rwarren Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 2:09am
post #1 of

Dear everyone,

I've come home from a bake sale today, very discouraged. My mom and I had a table at a church "flea market", 9 feet of space. We spent a good 2 weeks preparing goodies -- every night this week I came home from work and made icing, since Mom had baked all day and was tiring herself out. We lugged it down there in 2 lots on Friday night and Saturday morning: 3 bundle buggies and 2 large shopping bags, on the bus and subway.

Now for the "disaster" part: The amount of money we brought in, I make more in one day at the office. icon_sad.gif

The church has a popular flea market once a month and rents tables to outsdiers. They have nice things, good second hand china, handicrafts, jewellery, not shabby stuff. We had been assured by parishioners that home baking would be a huge hit, and we would also sell the night before to the workers setting up. We knew there was another lady who did a small amount of baking and all her profits went to breast cancer, as well as another table of chocolate and fudge. So we endeavored to have different items so as not to compete directly.

Mom is a cookie person so she had tins of cookies (assorted and solid flavors) as well as packets of 6-8. I am a cake person and we had 5 flavors of cupcakes, plus one small cake and one Thanksgiving theme cake. Plus other items like butter tarts, sweet loaves, white chocolate fudge, 3 kinds of muffins, and sweet red pepper relish. A very colorful spread, with something we thought would please everyone. And everything was wrapped for hygiene reasons.

We've done bake tables before, but this was the first time at this particular church. yes you find a way to get used to the people going "I don' eat sweets, I'm diabetic, I have stomach problems etc etc etc". Everyone who passed by today went "oooh everything is sooooo beautiful" but it was very difficult to motivate people to buy.

We had hoped this would be a monthly thing so I wrote down what people were requesting: Plain food. No mixing flavors: e.g. have chocolate cupcakes, or raspberry cupcakes, but no chocolate raspberry cupcakes. (never mind that the raspberries are fresh from our garden and the chocolate was Lindt) No cherries! No cranberries! (so much for that great special on Craisins at the drugstore)

I can count on one hand how many cupcakes we sold. And the other hand for the muffins. Of course it didn't help that the lady selling for breast cancer had muffins at 50 cents and ours were $1.50. And our chocolate cupcakes got squished. thumbsdown.gif The only reason the small maple almond cake sold is because someone bought it for a potluck dinner -- otherwise you tell people about the real maple syrup, ground almonds, and 35% cream in the icing and it freaks them out, instead of making their mouths water. icon_sad.gif The Thanksgiving pumpkin cake is going to be "recycled" as my birthday cake. (insert smiley of choice here)

So the verdict is No for November (particularly as no one would want halloween stuff on Nov 1) and a maybe for December.

Has anyone has as bad a time at a bake sale as us? it's terribly perplexing for me.

43 replies
jammjenks Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 2:17am
post #2 of

I'm so sorry you had a bad experience. Don't give up so quickly though. Try making more basic things in bulk to sell and maybe give a free sample bite of your more complicated things. After a while you'll probably have converts. I'm kind of like that too...hesitant to buy something in a restaurant if I don't know if I'll like it or not. All it takes is someone to have me try something new to make me order it next time. I'm kind of like a kid that way. thumbs_up.gif

rwarren Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 2:23am
post #3 of

btw the subject line got cut off, it shoud read "Beautiful things don't sell?"

Kitagrl Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 2:57am
post #4 of

My friend and I had a similar thing...were told that this certain craft sale would have over a thousand visitors, and did very well. We worked all week making cookies...I did flower pots and my friend did various ones more towards kids.

Like five cookies sold the entire week! And the owner turned up her nose at the $3/each price tag (large cookies, mine were on sticks).

Never again....and I don't even much care to do cookies.

baycheeks1 Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 3:06am
post #5 of

At my mother's office they had a craft sale last year, and I made several things, cookies being of them. I thought they would sale out so fast, but was mistaken...I took like 5-6 half dozen packs home and was like ugh. But I will tell you that having a sample of some of your goods helps out so much. Spending some money having samples helps in the long run of making money!

twooten173 Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 3:22am
post #6 of

Oh wow I'm sorry to hear this. I super disgusted because you lugged all your wares on the bus and subway which couldn't have been fun.

