Business | 16-10-2020

Selling to the trade – is it for you?

Margeret Bunn runs the British Craft Trade Fair (BCTF) and has worked with designer-makers for over 38 years, guiding them through the process of trade selling. She explains what creatives need to think about when considering the trade route. 

We all want to be individuals, expressing ourselves through the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the products we buy. The benefits of British handmade products are that they are created to high standards, made to last and offer the chance to own something that no one else has.

More and more consumers are looking to buy such unique products, not only because they want to support home-grown talent, but also because they want their homes, offices, and gardens to say something about them and the person they are.

Our aim is to introduce makers of British handmade products to buyers who have the spending power and are mad about British goods – the perfect combination!

For over 40 years, the BCTF has showcased the work of thousands of talented individuals. Often, they combine technological and traditional skills to create magical, inventive, extraordinary collections. With prices ranging across the board, there is plenty of choice for every type of buyer and budget, whether that is a high-end London gallery, The National Trust, a department store, gift shop, museum or a small post office with a gift shop.

Trade selling checklist

The trade route provides the maker with increased brand awareness, resulting in expansion and growth. The more the work is seen, the more chance it has of selling. It is almost impossible to achieve this amount of exposure or sales through direct selling. Although interacting with the public is a great tool that allows makers to sell at full retail prices, its benefits are limited. It can also be tiring and time consuming travelling the country to take part in events.

Taking the trade route means that, once you are established, your work will be on display at venues across the country and the shop and gallery owners will be selling your work for you, while you focus on creating your next collection.

However, you have to consider your pricing. You need a trade price and a recommended retail price (RRP) and the trade price will necessarily be much lower than the RRP. You need to get the pricing right to ensure you have enough return on your trade price, but also that the RRP is not too expensive that the trade cannot sell your pieces on.

You also need to realise that building success can take more than one trade show. Buyers need to feel comfortable with a new seller and trust that they will deliver on time. While some will meet with instant success, many will need to build their brand up from modest sales into an established business over a few years. It is important to manage expectations.

We at BCTF provide free, tailor-made business advice to exhibitors, covering all aspects of dealing with the trade. It includes information on pricing, lead times, minimum orders, terms and conditions, Sale or Return (SOR), stand display and post-show advice.

This advice ensures makers are ready and able to provide orders to trade buyers, starting their trade journey on the right footing from the outset.

As an exhibitor it is important to listen to the buyers and incorporate their feedback – good and bad. Their advice can help you to create new work, for example by extending a current range with the addition of alternative sizes or colourways. It can also inform your pricing and inspire you to make new work, too. The buyers know their market and their advice can be invaluable.

If you decide the trade route may be right for you, register your interest and then we can have a chat about your work and whether it is right for the BCTF.

Now, more than ever, high street shops need to diversify and offer their customers something they cannot easily purchase online. Affordable, unique heirlooms of the future are being created and made right now. Buyers want to support British ingenuity and are looking for new talent.

BCTF takes place in Harrogate, Yorkshire, each April, with the 2021 event scheduled for 10-13 April.

To register as a buyer or a maker, visit:

About the author


Margeret Bunn has run BCTF for over 27 years. Before that she ran retail craft fairs dedicated, again, to British handmade. She has dealt with literally thousands of makers and seen tens of thousands of products during her 38-year career and received feedback from countless buyers. Few people in the UK have a better understanding of the craft industry and the changes it has seen over the past four decades.

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