• Selling Home Made Soap at Markets and Craft Fairs

    Selling Soap at Markets

    Selling your soaps at a market is a great step for your business but it does take time and it will be a lot of effort.  We can not guarantee you will have success but you will have a great opportunity to spruik your soaps to potential customers and hone your sales pitch in person. Selling at markets are also time consuming, so make sure you have set ample time aside to attend markets and that you might have to attend a market more than once before your sales increase. People like a familiar face!

    Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Crafts at Markets

    TIP 1 – Market Investigation

    You will need to check your local markets to first see if there is a demand and market for your products. Hit the local markets a few weekends in a row and find out what is selling, who is selling it and if there is a place in the market for your stand. Take this time to enjoy the market and see if people are having a good time. Try to work out what makes people walk up to some stands and what turns people away. These are all going to help you when you set up your stand, you will avoid common mistakes.

    When finding markets in your area, you want to check out both the Trash and Treasure markets, the markets who sell anything and everything (trash and treasure and handmade goods) and any pure handmade markets. These are all potential customers, but if you selling at a pure Trash and Treasure market, your customer may not be aware of the idea of handmade goods and that they are premium products. Be aware of haggling and the lower price points at a Trash and Treasure market, as this will be what you are going to be up against. Do not be offended if someone offers you a lower price, just explain what the product is and why you have that price point.

    Another option can be applying to have a stand at your local farmers market. People are shopping here for their groceries and finding a premium product such as homemade soap may appeal to their “locally produced” ethics.  If you are aiming for farmers markets, another great idea is to include products made of organic materials, ethically produced materials and even vegan options!

    Don’t be afraid of talking to the stall holders. Ask them questions about what time most people come to the markets, what time they set up and what time they usually finish. Ask if they know of others selling homemade soaps (if you don’t see any) or other handmade beauty products. Remember to always be open and friendly and most stall holders will happily answer any questions!

    TIP 2 – Product Testing

    It is very important before you head to a market to test the product you are going to sell. This takes time but it is crucial to the growth and longevity of your new business. Hand out your soap to your friends for an intital test, make sure you get a detailed response about what they thought of your product such as colour, fragrance, long lasting, lather, skin feeling, etc. Ask them what you can do better and what they didn’t like. Make lots of notes as these are for your own benefit.

    Make sure your products have also been tested to see how it holds up over time. Test the colours in the sunlight and make sure that they  hold up against any exposure to sunlight. Also check that your soap does not develop DOS (Dreaded Orange Spots), that your product does not go brown or develop mould or that it separates or shrinks too much over time.

    TIP 3 – First Impressions

    You are here to sell your product and meet potential customers. Professional is the only way to approach this endeavour. I know you may be getting up very early to set up your stand to be ready when the public is allowed in, but make sure you look presentable. Wear some nice, neat and comfortable clothes (we are not talk a 3 piece suit here). Aim to look good and approachable with say a neat pair of jeans and a nice black turtleneck top. I would avoid tracksuit pants, clothes that are unwashed and stained. Sounds like something everyone should know, but you would be surprised sometimes! Oh and it is a unspoken rule that you have showered, combed your hair and brushed your teeth.

    You are a sales person today – look the part and feel comfortable!

    Don’t forget to smile and look approachable at your stall. Make sure that when people approach your stall, that you put down what you are doing and be available to your potential customer. Give them time to look at your goods before you introduce yourself and ask if they need any help or have any questions. Some customers may not like being spoken to and others will love to have a talk about your stall. Just come across as friendly, honest and passionate about your products.

    TIP 4 – Stall Presentation

    If you think of a shop front window, you know how beautiful they can look. They entice you through the doors to potentially buy something. Now consider your market stall as a shop front window. You want it to be beautiful and really represent the product you are selling. You want people to see it from a distance and make a bee-line to you. They may not even be in the market to buy soap, but if you make your stall outstanding than your chances are going to be better at selling your products.

    Make sure that your table is clean and that your soaps are dusted from dirt/grim/dust etc. Make sure everything looks clean! You will spend time through the day replacing sold products with others, you will make sure the table is clean and you will wipe any dirt off as it appears. If customers pick up soap and put it down in the wrong place, or facing the wrong way you will have to wait until they have walked away and you can move things back to where they belong. Take pride in your stall and spend time on it.

    TIP 5 – Signs

    Make sure that you have clear and concise signage at your stand. Sometimes if people do not want to engage with you, they will take in the information via your signage. This is a great way to inform your customers with the information they need to make a purchase. Label your soaps with what fragrance they are, what they are good for (skin softening or great for acne), make sure it is clearly labelled if they are different such as organic, ethically tested on friends and family and vegan.

