Left: Selecting products for the Christmas fairs; Right: New postcards with info of the Christmas fairs
Since our e-shop first started 5 years ago (I can't believe it has been 5 years already!), we have participated in different pop-up Christmas fairs around London. They serve as our opportunity to meet customers/ potential customers face to face. Since it is becoming more competitive these days, some popular/reputable Christmas fairs may require sellers to apply before summer! It is advisable to do research as early as possible and start preparing/applying around summer because usually by October, many major fairs would be booked up.
I had a blast at the Barbican Christmas fair last year, however, they decided not to do it this year, hence I had to look elsewhere in central London. Finally, I opted for two smaller fairs over the first two weekends of December. It is exhausting and stressful to manage online sales and do Christmas fairs at the same time, so I try not to overwork this year.
Top left: Candid arts gallery; Top right and the rest: our stall at the Angel Chrismas fair
I picked Candid Arts Trust's long-running Angel Christmas fair because my shared studio/office is based there. I moved in last year and have been told that the fair is a popular one with the locals. The trust's gallery hosts art/design exhibitions all year round, and it offers affordable studios for artists/designers/makers in an affluent area of London.
At the 2 1/2 day fair, all the sellers were placed on the ground floor, while upstairs was turned into an art gallery and bar. I was told that the fair this year was quieter than the previous years, but as always, it is hard to predict the footfall or sales at these fairs. Though one thing I love about doing fairs is the opportunity to meet and make friends with fellow designers/makers/business owners. At the Angel Christmas fair, I met Winnie from Minute & Azimut, a new stylish watch brand that was launched via a Kickstarter campaign. Winnie, who is originally from Paris, is the designer and owner of this new brand. And a week later, I was invited by her to the opening evening of her pop-up shop near Bond Street, which turned out to be a cosy and enjoyable event.
Top: The upstairs art gallery; 2nd left: Winnie from Minute & Azimut; 2nd right: the friendly Ecuadorian ladies selling tagua nut jewellery and handmade scarvies; Bottom: The wonderful scupltures made by my artistic and eccentric stall neighbour Madeleine Marsh
The week after, I did the 1-day ethical Fair Christmas Fayre organised by The Salvation Army. The fair took place at Regent Hall inside their headquarters on Oxford Street. I had no idea that the organisation owns a massive buildling on Oxford Street, and was somewhat surprised to see such a big hall behind an inconspicuous entrance.
The ethical crafty fair has been running for 10 years and I only heard about it last year. Since we sell many eco-friendly and upcycling products, I thought it would be apt to do a fair that showcases these products. I was impressed by the fair organisation and helpful team members/volunteers. I also enjoyed selling inside a spacious and warm venue, which partly explains why I never do any outdoor/semi-outdoor Christmas markets!
Fair Christmas Fayre at Regent Hall on Oxford Street
Unfortunately, the footfall on the day was rather disappointing, and it could be due to the heavy rain on the day. Although Oxford Street is probably the busiest street in London/UK, shoppers usually have their targets on certain shops and so it is never easy to sway them to visit an ethical fair on a not-so-ethical shopping street (this is solely my opinion).
The lower-than-usual footfall at both Christmas fairs this year could be down to an increase of local Christmas fairs and online shopping. Our online sales plummeted after Brexit and it stayed that way until the end of October. Then suddenly, sales surged in November and December, and they ended up being our best months yet! Online sales peaked over the Black Friday weekend and the second week of December, which took me somewhat by surprise after months of stagnant sales. I believe that more UK shoppers were doing their Chirstmas shopping online this year, hence this has given me the confidence that online shopping will continue to grow in the future.
Top: Chau at the Islington Christmas Market; Bottom: our lasercut coasters from Japan
At Fair Christmas Fayre, I became friends with my neighbour, Chau, a young and talented Vietnamese illustrator/designer/owner of Chau art. Chau designs all her greeting cards; she cuts them out by hand initially, and then have them lasercut locally. Chau spotted our Japanese lasercut coasters at the fair, and she thought their styles are similar to hers, so she suggested selling them for me at her upcoming Christmas markets. It was a very kind gesture, and I was more than happy for her to do it. I went to visit her at two of her Christmas fairs the following week, and we spent some time chatting about business and life in general.
Over the last few years, I have made new friends at different Christmas fairs, and although I have not kept in touch with everyone, most of us would support each other via social media like instagram/twitter. It is not easy to run a small business these days, and I think sharing business tips or the difficulties we encounter with each other is immensely helpful.
Christmas fairs are not merely about selling, it is also about supporting, sharing and building friendships. And this is also why we will continue to do them in the future.