I agreed awhile ago to do some things for a bake sale this coming Thursday. I ASSUMED that people would jump on home baked goods. I'll make sure to send basic things and not spend a lot of time or money making them (it's for charity)

mommyle Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 3:34am
post #7 of

I had a similar problem at a school "fair". I was the only baker, but the high school kids were selling some baking for a fund raiser in another part of the building (2 separate sites). Not many people came out because of the weather, and people who were in one part of the building didn't want to come over to the other side because the rain was so bad between the sites. I sold about a quarter of what I made. but I sold out of Mini-cupcakes.
So now I am doing a Christmas sale and ONLY bringing 30 gingerbread house kits (3 different styles), at $20 each (candy and RI and green icing included).
I think that you have to figure out who your audience is, and how much they will pay, and go from there. IF I went back to the school, I would ONLY do mini cupcakes, and take orders for the regular sizes. Figure out what you did that was original, and what sold the best, and then ONLY do that. And make about half of what you think you need, and when you sell out, then you just look that much better "Oh, so sorry, we were SO busy we sold out!!! Need to come earlier next month!"
Good luck, and don't give up, just figure out how to make the most of your talents!

JanH Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 6:52am
post #8 of

Your baked and other offerings sound wonderful. icon_biggrin.gif

However, I don't think a craft fair is a great venue for marketing anything "gourmet" or "upscale"....
(Unless the craft fair site is on Rodeo Drive.) icon_lol.gif

In my experience, craft fairs draw bargain hunters who are looking for a "deal" and primarily shop by price point.

JMHO

indydebi Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 12:32pm
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by JanH

In my experience, craft fairs draw bargain hunters who are looking for a "deal" and primarily shop by price point.



I agree. back when I used to even allow my family to buy at flea/farmers markets or bake sales (once i took the food safe course, these places became off limits!), I would be looking for the "comfort food" type of things. My tried and true favorites that I just loved but didn't want to take the time to make.

"There's nothing like a good chocolate chip cookie" is the thought process .... so while I'm sure your pumpkin cake was good ..... it's not what I'm shopping for.

A good example of "know your market". It has nothing to do with what you WANT to sell .... it has everything to do with what THEY want to BUY.

CakesByJen2 Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 12:33pm

So sorry you went to all that work to be so disappointed. Your stuff sounds absolutely delicious to me! But, I think that is the wrong situation for upscale, gourmet items. At a craft fair/bake sale, people are going to want something very basic that they are familiar with, and something cheap to satisfy their immediate hunger, or to pacify whiney kids that they've had to drag along. They will admire pretty things, but not want to pay that much for something that they're going to eat right then, and they probaby figure anything pretty would get smooshed up by the time they get home with it. If you decide to try it again, I'd do more basic items with cheaper ingredients that you can price lower. Try offering samples to get things going, like cookies cut into quarters, cubes of cake or muffins, tiny bits of fudge. Just enough for them to get a taste and want more.

Pookie59 Posted 6 Oct 2008 , 5:17pm

I'm sure your goodies were tasty and beautiful, but perhaps not what people were expecting. I'm guessing the average person at a craft fair might be looking for a snack rather than a gourmet dessert. Personally I'd stick to the (rather boring) basics - individually wrapped brownies, cupcakes in every day flavors without fancy decor, single big cookies - things people can grab and snack on while they shop. Just my opinion.

CakeDiva73 Posted 6 Oct 2008 , 6:07pm

I, too, am sorry that this didn't work out better for you. I would have to agree that high end goods were probably not what the bargain shoppers were looking for (as I am one of them icon_biggrin.gif).

I have always felt that making old standards such as chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, brownies, old fashioned cupcakes, etc. but doing them exceptionally well was a better choice then offering the more fancy flavor choices. Not everyone can appreciate them. And you may have been using premium ingredients but sadly, you weren't selling to premium customers, if you get what I mean. No insult intended to them, of course, but sometime a meat & potatoes menu is the best choice.

