Reflect & Review 2018 with a SWOT Analysis

We are rapidly approaching the beginning of the Spring/Summer 2019 season so I thought it pertinent for this next blog post to suggest ways in which you can healthily plan for 2019.

Reflection can be cathartic & allows for an honest approach to analysing the past year particularly with what worked in your business and what didn’t.

It’s a time to review past results.

Build & set objectives for the future.


What was your biggest success last year??


And where do you need to make improvements?

When I begin working with a brand or maker, no matter what size, I pretty much always suggest completing a SWOT analysis as a starting point.

It allows my client to dissect their past year’s performance (sometimes we go further back if necessary) which then gives me an insight into their business to date. Together we can analyse figures, measure & evaluate ways of working & use the outcome as a base to form a clear vision & strategy. 


What is a SWOT analysis and why is it such an important tool for you to utilise as a designer, a small brand or an independent retailer?

SWOT is an acronym so when using and referring to this tool, you phonetically say the word s-w-o-t rather than spelling out the individual letters. 

So what words do the individual letters represent?





And as a business tool, what is it primarily used for in a business?


Use it to plan, prioritise & strategise your business

It assists you in identifying potential growth, capitalising on successes & deciphering the competition & where you are in the market place. It also benefits when making improvements to past decisions that may not have been as fruitful as anticipated.

You can perform a SWOT analysis at any time in your business calendar, it will give you crucial information that you can then use to form the basis of your next strategy.

It can be a post mortem on a recent project – what worked and what didn’t - and to gather information to use to take the business forward as a whole.


You can use it as a long-term/top line Things To Do list establishing priorities for your business, creating Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

That may sound like management manual jargon to some of you, but actually in simple terms, it allows you to take time to analyse the work you are putting in to your business and anticipate growth through a little planning.

You will gain clarity with an understanding of what is generating interest and making you money, versus what isn’t working and is wasting your time.

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to look back at your highlights and lowlights of the past year.

What can you capitalise on and what can you learn from to prevent repetitive losses?

Here’s a checklist when considering each element of the SWOT:

Your Brand’s DNA – Brand identity & Brand message

Your Product Proposition & Value – how did you trade? What sales did you achieve?

Marketing – engagement & content

Customer Profile & Service - how can you further entice

Footfall/Traction - in store physical/online presence & experience

Competition & Commercial Trends - the retail Industry & your relevance

Regional Affiliates & Collaborations – other selling opportunities

Even if you have planned your full year strategy already, this tool is incredibly valuable to use to measure your progress, achievements & goals and to suggest ways in which you can improve setting objectives for the next six months to a year.

Even if you have planned your full year strategy already, this tool is incredibly valuable to use to measure your progress, achievements & goals and to suggest ways in which you can improve setting objectives for the next six months to a year.

For my 7 reasons why it’s fun to plan and how to use your SWOT analysis to form a simple strategy, go ahead & subscribe now if you havent already, to my newsletter (simply click on the subscribe now button on my Home Page)for exclusive FREE PDF worksheets where Ive even invented some examples so it’s easy for you to refer to!

If you would like me to tailor a 1 to 1 session where we will complete a SWOT analysis together and prepare a new season strategy, or if you have simply hit a wall with your business and feel this tool will help shape your immediate future, seeking new ideas and closing doors on past issues, then please contact me now to set a date at your earliest convenience.

Its never too late to plan!

Retail Fair Preparation


Choosing the right Fair for you and your product/brand

Do your homework before committing!

Be mindful when choosing the right fair based on its location and who else is doing it ie. what other brands will be there - do they sit well with what you are doing?

Do you have a similar:

  • Price point

  • USP

  • Customer Profile

Be sure to check who confirmed last year and ask for the line up as soon as you can so that you feel comfortable with the right alignment, attracting the same customer as your brand.

customer profile.jpg

Location is a really key element as it will take in the demographic of the people attending.

Is it just locals or do people travel to it? what are their buying habits?

How many people usually attend….?

It’s ok to ask all of these questions to the organisers when considering a stall. And for next year, how about getting out there and using this season to do a reccy on the ones that you might like to do and maybe were too late this year (or ask a friend that you trust if you cant make it yourself!)

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The PLAN - brand and product flow. The customer journey - whereabouts will you be situated?

Where will you be with regard to the customer entering their shopping journey? Are you near the entrance or the exit, near the loo, near a café/food near the tills – if there is one, where is the communal counter?

Who’s next to you? Will the product compliment yours and have a point of difference? Look them up so you get an idea of product adjacency.

Make sure you ask all of this before you get there – so you get a sense of what the product flow is like. This makes a huge difference to to the customer experience and level of service the organisers are ensuring the customers will get!

Your stall. Make it easy for the customer to understand your offer.

Grouping product in ranges, colour blocking or presenting in collections, so the customer can see what’s available per design.

If you have a tight space, make a mini display of a collection and then group merchandise by product, the rest of the stock by option/colour/design so the customer can choose the design they like. Ive tried both and have been successful!

Dont forget if there’s a wall behind you, ask if you can use it. If you need to hang product, use innovative ways of merchandising.

Make it easy on the eye – with a clear message – focused.

Make your ranges relevant – Christmas is all about gifting so that’s what customers will be looking for.

Consider offering small pick up items that you can make in quantity at a really good price – easy purchase, ie a stocking filler.

Put in a quirky holder or basket so there’s an element of rummage involved. Customers love to pick and choose particularly as it’s Christmas and they are thinking of multi purchasing  – for various cousins, friends, aunties.

Offer a mini promotion on these lines - buy X for £X. This always encourages a multi-purchase. These options are usually your entry price point - your lowest priced product. But you will gain more in cash £ sales whilst selling in increased unit quantity.

So, win/win!