    Use your signs as a way to be fun and unique. Don’t be afraid to inject a little humour! Make sure your signs are easy to read to a lot of people (avoid difficult to read cursive scripts but also avoid boring black arial fonts and never use comic sans, graphic designers will thank you!)

    Consider small signs for each product you are selling and also larger signs for customers to know who you are and what you are selling. Make them easy to read from a distance as well.

    TIP 6 – Table Display

    Table display is make or break. You need to spend time working out how your display will look, how you will use the space to maximise each product and how you want to present your products. Your stall and display will change over time as you find out what works and what doesn’t work for you.

    Setting up your stall can be quite expensive too, so plan early for a market stall and make a budget. Don’t overspend on some things that you end up not using time and time again. Your stall is going to evolve so be prepared. You can spend very little on your stall table but you can still make it look amazing. We are imaginative crafters, so get thinking!

    Consider themes and ideas for your displays. If you soap is rustic, with a handmade look and predominately made with milks, you could consider a farm style display with your soap sitting in vintage milk crates, with old milk bottles and bouquets of white fragrant flowers (Try to use only real flowers, as plastic/fake flowers may not look as polished. If you have only fake flowers, please make sure they look good, have been cleaned and they are not broken or damaged).

    Sometimes you can display other objects such as vintage jugs, plates and use lovely white lacey table cloth to keep with a French Provincial theme.

    You will want to invest your money into a decent table covering. Make sure your table cloth matches your theme and can be used in different themes for the future. You can easily make your own as well without spending too much. Make sure your tablecloth is not tacky, dirty, torn, unsightly or visually clashes with your soaps and your display. This will be a huge turn off for customers. Make sure you tablecloth is also washed for each market and that you do a quick check when laying out for any stains that you might have missed.

    The general table layout should be in layers, two or three in different heights. This will help people who walking past to see exactly what you are selling. If you lay your products flat on the table it will be hard for people to see what is and may not walk over. you layers can be made with a range of items such as boxes with cloth covering, vintage crates, decorative cake stands (especially nice with fizzy bath bombs) and cupcake stands.

    Add the most colourful, expensive and interesting items on your top stands. These will stand out to people walking past and you want to highlight the best of your products at people’s eye line. Don’t neglect your lower levels, keep them interesting and well laid out.

    How much stock should you have for your stall? There really is no hard or fast answers here unless you have done a market before and you can gauge the kind of results you will get. The best answer is to have a little more rather than a little less.

    You shouldn’t have all your stock on the table at one time. Store your excess stock in tubs or boxes under your table. This way it is close to have if you run out on the table and you won’t have to go searching in your car for the extras. You want to have a nice amount of products on display. See how much looks too crowded and then remove 2 and re-evaluate. You will find a nice balance between looking bare and looking overstocked.
    Make sure when someone purchases something to replace it with the back up stock you have. unless you are selling out of items then you should celebrate!

    TIP 7 – Packaging & Labelling

    How you package your soap is going to have a lasting impact on your customer and this is another way to connect with your customers once they are home and using your product. So keep this in mind and make sure you put time and effort into your labels and how you finish your product off.

    When labelling your soap or cosmetics, it is important to follow the government guidelines but always check with what is required of your state before you start selling your soap.

    The ingredients are to be listed in descending order calculated by either mass or volume.
    Alternatively, the mandatory information standard allows the ingredients to be listed in the following way:

    • ingredients (except colour additives) in concentrations of 1 per cent or more in descending order by volume or mass; followed by
    • ingredients (except for colour additives) in concentrations of less than 1 per cent in any order; and finally
    • colour additives in any order.

    The mandatory information standard does not require the quantity or percentage of each ingredient to be listed.

    An example of homemade soap labelling looks like this:

    Handmade Soap


    Ingredients: Olive Oil Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Water, Sodium hydroxide, Fragrance Oil,Ground Oatmeal, Honey, Cows Milk

    Keep Dry Between uses to ensure a longer lasting bar

    Handmade in Australia

    There are so many different options for packaging your soap but it is recommended to avoid plastic wrap for cold processed soap as this will cause sweating. If you want your soap plastic wrapped, then prepare this the night before the market so that it remains fresh. If you are selling Melt & Pour soups, these are recommended to be wrapped in plastic to help avoid shrinkage.

    Over the weekends that you are working at the markets, you can test a range of different wrapping styles. Explore what works the best for your products and your brand. From a simple cigar wrap or natural raffia tie to a more complex package folded from Japanese Washi Paper. There are a lot of options to explore with your soaps, so don’t feel like the first packaging option you select has to stick.

