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Make-and-take projects are a valuable tool for craft retailers

The concept of the make-and-take project is simple: You invite customers to create a free craft project at your store, facilitated by your employees, and they take the project home with them. Projects can be anything from greeting cards to jewelry, bookmarks, pillows and kids' crafts, and ideally, they can be easily made in an hour or less.

Customers love the inspiration that comes from these programs. They allow participation in a craft project they may otherwise be unfamiliar with, while introducing new products that can drive sales. To choose a project for your business, look for one that can be done with products that are available in all of your stores — and ideally, online as well — so that customers can easily purchase materials to replicate the project.

Cater your programs to a wide variety of customers and provide projects suitable for all ages, keeping in mind that kids' projects tend to be the most popular. Branded or tie-in projects are a great idea for this group, so if you can create a project that relates to a popular movie, for example, all the better. Also look for co-promotions available from companies such as Disney that might have components and instructions to craft movie-related items from a kit.

Starting a winter holiday program focused on crafting ornaments is an excellent idea for any craft store, as ideally, customers will return year after year to make a new one for their collection. When planning a make-and-take project at your craft stores, work as far in advance as possible. Shipping delays can occur, especially if a product is coming from overseas, and most make-and-take projects take about six months to plan.

In addition, it is important to communicate the project very clearly to those who will be executing it. You can flawlessly plan the project, but if you do not communicate the instructions or key information to the stores and employees, it will not be a success. For best results, provide stores with images and detailed instructions to prepare them for the program. It's also important to monitor the success of the event and encourage stores to offer feedback post-event so that, good or bad, you will find out which projects are working and which may not be the best. Store team members are vital to the success of the program and offer priceless knowledge and experience that grows and shapes the program as you move forward.

The number of make-and-take projects you host each year depends on your preference and how many resources you can dedicate to it. A make-it-take-it program helps make crafting more accessible to customers and helps them find time to do what they love. Tracking the exact success of a program in increased sales can be difficult, so gauge success based on customers' enjoyment of the project. That will lead them to keep coming to your stores to be part of the program, and as long as the program engages customers, it will continue to grow.

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