A question that we have heard often from those about to do their first craft show is how much inventory should I bring to the show. Our best advice is generally, if you can carry it bring everything that you have. In actuality the answer can be quite complex, because the underlying question is "how much do I need?".
How much do you need? This depends on the type of show that you are doing and the length of the show. A week long show at a mall or a week long festival is going to require you to bring much more than an afternoon church show. Many work for months to have inventory to make a week long show worth while. The answer to it all lies in the end of that last statement - "to make the show worthwhile". One of the questions that you must answer for yourself is how much do I need to sell for me to be satisfied at the conclusion of the show. If the show costs you $300 to enter, will you be satisfied if you sell $1000 total at the show? Would you be satisfied at $600 - doubling the show's entrance fee (which is quite a common occurrence if the show is good)? Now with that magic number in mind - the amount that you would be happy to make at the show - how many pieces do you have to sell to make that figure. If your average priced item is $10, you will need 100 items to make $1,000 - and it is highly unlikely that all of your items will sell - not everyone likes everything - so some of those 100 items will remain unsold - so perhaps a more realistic inventory for your $1000 goal is going to be 200 items. Also, the more variety that you have to choose from the more opportunity you will have to make a sale. Bottom Line - If you expect to make a certain amount of money at the show, you must have items to sell that will bring that amount in sales.
After you have been doing shows for a while you begin to know just how many of a certain item will sell at a show. We try to go into a show with at least six of each of the popular characters of Ma Bears (tm)(c) that we sell. Generally, this will cover us at a one or two day show. Other things we will make throughout the year and keep inventory up - just so that when we have a show we don't go into last minute panic making things.
A large folk festival in Pennsylvania lasts a week and features a lot of high quality craftspeople. One of the things that they have said to prospective applicants is to make sure you have enough inventory to bring to the show because many first timers have no idea how much they will really need - and most bring too little.
We did a mall show that ran a week and worked throughout the show making things at the show just to keep up with sales - some items were sold as they were coming off the sewing machine in our booth. We went into the show with a large inventory and it was not enough. Then again, we have been at shows where no one sells a thing.
So, the best advice is if you have it, bring it. Don't put it all out at once and crowd your display. Fill in as things are sold - but here is another tip - always make sure there are some empty spaces. Make it look like your items are selling. Don't give the customers the impression that if they walk away they can come back in an hour and know that an item will still be there.