Top Tips for Flea Market Success
As lots of people prepare for a more active summer, flea markets and other similar sales venues will be very active, and may be a great place to expand your retail business and gain new experience.
In recent years, the flea market audience has changed considerably. This report conducted by researchers from Hofstra and the University of Michigan reveals broad demographics, and a keen loyalty to the niche on the part of consumers that may surprise you.
Whether you’ve been to a flea market before or are just getting started with your resale business, there are a few things you can do to ensure you make the best decisions and make the biggest impact with your flea market booth, maximizing your flea market success!
Pre Sale Preparations
- Find the market where you’d like to sell. Flea markets seeking out vendors usually advertise on Facebook, Reddit, Craigslist, local newspapers, and via online venues such as news station chat boards. Check these out to find a market in your area, or ask friends about the markets they like to shop.
- Observe and take notes. Scout the market you’re considering for your booth and look at the population, the products being sold and their prices. Note any trends that you identify.
- Note other vendor’s prices. Your prices always should be close to or ideally below the prices of your competitors, especially if there are many of you selling the same types of items at the same flea market.
- Depending on your city, county, and state requirements, you may need a tax ID number or resale license. The flea market office can usually tell you what you’ll need, and many have the paperwork available onsite.
- Try to reserve a booth as close to the entrance as you can. This will ensure that buyers entering and leaving the flea market will see your booth first, and then again as they prepare to leave. The more visibility you have, the better!
- Invest in a pop up shelter, as well as some good folding tables and folding chairs. Make sure you have some anchors (such as 2 ½ gallon buckets full of sandbags or cement) that you can use to hold your shelter down if the wind picks up. Tables should be clean, or have some table cloths (preferably solid colored) to cover them with. Presentation is very important to buyers and will help increase sales.
- Setting up a canopy will not only give your space a professional store-like appearance, it will also give you protection from the hot sun or rain. After setting up your tables, arrange your merchandise in an organized manner. Remember, a junked-up messy area can take away from the value of some items. It can also cause people to start tripping all over the place.
- If you need electricity, bring extension cords! Most flea markets have power outlets available, but they are not necessarily going to be near your booth. You can often hook up to one of your neighbors’ power supply if you bring your own extension cord.
- If the flea market doesn’t specify a setup time, get there early. You want to have everything ready to sell when the customers arrive, and they will arrive the moment the flea market opens.
- Make up a cash box ahead of time with plenty of change, and note down the total amount so that when you can take out the day’s receipts, the box is ready for next time. At the booth, keep the cash box close by and out of sight.
- Use a tote bag to assemble a kit of things you’ll need such as tools, marking pens and tags, tape, paper towels, etc. Leave the kit packed and ready to go each time. This saves time on sale day and helps ensure you don’t forget anything.
- Be prepared with the following: pens, pencils, markets, a notebook, price stickers or tags, extension cord, bungee cords, zipties or Velcro straps, safety pins, shopping bags for customers, wet wipes or hand sanitizer, tape, scissors, calculator, business cards, sunscreen, bug spray, aspirin/ibuprofen, a small cooler with water.
- Make and bring change! Make sure you have all kinds of coins (especially quarters) and small bills. Many people are likely to show up with $20 bills, and you need to make sure you don’t run out of change in 3 or 4 transactions.
- Know your audience. Know the demographic and cater to them by placing attractive items to that demographic at the front of your booth.
- Keep track of accounts and customer records. A simple notebook to write down your sales may be enough at first, but it is much easier to keep track of sales and inventory with proper software such as Intuit as well as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) softwares. A CRM would allow you to collect your customers’ data (such as email address, phone number or even home address) so you can then market to them outside of flea market opening times.
- Keep inventory records. Make sure you know how much you bought of something, how fast you sold it and what your profitability was. This will allow you to make faster and more educated purchasing decisions down the line, and you’ll be able to pull up sales information for an item quickly and easily.
- Take advantage of technology and tools. If you only accept cash or check payments, consider accepting debit and credit card payments. This will make it easier to close sales with customers who may not be carrying enough money in cash. People are carrying less and less of it these days, especially after COVID-19.
- Essentially, accepting debit and credit cards can increase your profits. These days, you can purchase a small adapter to turn your smartphone into a credit card processing terminal. PayPal and Square both offer them free. You can also consider setting your business up with CashApp and Venmo accounts, services which are especially popular with Gen X and Millennials.
- Price it right. Starting out at a lower price is often the way to go. Calculate what you need to get for an item based on your purchase cost for it, the price of your gas and your stall rental. General retail markups for lower priced products is 40% to 50%. Mark your items up 30% to 35%. Remember, you are trying to get a feel for the markets and your products. When you determine which items sell and which don’t, you can adjust your prices accordingly. If you raise prices, remember to do it gradually – never spike a price.
- Make sure you price all of your items visibly. When customers see no prices, they assume the price is high. Many will walk past you, afraid to ask for fear of having to then tell you, no, thanks.
- Favor volume over profit margins. It’s more profitable in the long-run to move your inventory quickly, make money for the next load and keep bringing in fresh inventory. If customers see the same stuff over and over that hasn’t sold, it lowers the perceived value of the merchandise.
- Offer volume discounts when possible. Offer combination deals like 4 for $20 instead of 1 for $7.
- Do not “hold” any merchandise unless it is paid for. People who ask you to hold something for them rarely come back, and you have lost out on a potential sale by taking the item off of your table.
Product and Inventory Considerations
- Be strategic with inventory selection. Don’t be afraid to diversify. If you’ve been selling candles successfully, consider adding candle lamps to your inventory for example.
- Sample new merchandise. While there’s nothing wrong with sticking to what works for you, place small sample orders with wholesalers to test out different types of products and see if you can build a regular customer base for a new product line.
- Start with at least two pallets of merchandise for variety. If you buy just one to fill up an entire flea market stand, chances are your stand will be bare and won’t attract much attention. The contents of two pallets usually make a much better visual impact and stop customers as they walk by.
- Look for merchandise all the time. Variety, fresh inventory and staying informed on what customers are looking for is the best way to stay ahead of the competition.
- Add holiday/seasonal items to your inventory early enough in the season, so you catch the early holiday shoppers who are looking to save money on gifts and decorations.
- Always be on the lookout for good deals on all kinds of wholesale products. While there may be a product category that sells best for you, don’t turn down an amazing deal just because you’re not familiar with the merchandise. Do some research, get familiar with it and give it a try. You never know what new customer base you will build for a product you’d never considered selling!