Handling Hawkers at Art & Craft Shows

March 2011

When you think about the last craft show that you attended either as a customer or as an artist, what do you remember? Did you enjoy strolling through one artist’s booth after another, stopping to view the unique and one of a kind pieces that you can only find at these events? Did you enjoy the aroma of home baked goodness wafting from the food area? What about the raucous and loud sounds of the man yelling at you to stop and buy a raffle ticket? Chances are, the hawkers at the art show are not something that you remember fondly, especially if you are an artist whose booth is next to one of them.

To be fair, hawkers are there trying to garner attention for their company. They are not there to cause you problem as an artist, however, their method of gaining customers is vastly different, and the truth is, if you are an artist placed next to a hawker, this can interrupt your business for the negative. Is there a solution that could work out for both groups: the artists and the hawkers? There is actually a very good solution that could be vastly beneficial were it to be implemented at craft shows and festivals no matter how large or small.

Have you noticed how the food vendors are always located in one area? They do not put a peanut brittle booth right next to you as an artist, and the homemade fudge vendor is not three booths down. Instead, the food booths are all focused together. This way, customers know right where to go when they want an edible delight, and they know where to go when they want to visit homemade crafts and art work.

This same idea could easily be implemented with the hawkers in a very similar fashion. Instead of having the booths for the hawkers scattered among the artists, why not have a section of the craft show that is for each? It could be set up so that the hawkers are located in one group near the food items and the artists could be in a group on the other side. This way, hawkers can still gain attention from potential customers without detracting attention from the booths belonging to the artists.

This simple solution could work out well for the artist and the customer alike, allowing each of you to only remember the festival or fair in a fond way.


Sounds like a good solution. I hope that it is implemented.

Kathy Cuttonaro

By Katherine Cuttonaro on March 30, 2011

This is a well written article.  It is addressed to customers and artists.  Customers and artists have no control as to where a hawker is placed at a fair.

This article needs to be directed to promoters.  You might consider re-directing this article to the parties that can actually do something about this problem.

Thank You

By PKJ on March 30, 2011

I have no problem with legitimate crafters standing at the front of their booth either greeting customers or educating customers about their products.  I do have a problem with “hawkers” selling cheap buy-sell, Girl Scout cookies, etc.  Keep them segregated.

Complain to the promoter.

By Mark Cato on March 30, 2011

At most of the festivals I have attended as a food vendor or have viewed the vendor application, there are instructions that HAWKERS will not be tolerated and may be asked to leave.
Good for the festival, I do not want to listen to them either. And, I am a food vendor.

By garyandroger on March 31, 2011

After 30 years as a traveling fine artist, you do run into a hawker or 2. Its usually a newbie so I go over and talk with them as soon as I see and or hear it and give him/her a lesson on art-show exhibitor etiquette. It works every time. They just need some schooling or if they are obnoxious, an escort out the door!

By Not my first Rodeo on April 10, 2011

What no one seems to understand is that hawking is selling. I read article after article about how sales are down at the shows. Well get off your butt and hawk. At a show my wife and I hawk all day and at the end we will outsell the lazy person that wants to set in their booth and read a book or work crossword puzzles 5 to 1. If you have a problem with people that want to work then go home.

Your idea of segregating vendors is terrible. If you have any experience in this business you would know that mixing up the vendors promotes better traffic and higher sales for everyone. My favorite place in any show is next to or across from a food vendor. Why, because they draw the largest crowd, especially on a hot day. This gives me the chance to entice these people into my tent. Remember the number one rule in retail is, the longer that a customer stays in your booth / store the more that they will buy. So learn to hawk, then learn to sell the customer. If you do the financial rewards will be worth it.

By Jack on April 25, 2011

Like most anything else in life, it’s all in the details of how you do something.  If you are hawking and disturbing the general atmosphere, then your butt oughta be right out of there.  Being loud and obnoxious is not the only way to successfully hawk.

It seems some people fail to take into consideration or begin to understand this.

By ben on April 30, 2011

when i first started doing craft shows I noticed out of say ,fifty ,only one or two people would speak to ,so I decided I would speak to every patron who walked by my booth, an AMAZING thing happened,just after I said"Hi,how are you!” the patrons eyes would at my stuff! and another thing happened…I outsold
everyone of my neighbors! And have been for fifteen years!!
I go to craft shows and events to ...make a living,in other words SELL STUFF if i have a ten foot front, I have around FOUR SECONDS to get patrons to LOOK at my stuff out of the 49 other booths there,if they dont look ...then they dont buy,and I go home and cook up some of the wood crafts i just tried to sell
So yes I “hawk” and if your the whiny, crossword working unfriendly starving artist across from me,oh well,get a real job in a basement somewhere!

By viking merchant on August 12, 2011

I have never attended an event where “Hawkers” were allowed, yes, they are interruptive and I remember a BBQ guy from back east trying to hawk his product and was quietly and quickly shut down be other food venders.

By firechef on September 8, 2011

To clarify my statement above, yes! I do say hello to people passing by and invite them to look at my menu, but! I ask them in a quiet and friendly way and usually they will buy from me.

By firechef on September 8, 2011

I am of mixed emotions about “hawkers”. First of all, it depends on their attitude. If they are simply calling out hello, or how are you, that’s one thing, but they are trying to entice me into their tent, I tend to get bullheaded and resist.  If I want to look at the type of wares they are selling, I’ll go in without any encouragement, if not, a bulldozer couldn’t get me in there.  And something that REALLY irritates me is having the vendor push stuff on me or try to make me feel guilty about not buying something from them. My money is tight too and I want to spend it on things that I really want, not just what you want to sell.  I am a vendor too, and a person that I often share booth space with is really bad about this and I am seriously thinking about not sharing anymore. It’s more expensive, but it gets embarrassing sometimes how persistent she is.

By Penster on October 3, 2011

I once witnessed a fudge vendor set up near a dumpster. I don’t think this would pertain to “located to an area” though.

By MushroomLady729 on November 12, 2011

Yes that is a good idea except wouldn’t that end up bothering the food vendors that they are put beside

By FunnelCakeman on February 29, 2012

I honestly do wish there was a special section for hawkers so we could always avoid it. Whether we are working a flea market with my brother-in-law or shopping at one, the hawkers always seem to ruin the experience. They are loud, pushy and should be put in a corner to out shout each other instead of interrupting the experience for everyone else.

By fair vendors on October 3, 2012

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