Monday, 9 July 2012

Craft Fair Review: Wonder Hill Market - Keston Lodge

Yesterday I took myself off in the rain to take part in the Wonder Hill Market at Keston Lodge.
I did a fair at Wonder Hill when they were first started, in The Boogaloo on Archway Road. Since then I know they've moved to London Bridge and have been getting lots of press and promotion for their fairs - I had high hopes for this Sunday at Keston Lodge!

Firstly, the venue is lovely. A really nice bar with lots of great artwork on the walls and a good atmosphere. The upstairs space occupying the craft market is quite small with room for 7 tables (some of which were split to two sellers).  On cloudy and overcast days like yesterday it was a bit dark and dingy but that was more than made up for by the interesting stall spaces. I was given a little corner with wall space which meant I was able to stick my work up and create a bright and interesting display. Other stalls were along banquette seating by the windows - great for extra space and extra wall and windowsill space too.

Of the 9 sellers taking part in the upstairs space 4 were jewellery stands, 3 textile goods and then another lady had a few cards and prints and some scented cushions (and then of course there was me). Not the most diverse market and some displays were much more professional than others. Downstairs was a vintage clothing stall and also retro sweet stall which I think lured a few people inside!

The problem yesterday, despite the fab venue and me being really happy with my display, was footfall. It was so quiet. Luckily Mummy Swift came for a visit with Little Ted (my favourite customer of the day as you can see in the photo, seriously I love this child so much it hurts!) - so I was entertained. Otherwise business was very, very slow. In fact I sold one card all day long and was tempted to pack up early. I would have been disheartened but every other stallholder was in the same boat.

I am sure the rain and Wimbledon played their part in the lack of customers but it just goes to show you never quite know what is going to happen on the day. Craft fairs, despite ticking all the boxes on paper, are only a success if people come along and spend money!!

How do you choose which fairs to attend? Are there any times of year you avoid fairs altogether?



  1. I've had this exact same problem also at Wonderhill (but at the London Bridge venue) which caused me to blog a similar post right after I sold at it over Christmas. Which should have been busy, right? But it was dead. I didn't sell a thing, and I did 2 weekends in December. I was so gutted. Kiki does such a great job promoting it online and everything, and its really near Borough Market so I can't see why it was so dead - until a friend said that the girl who had the sign by Borough Market who should have been promoting it and telling people where to go... was actually sat looking bored on her mobile ignoring everyone. We actually took it upon ourselves to take flyers out and hand them out at BM to get people to come down. It was really disheartening and the entire experience has put me off of craft fairs 100%. Actually - it was more that it was the straw that broke the camels back for me. I feel fairly often that maybe the only people making money at these things are the people running it, when you pay £25 for a stall and don't even make £10 back it really doesn't make you want to spend your time sitting in a dingy pub trying to sell things to no one. Thats time that could be spent promoting online, listing new things in store, making new things to sell... craft fairs always seem like a good way to make a few bob at once, but I really feel like they are a waste of time. Thats just my opinion and from my experiences though. Part of it sometimes I find is that in the UK "craft fair" tends to mean people selling a random mish mash of twee things they have made while their kids are at school, so the kind of things I make doesn't fit in AT ALL.

    Its a tricky one. I still do the odd local market but I refuse to spend over £10 on a stall unless I know its going to be worth it.

    (my blog on the subject is here in case you wanted to read it - It sounds like we both had the exact same experience!)

  2. interesting..i've had craft fairs like that and it is fairly soul destroying. i'll be at milton keynes this week outside john lewis so have high hopes of more footfall and i've just applied to renegade. i figured a massive craft fair which is a destination event might result in better sales. don't know if I'll get it but here's hoping

  3. Ahhh, I totally agree with both your comments, thank you.I came to a similar conclusion regarding craft fairs being a bit of a misuse of my time. Dianne - your blog post reallys sums it up!! There are a lot of people for whom it is a bit of a hobby and they sell things that aren't all that interesting or exciting. By no means do I consider my work ground breaking but I do insist on a certain quality and branding and would separate myself as a small business owner rather than this being a little something to keep me entertained on the side! I have written up another post of pros and cons for later in the week, it all seems to be very hit and miss!! Fingers crossed your fair goes well Rosie!


    1. I think when you walk into a craft fair you can instantly tell the people who are 'sellers' and the people who are 'crafters'. Stalls where it looks like stuff someone has made just to fill in a bit of time vs people who are trying to set up a cohesive brand for themselves. I instantly get put off any craft fair that I walk into and all I see is a mish mash of what I like to call "TATT" together on one table. Are these people trying to set up a brand and be serious sellers or just people who are flogging crap they make while they are watching Grey's Anatomy at the weekend. Probably sounds snobby of me but I really wish more fairs would take sellers seriously and cater for a more 'professional' crowd. Nothing is more insulting than spending 2 weeks crafting fiddley feather earrings (or in your case, drawings you have spent more than 5 minutes making, ordered as prints, approved, finalized, all the work that goes into it) to then have to sit next to someone selling teapots they have glued onto pre-made ring bases and watch them sell out of their stock because its £2 a pop and not even get a look in because your stock is better quality and took longer to make so you have to charge more for it.



