3. Make a plan
As with every part of life, things are always easier when you have a plan, even if it is a loose one. Make planning a priority in your preparations for Christmas markets. Part of your plan will include ordering packaging, materials, and tools, but you should also incorporate marketing, your events calendar, and potential offers into your plan.
Once you have considered which materials and packaging you will need to order, think about how you are going to market your products to your audience. How can you tailor this marketing strategy to the time of year and how can you use it to enhance, rather than confuse, your brand identity? Can you use your marketing to grow your audience, as well as appealing to your existing audience? Think about social media trends at this time of year and how you could tap into them.
Another important part of your plan will be your events calendar. Lay out exactly when your Christmas markets are, how large your stall will be, and how you will be transporting stock to and from each venue. Will you need any help with transportation or looking after your stall? Will you need to arrange for someone to cover you at home or at work whilst you are attending these markets?
Finally, make sure that you set yourself defined goals and deadlines when making your plans. Setting clear, achievable goals for yourself will make the process a lot less hectic once the Christmas season begins!
“I know from experience that Christmas is by far my busiest time, with lots of events cropping up at short notice, so I am trying to get as much done in these quieter months as possible to pre-empt the Christmas madness! If you have time to do things now then do it, even if it’s just small things like making sure you have enough packaging materials and business cards. You really can’t predict how busy you will be nearer the time so being organised and planning ahead is so worthwhile!” – Mary-Ann Aveline, Hello Marilu.
4. Overhaul your website and social media
When planning for Christmas markets, don’t forget that your online presence is just as important as your physical presence on the day. Alongside social media, it’s a good idea to have a regularly updated website that displays and sells your current products. Lots of customers (particularly those who like to deliberate over every purchase) may go to your website to order products, rather than buying them at the markets themselves, so make this process quick and easy for them.
Make sure that your website reflects your brand and fits with the image you are presenting on your stall. Make your products easy to find and buy online. Keep your FAQ and About Me pages up to date, and make sure that your postage and returns information is clear and easy to find. You are likely to get lots of enquiries around Christmas, especially if you offer customisable products, so be ready to respond to them promptly and factor that into your timetable when making your plans for this time of year.
Of course, just like your stall, your website should be attention-grabbing and visually appealing. Make sure your photography is as good as possible. If you’ve been thinking of investing in a new camera or getting some professional product photographs taken, this might be a good time to do so! Take enough pictures to have a steady supply for social media in the months leading up to Christmas.
If you send out email newsletters alongside posting on social media, consider increasing the frequency of your posts and incentivise attendance at markets. Could you create some limited-time special offers? Every customer loves to feel like they are getting a bargain.
“I start doing my stock around September and try to promote a new product online every two weeks from that period. When November hits, I will get more seasonal and Christmassy, promoting winter looking items and Christmas cards. My main promotion goes through Instagram, then Facebook. I also write an article on my blog that would include some items from my online shop and send it as a newsletter!” – Charlotte Martin, Martin Le Lapin.
5. Get contactless-ready
Make purchases as easy as possible for your customers and get a mobile card reader! Most customers pay by card now, so make sure that you have a mobile payment device and check that it is working and fully charged before every market you attend. No one wants to trudge around in the cold looking for a cash machine. Plus, customers will spend more if they have the ability to pay by card.
“Get a card reader. No one brings cash anymore, especially at Christmas.” – Beth Hart, Floozey.
Christmas markets can be stressful, but they can also be the most enjoyable and successful time of year for many designer-makers. Think ahead, ask other makers for advice, and give yourself plenty of time to make and promote your stock. Above all, don’t forget to take a break and enjoy yourself! Good luck!
Written by Lily Taylor