On another note, my mouth watered at the descriptions you gave of your goodies. icon_smile.gif Don't give up - I bet with a little tweaking, you can have the most popular booth around.

rwarren Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 2:57am

Thank you everyone for your feedback. I do want to clarify that our booth wasn't all fancy frou-frou. Or at least, it was not the intention to be fancy frou-frou. We know that different things work in different places. A bunch of university students will shop differently from a bunch of senior citizens. Fudge normally flies off the table at church sales: in our parish, you can't even sell it by the piece. Lots of people loooove chocolate and our brownies were at least 25% cheaper than Starbucks, Second Cup, or Java U. We charged less than half for our cupcakes than the cupcake shops do. At our church we could take a pastry box and fill it up: 6 of this muffin, 4 of that cookie, something to fill in that little empty space there? But other places, people won't shop in volume like that.

At our last bazaar in Decmeber, by request of the organizer, all our baking had to be organic, fair trade chocolate, etc. Vegetarian/Vegan items were encouraged. After the obligatory grooooans.....We shopped carefully, priced it out appropraitely, warned the organizer of higher prices (who assured us the customers would pay the extra) and did soso. Mostly one off things people stuffed in their face right away. (But they aren't expected to have that bazaar again, and chasing down organic everything was a pain)

Sampling had been given a thumbs down by mom before we went. Not only did we not have broken products but from our experience, sampling does not turn into sales. people just grab the freebies.

And Mom and I both are attracted to nicely displayed and packaged food. Homemade, restaurants, grocery, whatever. (No wonder I love cake decorating!) That will be ME with my nose pressed to the dessert case going oooo lookie lookie like the biggest kid! If it looks good, chances are we will buy it, so we believe other people will too.

Some bake tables sell out in an hour: it's NEVER happened to any I've contributed to. I wish that would happen to me someday!


P.S. For anyone who needs a visual aid, go to my Webshots page, click on Marlene's Sugar Portfolio (that's my mom) and look at the first picture. That was our bake table.

indydebi Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 3:23am
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwarren

... sampling does not turn into sales. people just grab the freebies.



shoot, just stand around Sam's on a Saturday or Sunday, when the ladies have their samples stands in the aisles. People go shopping on those days so they can get a free lunch! Like a lot of you folks, I'm in there ALL the time and being a people watcher, I take a few minutes to "observe" .... rarely do I see anyone take the sample, then walk to the freezer and pull out a box. I'm sure they sell a few from the samples .... but pretty much it's Free Lunch Day.

Karema Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 12:57pm

I've been selling at flea markets for about 3 years and I've learned a few things. I looked at your table and its nice but its too full. People dont feel like stopping all the time to see what you have. Try adding a few things at a time. Like I do cookies and I will do 6 different flavors, chocolate chip, chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin, oatmeal butterscotch, peanut butter, and a specialty cookie. The specialty cookie changes with the season. Then I added on breads. I do zuchinni and banana. Then I added on pound cake and I just added cupcakes. I only do one regular cupcake like chocolate or yellow. Nothing crazy. Trust me start small. Dont take so much product until you know how an event is and make notes for next year. I only do one batch of each cookie at first then as my demand increases I add on more. It will save you money and time. I also freeze my breads so I can resale them the following week. I also dont bring cookie tins or anything gift like because it doesnt sell. I give out my business card and tell them I do cookie tins and I may have one on display. I let my customers order and they have to leave a deposit, name, phone number and address. Good Luck.

fiddlesticks Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 12:58pm

rwarren.. Your table looks beautiful! It would be a table I would buy from. I dont look twice at the tables that are messy looking and half of the desserts are smashed or melted.A table that has a nice friendy looking person running it and also looks clean cut to me will get my attention. To me a lot of it is what the person runnning it looks like.
You had your table very well laid out and packaged very nice and everything looks clean and inviting. Maybe it just wasent the right group group of people on that day.

