WIDER The BCTF Guide to Success


So, you want to sell your products to the trade.

(If you’re not sure why this is a good idea, go back and read this page.)

Okay, the first step is to book a stand at a trade show – the right trade show!

(If you’re not sure BCTF is the right show, go back and read this page).

But it’s all a bit scary. You’re investing money in your career, and you’re hoping for success. Will you find it, or will it all be just a big waste of time and money? You need help, and we’re here to provide it.

Guaranteed success?

Wouldn’t that be nice? But no, that’s not what we’re offering. This is business. There’s lots of sellers and lots of buyers out there and who buys what from whom is beyond our control. But over the years we’ve seen too many promising young artists become discouraged and give up when they didn’t meet with instant success. That’s bad for them and bad for the British craft industry as a whole.

Often, these makers made fundamental mistakes that were avoidable, if only they’d known how.

That’s why we developed our Business Mentoring Programme. Our aim is to help ensure that you are fully prepared for your first BCTF. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explain what we can … and can’t… do to help you.



We won’t allocate you a stand unless we think you’re right for BCTF and BCTF is the right show for you.



BCTF is a curated fair. That means we don’t just sell stands to anyone. First, exhibitors must meet our criteria. British – Handmade – Quality. But even if you meet those criteria, we won’t sell you a stand if we don’t think we have the buyers for your products.

Our aim is to match the right sort of sellers with the right sort of buyers. Both groups have expectations and we try our hardest to satisfy both.

When we allocate you a stand, it’s a vote of confidence in your product. We like what you make, and we think our buyers will too. But it’s not a guarantee! No-one can guarantee you success, and if they say they can, they’re most likely lying!


We will give you all the help and advice you need via our Business Mentoring Programme.

No, we’re not going to hook you up with an experienced maker who can help you make better products – that’s not our remit. Our programme is a BUSINESS mentoring programme. It will help you run your business by teaching you what the trade expects and raising your level of BUSINESS professionalism.

Who’s doing the mentoring?

We call it a mentoring programme to stress the interpersonal nature of the arrangement. We will supply you with written information and audios you can listen to, and we’ll offer you subsidised prices, but the most valuable aspect of the programme is your chance to ask an expert. That expert is Margeret Bunn.

Margeret has been running BCTF for 26 years. Before that she ran retail craft fairs. She has dealt with literally thousands upon thousands of makers and received feedback from countless buyers. Few people in this country have a better understanding of the craft trade than Margeret.

Your first contact with Margeret is likely to be when you register and express an interest in exhibiting at a future BCTF. Margeret will visit your website and check out your products. Then she’ll call you to find out more about you and offer advice and information. This call can last five minutes or an hour – it’s up to you. You’re speaking with an expert. May as well find out all you can.

But your access to Margeret’s help and advice doesn’t end there. Once you’ve booked a stand you’ll be given a link to your own personal online dashboard. Your dashboard will give you lots of information you’ll need – order forms for lighting and power, copies of your invoices and lots more. In particular, you’ll want to listen to the short audios Margeret has taped giving advice on Stand Display, Setting your Prices and several other topics.

At this point you’ll probably have several questions relating to your own specific products. Fine, just call and ask us.

It’s all part of the service!


We will subsidise the cost of your stands for up to three years.

We have special sections for young and inexperienced makers that offer several advantages, not the least of which is saving you money!

The Newcomers Gallery

This is for makers who have been in business for less than two years and have never done a trade show before.


This section is for makers who exhibited in the Newcomers Gallery last year – it’s a sort of Step 2 – Moving on Up place. You can also exhibit here if you are relatively inexperienced (less than three years) but you’ve done one trade show before.

The Main Hall

In your third appearance at BCTF you will be given a stand in the main hall, but you will receive a subsidised price.


We will seek feedback from you after each show and help you work out how to improve your offering.

After each BCTF we will send you a questionnaire.

The primary purpose of this questionnaire is to help you think about your performance objectively – did you get everything right? Or were there areas where you could have done better?

  • Were your prices right?
  • Did you choose the right pieces from your range to display?
  • Did you present yourself well and were you comfortable talking with buyers?

…and so on.

It’s tempting (and lots of first-timers give in to the temptation) to simply blame a disappointing result on someone else:

It was the buyers! they didn’t appreciate the brilliance of my work!

It was BCTF’s fault. They didn’t get enough buyers to the show.

But simply blaming other people will blind you to an important fact – YOU have the power to change things!

  • Develop your products in line with feedback you received at the show.
  • Adjust your prices.
  • Improve your display.
  • Take the time to collect contact details from people who show interest but don’t buy on this occasion.

If you don’t recognise areas where you are weak, you won’t make the effort to improve!

If you do recognise weaknesses, talk to us about them and we’ll help where we can.



Manage your expectations.

For most makers, establishing themselves with the trade is a gradual process.

For most people, it doesn’t happen overnight. There are always some first-timers who meet with huge success at their first show, but for most, it takes longer. Some buyers won’t buy from you the first time they see your work, no matter how much they like it! They are wary of dealing with someone new who might not be professional enough. You tell them you can deliver in twelve weeks – but can you? You promise the work they will receive will be the same quality as the pieces you displayed at the fair – but will they? Or will you take their deposit and go out of business next week? You can see their point, can’t you?

It’s reassuring, therefore, when they see you at next year’s fair. You’re still in business and presumably others have bought from you and haven’t chased you out of town. Okay then, time to take a chance on you.

The reality for most makers is that it takes three years to become fully established. That doesn’t mean you take your first order in year three! It means your business grows gradually until, three years in, your name and your face is known in the trade and you have a stable of suppliers who keep you busy. Until you reach this happy state, you may need to continue doing some retail fairs, but gradually you will transition from one stream to the other.

Deciding whether this is the right choice for you is tricky. We’re happy to help. call us on 01444 246 446 or email


Get the fundamentals right – Product, Price and Presentation (the three P’s).

If you’re like most first-timers, you won’t get these things completely right at your first trade show. But if you pay attention, you’ll get something extremely valuable from the experience. Feedback!

When you’re talking with buyers, remember to listen too. A buyer who tells you why he won’t buy a product is telling you what you need to do to get his business. Is he concerned that the price is too high? Are your pieces too big? Is your range not wide enough?

Buyer know their market. They are experts.


Stick with it and keep improving your offering

Like any other artist, your portfolio of products will change across the years.

Fashions change, even int he most traditional crafts, and you need to change with them.

something, something, something.



Work with us.

We don’t mind if a new maker contacts us a dozen times before a show. Aren’t we busy? Of course we are, but helping you succeed is our business.

Don’t sit and sweat worrying whether you’re doing something right. Ask us.