    TIP 8 – Samples and Free Gifts

    Do you offer samples or free gifts with purchase? This is one area which you could bring initial sales but also add value and repeat customers, but this is something you will have to test with your particular products.

    Samples may not always bring sales but if you have the inclination to have a bowl of warm water, some paper towels and a few sample slithers of your soap, then this might be a great way to interact with customers. You could offer to test soaps on people with sensitive skin, but make sure that use small slithers of your soap, and not use a sample on more than one person. Make sure this is set up on the side of your display as you don’t want any water accidentally spilling on your lovely soaps and cosmetics!

    If you only offer sample soaps at the front of your display with your products behind it, this may only encourage people to take the free soap but never make a purchase so be aware of this. Keep your samples to the side or the back.

    Free gift with purchase can be a great investment into creating repeat customers. If you have signage that offers a free gift with purchases over a certain price, this can really entice people in. You could do sample packs with 3 thin slices of soap, simply wrapped with butchers string, clearly labelled with your details of your website or details to purchase more.

    TIP 9 – Promotional Materials

    Now you have everything set up ready for your market but how do your customers contact you once they leave the market? This is where your promotional materials will come into play.

    Creating a website is crucial in business these days for your customers to contact you in their own time. Set up a website either using a simple online e-commerce site, etsy or speak to a professional who can help you set up and manage your online business. Consult sites such as elance to hire a web developer and designer to help you with work or sit down and talk to a local web development company. Spending the money on a good website with a easy to use system will allow you to get on with making soap and not making websites.

    If you are not savvy with using computers and the internet, consider speaking to professionals who can help create a business profile on facebook or even set up a mini wordpress site for you until you can afford to build a online e-commerce site. It is important to have an online presence so you can keep in contact with your customers!

    Business cards are crucial at markets. You want your customers and potential customers to walk away knowing how to contact you. Make sure your business cards are easy to read, crisp and clean. There are so many great examples of business card designs on the internet, so hunt around and find a great design. See what you can come up with in a design program, or speak to a local designer. There are also sites such as elance.com that will allow people to bid on a project so you can monitor your budget.

    Brochures might not be necessary unless you carry a wider range of products than what you are showing on your stand. Create brochures with detailed product descriptions, large beautiful photographs and make sure your business and contact details are clear and stand out on the back of the brochure.

    These are all fantastic items to have in your marketing bag. These will help keep your soap and your business in the customers mind.

    TIP 10 – PRICING

    The hardest part of all – Pricing your products!

    When working out the average cost of one of your soaps, you will need to include into the price things such as:
    1 – your time
    2 – cost of ingredients
    3 – insurance
    4 – cost of stall
    5 – petrol and cost to travel to the market

    When setting the prices of your products, don’t start out too low. You don’t want to undersell your hard work and your product will come across looking like a cheaper item. You also don’t want to overprice anything as nobody will buy it! There is a fine line but the better advice is to price your product slightly higher, then reduce your price to find the balance.

    Consider other handmade products in the area, such as if your local store sells soap for $3 a bar, then you can assume a handmade artisinal product could retail for $5 a bar. Your prices can increase if you use more luxurious oils and butters. You can safely assume a handmade soap typically retails between $5 – $9 a bar.

    You can also offer combined products such as 4 bars for $15 etc and offer people a small discount on a larger purchase.

    Make sure when you are working at your stall to listen to what your customers are saying. Their body language could tell you that your have priced items to high if they pick up and quickly put down products, or roll their eyes at prices or even verbally tell you it is too expensive. You could consider your pricing structure if this is the common response, but remember that your products are homemade and a labour of love, so don’t drastically reduce prices and undercut your profits.

    It even occurs that sometimes products are priced too low and perceived as being cheap. These products can sometimes have the price raised a few dollars to see if this will make the item appear more valuable and luxurious. You will need to watch your sales and see if this is a possibility on some of your cheaper products.

    Have a great time while you are working at your market and make the best of the situation you are in and sell your soap!

    About the Author: Rebecca

    3 Comments + Add Comment

    • Thank you for all that great advice. I’m going to begin the research side this week end at the markets. Hoping to get my stall up and running for Xmas sales. Cheers.

      • Hi Lydia,

        I would love know how you go selling your products at the markets in your area. I have a big session lined up this weekend making laundry soap to then grate up and make my own laundry powder! simple and so much to make. This might be a good idea for your left over soap ends or any “not good enough to sell” soap that you make. This might give you one more product to sell at the market!

        Let me know how you get on!

        • I will. I do the laundry powder thing too and dishwasher powder. It is so nice not to have to carry those extra bags home from the supermarket and the $$$$ saved makes me a happy little Vegemite.

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