Karema Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 3:15pm

Please dont think that I dont like your table. I thinks it looks nice but I'm just saying that people at flea markets just walk by quickly with out always stopping. Sometimes it best to test the market and see what you would change for the following year. For example I went to a Huge yard sale near me and was told that they usually have about 6000 people and a cookie lady from last year sold out in three hours. I was so excited and just kept baking and baking. I had over $1000 in product because I kept thinking I need more if it is 6000 people. I sold a lot of it but not all of it. I ended up only making $600 and $400 of product was wasted. I know better for next year and can forcast. I learned that cupcakes go better than my cookies. People will pay $3 for a huge cupcake but may not pay $3 for three coookies. I dont get it. I think your table is nice but you should check out an event first with a smaller amount and sell out then next year bring more.

rwarren Posted 10 Oct 2008 , 1:01am

And now my mom is insisting we do this all over again on November 1. icon_eek.gificon_cry.gif

My theory: We did so crummy last time that next time could be worse. On November 1 no one wants cute Halloween things. It's too soon for Christmas, Thanksgiving is over [Note to the Americans reading this: Thanksgiving is on October 13] and more autumn leaf cookies will bring cries of "those are from last time, they are staaaale" even if they are fresh baked. What's left to be seasonal -- poppies?! Oh yes and only plain unattractive food.

Mom's theory: We didn't do as badly as I think. If we don't do November we won't get a table in December because first choice of tables goes to the November renters. And she is having difficulty finding another place that rents tables.

sigh! This does not bode well icon_sad.gif

justducky Posted 10 Oct 2008 , 12:27pm

How about doing up some sample Christmas platters? Don't go with the intent of selling alot of them. Take orders for Christmas.

Could you do gingerbread house kits?

Just some thoughts.

It is not always what you sell that day, you are also getting your name out.

darandon Posted 10 Oct 2008 , 12:39pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

People go shopping on those days so they can get a free lunch!



I have to admit, I've gone to Sam's Club with my daughter and sampled our way through the store - only to have bought just the laundry detergent we went in for. After we were finished we went home, and didn't need lunch. I've seen whole families take over a station and clear out all of the samples, taking more than one per person, just for lunch.

mommyle Posted 10 Oct 2008 , 2:34pm

two words... mini cupcakes. make several different flavors of cake, and several flavors of icing, and decorate them to order. Have a few made up already, but if people can order one specifically for themselves on the spot... wow!!! and you don't have to make a huge amount of them. you get your good name and taste out there, and at 50 cents a cake (honestly, they cost about 10 cents to make!) people will end up buying 4 or 5 each. they just keep coming back. because it's only a little bite, they don't feel bad about eating so many. Wedding planners tell brides that if they are sreving cupcakes instead of a whole cake, that people will throw out part of a big cup cake, but will go back for 3 or 4 minis. Trying different varieties, and really, how fattening can a mini cupcake be???

hippiecac Posted 14 Oct 2008 , 10:34pm

I feel your pain...I did a craft/art fair last year. It was held at an upscale wine & gourmet shop and the owner loved my cookies so much he practically begged me to set up a stand.

I worked every night for a week making 200 cookies decorated like wine glasses, grapes & wine bottles in cello bags with wine theme ribbons.

I sold 10 (3 were to my aunt, so that doesn't really count!)

Everyone was so impressed at how cute they were, saying how much work they must be.... One lady took pictures & proceeded to tell me that she was starting up a cookie decorating business of her own (but didn't buy one!)

What sold were the chocolate chip cookies I made at the last minute. Every last one of them went. Go figure.

cous2010 Posted 15 Oct 2008 , 12:33am

I agree with the mini cupcake idea! I frequent flea market type events with my mom at the local schools and churches and can understand why someone there might not want to buy food they are unfamiliar with.

Try the cupcakes, I'd sure buy a few icon_smile.gif Good Luck with what ever you decide to do.

cous2010 Posted 15 Oct 2008 , 12:40am

I agree with the mini cupcake idea! I frequent flea market type events with my mom at the local schools and churches and can understand why someone there might not want to buy food they are unfamiliar with.

