The Evolution of a Display Table

What do you do when you start making more spoons than you can sell or give away?  You start selling them.  But not just anybody will pay $10 or $15 for a hand-carved spoon.  You have to get them in front of the kinds of people who are most likely to buy them.

Over the last few years, I’ve set up a display table at a few local craft markets.  I don’t do this a lot, maybe three or four times a year. But my display table has evolved quite a bit as I’ve tried out different things and found out what works for me and what doesn’t.

This is my very first display table:

Show Table Little Flower 2011

There was a lot of square footage to cover, so my product was pretty spread-out, sorted by type and price.  I put a photo album of my other work out.  And I had a tool chest with some of my tools so I could demonstrate my work and show off some of the tools I used to make spoons and other things.

It wasn’t a bad first set-up, and I sold a few items.  My price-points were right for my local market. (I could probably get double for my work in bigger, more craft-conscious cities.)  The tablecloth was the right sort of visual background.

But there were some problems, too. There was too much empty space on the table, and the product looked picked-over from the get-go.  Everyone loves coming to a full display; only bargain-basement types will pay attention to a depleted display, and bargain-hunters aren’t my target market.  Also, the album and tools were a distraction; they drew attention away from the things actually for sale.  And frankly, I don’t like taking commissions from strangers, so I shouldn’t have even shown work that I would want to make again on commission.

After a couple unsuccessful displays at various places, I found a venue at a quarterly  Night Market the Mobile Museum of Art.  The clientele was exactly what I was looking for: savvy people who are serious about cooking and value high-quality, handmade utensils–and are willing to pay a fair price for them!

Show Table MMoA 12-2014 - - 2

This display was more successful.  A small table enabled me to come around and talk easily with potential customers.  (I don’t like having to talk across a table.)  I set out my most attractive items within reach of customers, and I covered the available space with my product.  I tried to make my vertical display more consistent–I salvaged the boxes from junk piles around the neighborhood, and my wife placed Mason jars in them to organize the space.  (She’s smart!)  I also added some business cards.

It was a much better set-up, and I sold significantly more product.  But the arrangement still needed to be tweaked a little bit.

Night Market Table Mobile Museum of Art 12-2015

My most recent display was by far the most successful.  First, my wife and I had begun to notice which types of product were the best sellers, so we brought a lot of them.  (Large spoons and wok spatulas are the most popular.)  I added a couple matched sets, and I added my thumb-ring page holders.  It’s important to have a variety of price points, and I like to have items that are affordable for everybody.

Most importantly, we turned the handles of the spoons toward the customers.  If somebody picks up an item, there’s about a 50% chance that he or she (usually she!) will buy it.  As spoons and spatulas are purchased, we replace them from the jars in the back so the table always looks full.

Night Market Table Mobile Museum of Art 12-2015

The business cards are buried in the center of the table.  I don’t know that I have ever made a substantial sale that I could attribute primarily to a business card.  So I don’t push them.  I want potential customers to pick up a spoon, not a business card.  But everybody has a business card, so I have one, too.

Night Market Table Mobile Museum of Art 12-2015

I’m sure there are a few more ways I could tweak my display to be even more effective, but it’s come a long way.

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10 Responses to The Evolution of a Display Table

  1. Useful info – thanks for sharing!

  2. bloksav says:

    Really interesting post.
    I must say that that last display table by far looks better than the first one.

    Have you ever considered making spoons for e.g. salt and flour? (Scoop might be the proper English name?). We have a couple that my father has made long time ago, they look like miniature rounded coal shovels. So they do not have a fixed volume like half a cup etc. but more like 1/3 of a cylinder.


  3. wsparkman says:

    You might also consider (1) laminating or (2) putting behind acrylic, or (3) even framing your explanatory paper labels and such.

  4. bnmd says:

    Completely unrelated, but I’m glad you’re blogging again. Thanks for the reads!

  5. kaisaerpren says:

    The thumb ring page holders… Are they your own invention?

  6. I too am returning to the markets after being away from them for 10 years, in the beginning you have to experiment like you have discovered, not all markets are the same. It took 3 markets over a two months period to find the one that works. The first two markets I never sold a thing which was very discouraging and mind boggling. I knew I had the right products and they were all hand made but it was the wrong crowd, finally the third market I sold everything I had on the table. I thought was it luck or did I find the right crowd, luckily for me I had surplus stock as you would expect when you make things by hand it’s not mass production work so when you run out you dip out. Anyway I went back to the markets and the same thing happened again everything sold but now I had no stock so I worked upto 18 hrs a day to replenish what I sold. I was by then all burnt out I just couldn’t keep up with the work load, two more visits to the markets and everything mellowed out. I realised it was the same crowd visiting with a few sporadic new ones which became eventually a problem. How am I going to sell anything to the same mob, well I didn’t and later turned to online selling which proved to be more harder than the markets themselves. So once more I’m going to the markets but this time I’m going in with opened eyes, I know what to expect and what to do when the crowd has had their fill.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I, too, have found selling online to be difficult, especially with such tactile items as spoons.

      • Interesting, so I’m not the only one. I’ve had this suspicion of what sells and really doesn’t online and I’m coming to a conclusion that the type of work we do doesn’t really go that well online as people need to see it, touch it. I think the net is ok for advertising purposes something like that of a catalog and a place where returning customers who know and trust you can reorder but the new ones have to actually see and touch the product which why the craft markets are a better option.

        Mate thanks for your post because you have helped me answer this question that’s been puzzling me for quite some time.

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