Flea Market Success Tips from the Pros

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs have turned to flea markets to grow and expand their business in the past several years; especially merchants who specialize in hand crafted items. A great example of this is the explosive growth of the waterfront flea market in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. So with the increased interest in selling at flea markets and the thousands of shoppers these events attract, we asked some flea market sales veterans for their tips that they could offer to new merchants just starting out from set-up to maximizing profits. Here’s what they had to say:

Sondra Dankel suggests that beginners find a flea market that invests in advertising for their events, from newspapers, posters, and even online. Dankel says “Know what people are looking for in today’s market; when it comes to jewelry, are they looking for silver or gold or are cameos popular?” She also emphasizes that good presentation is key, and to be sure the items are cleaned up a bit if they’re dirty but in good condition. “Display the items that you really want to sell in the nicest way, for example, if you are selling a dish set, take some dishes out of the box and arrange them as you would on a dinner table.” “If items you’re selling are old, know some history about them such as when they were used, in what manner or where. Just be courteous and informative.” Dankel emphasizes that being honest with shoppers is the best policy and to always be prepared with plenty of bags and perhaps even tissue/newspaper to wrap items that sell.

Barbara Howell owns a company called Southern Ladies Showcases and has been selling at flea markets for 20 years, including the Nashville Flea Market, Louisville, KY Expo Center Monthly and Tupelo Flea Markets among others in the south. She became very successful, even to the point of having several distributors for her product and customers all over the world and in 2009 she published a book about her life and travels on the circuit, “Splinters” the Pain, The Passion, The Point.” Barbara makes custom display cases for a variety of collectibles. “One of the biggest “obstacles” in being able to set up a good booth in a Flea Market IS to be able to get all of your product in the booth displayed in such a way that customers could easily see what you offer while at the same time having room to browse.” “On average the display cases themselves are about 20″ x 28″ so rather than using a lot of tables, I would often simply stack the product in ‘walls’ allowing me to save space, keep the booth from looking crowded and at the same time.” Howell suggests keeping your space simple and clean. “Over the years one of the biggest shopping habits I observed of customers was if the booth looked to crowded or hard to get into, they would simply keep walking regardless of the product itself.” Howell says, “To have something that would stay neat and organized and yet also fight for it’s rightful place among the other booths vying for attention, I would often “go up,” rather than purchasing multiple booths and spreading the product out, I found it would actually attract more attention if stacks were higher and the booth was taller over all.” To check out details on Barbara’s book, click here: http://www.splintersbook.com

Derrick Hayes sells his framed poetry and books and participates in Market Days, a Saturday market located downtown Columbus, GA each year. Hayes suggests to sell the experience; “My experience is based on originality. The items I sell can only be purchased from me. I sell my poems in frames and also give customers personalized ‘Derricknym’ cards where I turn their name into a positive message right before their eyes.” When it comes to attracting people to your booth, Hayes says you need to engage your customers in some humorous small talk, “I always talk to people and ask them questions as they walk by. I realize there is not much time and they can easily move to another booth. The key is to get them to at least look and see what you have to offer. My top question that makes the laugh is “Have you ever met Derrick Hayes?” Hayes says if you’re just starting out, “visit different flea markets and see which ones fit the items you’re trying to sell and talk to vendors about opportunities at other markets and events.” “Don’t quit after the first time, learn what works and get better at it.” You can check out Derrick Hayes’ site at http://www.DerrickHayes.com.

Brooke Haramija says she’s been enjoying the unique magic that flea markets and yard sales bring since she was a child. Having been both a shopper and seller, she offers some easy and effective selling techniques that have worked for her over the years:

  • “Make your table colorful! Brightly colored price signs or a rich, solid tablecloth really spruces things up and makes your items look newer and more sellable. It will catch people’s eyes as they come by.”
  • “Add height to your table. Upside down crates, bins or staggered shelving gives you a place to “display” more special items on your table. Bins or boxes that you carry the items in can be inverted and/or used as extra “tables” in a pinch in front of or to the side of the original table. As long as people have a clear path to get to the table to pick up items, get creative!”
  • “Bargaining is a part of every flea market. Expect people to offer you less than what is listed on the sticker. Come to a happy medium, and be realistic. If that means you want to start by listing a slightly higher price in the beginning, then do that. Most items will sell for less than they are worth at a yard sale or flea market. Don’t list prices that are too high, though, or people may not even inquire.”
  • “Smile! Above all, your selling attitude goes a long way. Be upbeat, helpful and energetic. The more accommodating and personable you are, the more likely people will stick around longer and buy stuff.”