Try the cupcakes, I'd sure buy a few icon_smile.gif Good Luck with what ever you decide to do.

shanasweets Posted 15 Oct 2008 , 4:42am

My work has a day in which employees who have hobbies or there own side business can sell. I did this last Dec. Spent 200.00 on making cupcakes, decorated sugar/ gingerbread cookies. cakeballs and a couple small cakes. I gave out cake balls (small ones) as samples. I sold 205.00 worth of stuff. Now the girls I worked with and local police dept had lots of freebees. I spent days prepping for this. I was very disappointed, but learned alot. Cupcakes did not sell well for me. Cake balls did well. I was hoping to have moved by this year, but my house won't sell. So I am planning on doing less decorated sugar cookies, more regular cookies: cc, snickerdoodle. More cakeballs. Maybe mini cupcakes is a good idea. I think you can only learn from each time you do it, worth trying again.

iownajane Posted 15 Oct 2008 , 5:07am
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwarren

And now my mom is insisting we do this all over again on November 1. icon_eek.gificon_cry.gif

My theory: We did so crummy last time that next time could be worse. On November 1 no one wants cute Halloween things. It's too soon for Christmas, Thanksgiving is over [Note to the Americans reading this: Thanksgiving is on October 13] and more autumn leaf cookies will bring cries of "those are from last time, they are staaaale" even if they are fresh baked. What's left to be seasonal -- poppies?! Oh yes and only plain unattractive food.

Mom's theory: We didn't do as badly as I think. If we don't do November we won't get a table in December because first choice of tables goes to the November renters. And she is having difficulty finding another place that rents tables.

sigh! This does not bode well icon_sad.gif



I would say...do Christmas..it's not too early...hopefully they'll think of ordering for Christmas...

dandelion56602 Posted 15 Oct 2008 , 6:06am

I like the cupcake idea & w/ seasonal flavor. (e.g. pumpkin cupcake w/ maple cream cheese frosting) and some plain choc & yellow for those who don't like "flavors". I also think at these type things regular brownies & cookies tend to do well.

If you have pics, why not take a picture book or a few of your work, especially Christmas? If not then make just a handful of goodies (better than a billion things to show your talent) & take photos for people to look at (w/ prices at the bottom of the pictures so you don't have to answer that dreaded ? all day). Maybe people would buy a couple of minis while browsing your photos. icon_smile.gif For cakes, could you do a dummy if you're wanting people to visualize?

I too would minimize what is on the table or what I offered & it'll save you some sanity in the meantime. Maybe bigger center & corner displays w/ some smaller things in between. Keep your head high!

projectqueen Posted 17 Oct 2008 , 8:54pm

I don't think November 1st is too soon for Christmas. The stores here already have Christmas stuff out.

Maybe display some of the items on pedestals of varying heights to attract more attention.

I also like the idea of adding mini cupcakes and some basic cookies/brownies that you could charge less for. It's easier to rationalize spending .50 or 1.00 for a quick treat than 3.00 or 4.00, IMO.

jammjenks Posted 24 Oct 2008 , 2:10pm

I wanted to respond and share what worked for us. My dh and I entered a booth into our local Apple Festival last Saturday. I had planned to have a black curtain across the back, my four display cakes on a table back there, our business name banner at the top, and a table up front where we sold individually packaged cake slices in plastic hinged containers. I had chocolate pound with choc bc, lemon pound with bc, and WASC with bc. We just kept it simple with only three basic flavors. I had a pricing sign on the front table with my cake slices and not one person stopped at my booth. DH suggested we remove the signs and the very next person stopped. We still weren't getting a lot of people looking at our displays, so dh suggested we move them to the front table and keep only 8 of each flavor up there between the displays. IT WORKED! After that, we didn't sit down again all day! I'm so glad he volunteered to help me! We ended up selling $450 worth of slices and whole bundt cakes and gave out about 700 business cards. Three people have already called me this week to place orders. I wish I had taken a picture of our set up, but by the time we got it the way we wanted it, we were too busy to take pictures.

marknelliesmum Posted 24 Oct 2008 , 6:41pm

Sorry to hear all your hard work was in vain - better luck next time!
Sorry to change the subject and please excuse my ignorance but what are snickerdoodles? I've never heard of them - not something we have over here icon_confused.gif

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