These are also products offered to the customer who either cant afford your higher priced options or who dont want to spend a lot on one product but will purchase a few at that price! You are offering something that enables people who love what you do, to buy into your brand at a good price.

Some examples are cards, tags, note books, pins, brooches, pinch pots……quirky fun, mini versions of your core lines!


Use props!

Enhance your product, show off the lifestyle & give it a strong look!

Table dressing adds height & shape and interest to the table.

Take mini plinths and blocks, some flowers or plants to add colour and texture. Select props that you know your customer will relate to – that adds value to your product, sits with the lifestyle and doesnt devalue it.

If your product is patterned, don’t be too fussy with your props, be more minimal so the product stands out & looks striking against a simple backdrop.

Equally, if your style is plain and minimal use a pop of colour to enhance the naturals/neutral – and maybe texture as a contrast.

What about adding a table cloth, printed fabric or a runner? A natural linen or white linen for neutrals or a textural woven runner? (if using fabric make sure you run an iron over it beforehand so it looks smart!)

Or simply just use the table as is, if it’s a rustic or a modern look, depending which goes well with your product.

native makers decs stall.jpg

As it’s Xmas, use little pin lights to draw the customer in & add twinkle/sparkle. Decorate your stall to entice your customers with bright & colourful props.

Seasonal flowers, particularly hydrangeas are plump & can add a great contrasting colour to your products.

Or blend well by using eucalyptus, gnarly twigs or spikey holly for texture whichever you think best goes with your brand & reflects your customer.

Be sure to take with you: scissors, string, tape & blu tack, labels & tags, hammer & tacks.


Signage - your brand/logo.

Have something somewhere on your stall so people know who you are.

Be bold!

Add some features & benefits in your signage. It’s good to promote & highlight a little bit about your brand/work:

Handmade by…

Made from….

Made in….

Limited edition or one-offs

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Be personable.

Customers can always ask you more about your ranges. It’s great to open up a conversation, tell them more to encourage a sale.

Its a really good way of checking out what your customers think, listening to feedback!

Not everyone wants to talk – you can tell who does and who doesn’t – don’t be surprised at the prospective customer who practically runs off when you disclose some maker information! You kind of feel like they’re in the wrong place!!! so don’t take it personally!


In the main, the reason people come to an independent designer/maker fair is to seek out unique product & customer experiences and you can fulfil this by informing them of your skill & background.

Don’t be scared – they want to hear it!! Create a rapport – that will secure you the sale.


The price of each item should be clearly marked at fairs, mainly because most customers’ choices will be driven initially by the look of the product then ultimately by the price, so it’s easier if they know the price straight away so that they don’t have to ask.

React according to their body language and give them an insight into your work by chatting to gain further interest, giving the features & benefits of their prospective purchase!

Price relevance is more obvious and accepted when you educate about your processes, your inspiration & influences. Customers gain a higher understanding of your time, effort & skill that has gone into each unique piece.

How to package! Swing tags, stickers, tissue paper, ribbon – little bags – be clear how you want to present your finished product – fairs at this time of year are all about gifting – go that extra mile!

Be eco conscious too & ask customers if they would like it wrapped – no unnecessary packaging. Personally I love a tissue wrapped, branded statement in a gift but if Im buying a few small stocking fillers, it may not be necessary, and just a bag will do. Better to ask!

Allow yourself an area to wrap – a mini table/stool if there’s space. Make it comfortable for yourself so you don’t get flustered.

Have your bags, tags tissue, stickers, tape ready – add a postcard – people like to know something about you – why this is so special – marketing collateral/literature is relevant & important with your social media handles where they can find you in the future.


Your marketing collateral/literature - postcards  & business cards. Have at the ready & give out for people to take away. Its surprising how many people keep as a reference for further purchasing online in the comfort of their home post show.

What promotion will you give if they purchase from you again? Offer a post show % off code for a few days starting the day after the show ends eg Mon to Fri to encourage post show purchasing.

For data capture, run a competition! Collect business cards & e mail addresses. Confidently suggest people follow you for newsletter updates, product launches & promotions from your online shop. Collecting data allows you to build your tribe & what better way to capture than face to face with people who love your work!

Are you taking a workshop? Promote it! If you have dates, give them and/or hand out a postcard & suggest they write on the back if they are interested! Let them be THE FIRST to know.

Where will they see you again? Up coming shows you’re doing - let them know!

These are all great conversation starters and a way to engage and for them to find out more about what you can offer.

Whoever shows interest, make sure they leave with something – a postcard, a business card – a freebie – put their card in your box for the competition – something that they can keep and refer to in the future.

Allow pictures & promote your instagram yes please feel free to take pics but please tag me if you are going to use in social media & follow me on…..”

An easy way to get people to follow you & increase your brand awareness.

Take some shots at set up & get yourself out there with social media. Use stories to highlight the build-up, tagging fellow makers & make sure you tag the show’s handle to say you are there and ready to go!

Ask someone to take pics of you on your stall when you’re ready & post on your grid!


Taking card payments

It’s so easy to acquire a card reader these days!

Organise a card payment option with izettle or square! and record every sale in a note book so you can refer to what sold later.

Dont forget a float! £50 - £100 in change £10s, £5 £1s and any other change if you think you will need it according to your price points.

Have a little money box or bum bag for safety.

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And finally, what to wear? Wear what you’re comfortable in, but make a little effort! YOU ARE YOUR BRAND - you are who is representing your creativity and product to your customer!

Be confident, enjoy and GO GET ‘EM!!!

Ruth xx

Fairs I’ll be going to this year are: Charleston Frost, Made Brighton, Lewes Artists & Makers, Selvedge and Department - The Craft Fox

Other ones of interest I follow who always have an interesting list of makers Renegade, Native Makers, Paperdolls