  4. Hi ladies

    Thank you so much for your feedback. Firstly Im so sorry that you've both had quiet experiences with Wonder Hill, we really do our upmost to promote the events and to grab in people from the streets as much as we can, however, as much as we have had busy events, we have had quiet ones too. I am afraid to say that it is the nature of the beast currently and as we have seen more and more people who have been doing this and other handmade ventures are sadly folding. Believe me it really is heartbreaking as much for me as it is for you to see an event with low footfall, after all, its ALOT of time and effort creating something to try to help others spent on my and our behalf and we do this because we do believe in the talent of the people that trade and want to get the word out there when other places to sell such as the big Sunday markets charge so so much - and sales are well down there too. There are those who have been doing this for a while, and do take it seriously that peoples businesses could start or have a base at the markets, and there has also been an influx of small events run by people who dont take it so seriously and I wonder how much that has to do with things changing or whether it is a sign of the recession? I work in retail part time and I know full well that things are constantly changing there also with respects to footfall and spend.

    I would like to mention the myth that alot of money is made by organisers of event, perhaps by ones that do them cheaply, but there are bills to pay - venue costs (which rise often!) flyer design, flyer printing, poster printing, promotion, flyer promotion on the day, ink and internet costs and the amount of time put into answering, organising, going to locations often to flyer the area etc, it all adds up. One thing that gets my goat is people that attend and dont even advertise that they are coming on their own page - to their own customers - ladies I know you both did a sterling job but we ask that people do this as its beneficial!

    Di you're also right about there being a divide between crafters and makers and there has to be an element of selling rather than just sitting at these things too. Its difficult from our perspective to make decisions based on peoples makes, so we always look into how much work goes into making something into the finished product and whilst there are weekend crafters, there are also people starting out who havent branded yet and do need the events to get ideas on how to do so etc. Calling an event a 'craft fair' brings visions of knitting nannas to me so thats one to avoid!

    Anyhow, I apologise again that you lovely pair have had quiet events with us, we are having to re-think things, we have a few events planned that we've had fantastic support for so far and we're hoping to pull the Olympic footfall but after that we will re-assess the situation. It would be horrible to have to put a stop to regular events and I wonder how much online selling is better than event selling - the costs are different - but is hands on better? I for one hope that more and more people can see that we are genuinely doing all we can and get their bums out to support that. Rest assured I'll be doing everything I can to try to make that happen and we'd really appreciate any support. If you can think of anything we should or could be doing please please let me know, other than that, keep up the great work. x

  5. Thanks so muuh for taking the time to write this. I know you do a good job of promotion - which is why I was so keen to take part. As I said in my email to you, I know it can be hit and miss and the weather etc. can make or break a day of sales!

    I think both Dianne and I have been to a number of fairs where there has been a sorry turn out and our disheartened comments are as a result of numerous disappointing events - I agree, every stallholder is responsible for promoting their presence at markets and this might be where the 'seller' and 'crafter' divide comes in to play. For those who consider their work just a hobby it is less likely that they will have an online presence - in fact, 3 of the stallholders last week were discussing how they don't blog, have an online store or a website. Perhaps that is something that should be a requirement to attend if you wanted to broaden the advertising opportunities?

    I think some markets aren't very well run or advertised and those are the ones to avoid. As I mentioned in my other post I haven't given up completely, just feel for me, at the moment, I need a bit of a break from fairs and markets and it is more useful for me to use the time and money elsewhere.
    I think our bemoaning the organisers making more money is true of the days when you make absolutely nothing the days where outlaying £25 + travel etc. leads to no sales at all, but that isn't to say we think you're rolling in it - just that some days organisation MUST be the only profit!

    I do want to say that you have been great to work with and I will definitely be applying again to Wonder Hill in the future. I hope that your upcoming events are as successful as they deserve to be :) xx

    1. Hey Stacie thanks so much for your reply. It is always good to hear what people think about events on a whole and hopefully it will mean that in the future we can make improvements to change things. I think there is hope! Our August event in Tooting has gained so much support locally with people approaching us to ask if they can list and write about it, it seems the community down there really are in need of something more creative and fun so I have my everythings crossed for a boost there and with Olympic footfall through July/August and I think local community getting involved in the event is key, they are put on for them to attend and enjoy after all. Also with regards to advertising the event and stallholders doing their bit, I'll have a think on what you've said, its a fair idea!
      Youre right that some markets arent well advertised also, Ive stumbled on a few quite by accident and that is where I feel its wrong to take money from people - after all - thats what they are paying for, but I guess not everyone has quite a conscience!
      Thanks so much for your comments, we really do hope to see you again sometime, love your work! xx