In part 1 of this series, I discussed the different types of tents available for craft shows. In the conclusion of this series, I’ll discuss other considerations in choosing the type of tent for your booth.
Does the outdoor canopy tent provide adequate protection from the weather?
Not all display tents come with sidewalls, and if you're caught in a rain storm, you'll be happy to have them to protect yourself, your crafts and your customers. Sidewalls can also be useful to create shade when the sun is hitting your booth at an angle and the top of the canopy isn't completely shading your space. There is a drawback to using sidewalls for shade – the sidewalls will block the cooling breeze, the heat will rise inside the tent, and it may be darker in the tent. We use 5’x8’ dark mesh panels that are available in the screen area of Lowes. These mesh panels are designed to provide shade while allowing the customer to view the inside and allows the breeze to flow through the tent. We have two panels that we clip to the canopy and move them around the tent as required.
Does the tent look professional?
Many of the outdoor craft shows require you to have a craft show canopy. When you apply to those shows, they typically ask you to send a photo of your craft booth setup. If you send in a photo of your booth that is not set up under an outdoor shade canopy, it can raise questions about whether you are actually prepared to do that show and meet their standards and expectations.
It may sound harsh, -“Why do they care if I've sent in a booth photo without a tent when my crafts are outstanding?” Maintaining standards is important to good show organizers and part of that includes maintaining the look of the booths at the show.
If you're serious about getting accepted to great shows that are hard to get into, particularly if you're applying in a competitive category like jewelry or painting, then you must ensure that there are absolutely no weaknesses in your application. Jurors can view perceived problems with your booth setup as a weakness that's big enough to take you out of consideration, particularly for the most competitive shows.
Sometimes people are tempted to buy a colored canvas canopy, especially if they are on sale. Be careful with using craft tents that are not white. Colored craft tents will reflect the color of the canopy on to your display. A colored craft canopy can make your booth dark and uninviting, and it can make it impossible for customers to see the true color of your pieces under the canopy. A white canopy tent will typically show your work to its best advantage.
Are you comfortable setting up and breaking down your tent?
The surest way to identify a newbie at a craft show is when they start to set up their tent. They take it out of the box that it came in, remove all of the wrapping material and plastic from the parts, begin to read the instructions, and usually ask other vendors – “How do I put this up?” Always practice setting up your tent before the show. Make sure that all of the pieces are in the box, the canopy is in place, and that you are sure of how to raise and lower the tent. Practice several times – this not only gives you confidence, but also gives you an idea of the time required to set up your tent.
If you always attend craft shows by yourself, then plan on a tent that you can set up by yourself. Sure other vendors will often help, but don’t plan on it. Remember, other vendors are setting up also and the time that they take to help you means they have less time for their booth.
Are you ready for wind?
Outdoor shows have one constant – you must be prepared for wind. Nothing is worse than a tent that suddenly becomes airborne. Not only is it dangerous to vendors and customers, but the cost of broken merchandise can mean the difference between a profitable show and financial disaster.
Don’t let the weather man lull you into a false sense of security. I’ve seen a light breeze turn into a might gust in a very short period of time. This means you should always anchor your tent using weights.Most tents will come with anchors or some vendors will use cork-screw type dog leash anchors. These are good when tents are on grass, but will not work on paved surfaces. I recommend having 40-50 pound weights for each leg. I’ve never had a problem when I’ve used these weights.
So, if you are committed to selling your items at outdoor shows, and particularly the more competitive show, then craft tents are worth the investment. If you plan to do several shows, the benefits you’ll get from a quality, useable craft show tent will make your purchase worthwhile.
Mark Cato and his wife own a candles business and have participated in over 225 craft shows. They average 35-40 craft shows a year. Mark loves to help other craft vendors improve their marketing at both craft shows and on the internet. Over the past four years, he has been a featured speaker at several regional craft workshops.
What a wonderful and helpful article. Thank you. Most of it I knew about, but hadn’t considered the color. I just got lucky with my current canopy.
By Mary Fairchild on June 20, 2012
Thank you for all the wonderful advise. My friend and I are newbies and looking to start in October. Can’t wait.
By Cindi Collins on June 26, 2012
If using weights to hold a canopy in windy conditions, make sure that they are tied to the lower part of the shelter leg. I have seen the shelter picked up, and the weights catapulted thru the air striking a car windshield.
By marlin white on September 5, 2012
I am getting into the popcorn business and i would like find the right tent that can be the best choice for this business. Also i am thinking of starting a bed sheets and linen business too. What is a great tent for that business?
By anthony perkins on October 10, 2012
Very informative! Thanks for taking the time to tech us newbies, because it doesn’t feel as overwhelming when we are well prepared ahead of time. Thanks!
By Deana Morris on October 11, 2012