Monday, February 29, 2016

My Top 10 Obvious Tips For Selling at Local Markets That You Didn't Think Of

Last year I had my most successful local market showings to date, getting out in public with my wares paid my bills during a tricky transition from reseller to freelancer- AND it was fun, too! No matter what you do, local markets and/or conventions are an incredible way not only to make profit but to get your brand out into your community and make lasting friends and connections. My first solo showing for my new organic body care brand will be March 2 at the Jacksonville Landing and I've been hard at work behind-the-scenes combing over everything with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it's profitable and runs smoothly. I thought I'd share my Top 10 Obvious Tip for Selling At Local Markets here for anyone else who's getting out there for Spring! Why "obvious"? Because as experienced market-goers know, there are so many little "obvious" things you'll have forgotten once you get there! It happens, especially early on! Luckily, it gets easier every time.

1) Start Preparing at Least a Month Ahead of Time

Everything takes longer than you expect! Yesterday I labeled merchandise for over 10 hours! There are so many extra things to worry about that will pop up to accomplish that you can't anticipate. Get as much as possible finished way ahead of time so you can sleep and be rested for the busy market day.

2) Bring help! 

If you can, have 1 or 2 people to help you set up at the least. It's better to do a market with at least one other person in case it gets busy in case you need cashier back-up or a bathroom break. If you have to do it alone, it's certainly doable, and your fellow vendors will always watch you wares in your brief absences.

3) Photograph the entire process for whatever you're making

A lot of markets want proof that what you're making is actually locally and/or handmade, especially now that it's easier than ever to simply order things from overseas and claim it as your own.

4) List ALL of your ingredients on your labels

I've had to go back and re-create labels for myself AND for clients because different markets or stores didn't want to see "a proprietary blend of", they wanted every single ingredient listed out. And that makes sense because people need to know exactly what's in their products to prevent allergies.

5) Make a Check-List and Check it Twice

Make a detailed checklist of every single thing you could need. Leave nothing to chance. Then go through it and check to make sure you have everything packed and ready to go the night before (or further ahead of time if you'd like). Don't leave anything to chance, think of everything you need (like say, electricity) and call ahead to make sure you'll have access to it. Just a few obvious things people often forget include: water, food, more than enough change...

6) Take Weather Into Account

Have all of your signs, table cloths and products well bolted down in case of wind. Watch your breakables, think up ways to have them in boxes or other ways to keep them safe. Consider side-flaps for your tent for rain or, of course, canceling for inclement weather. Have ropes, weights, and back-up twine, scissors and tape handy in an organized market tackle box.

7) Look up the parking situation and call about rules ahead of time

Many markets don't provide assigned parking and some may not even have convenient bathroom access! Call ahead to ensure these seemingly "obvious" things are provided.

8) Consider rolling carts

These can be a life-saver, especially if you're setting up alone and/or have a long walk to your car. You're going to be tired after the market, every little energy and time saver you can incorporate is a huge help.

9) Make everything easy to break down and light-weight

Think twice about brining hard to set-up and/or heavy items. Do you want to lug it to your car, then back to your house? Can you lug it? Time is money, make set-up easy.

10) Have an Organized Way to Roll In and Out

Have all of your merchandise and supplies EXTREMELY organized! Invest in good sturdy boxes of the right sizes so your merchandise doesn't rattle too much, bring lots of bubble wrap for breakables if needed.

I hope sharing these "obvious" blunders will help you if you choose to set up at local markets soon. I had to learn a lot of this the painful way and I'm sharing so you don't have to! An easy market arrival and break-down is such a wonderful thing because markets are a lot of fun and can be extremely profitable if done right!

I'm sure I left things out! I'd love it if you market pros shared your tips in the comments. What do you do to prepare?
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  1. Great post, Van! I've never even DONE a market before...I only shop at them! Great to see a "behind the scenes" of these events. It does seem like a lot of work but with many rewards too :)

    1. It is a LOT of work :O Always more than you could expect for every little detail, but extremely fun and rewarding, too. I love shopping markets, too, I nearly always buy and/or trade with my neighbors wherever I set up. :D

  2. Nice list - we used to do homemade jewelry back in the day, could've used more tips like this. I'm gonna second having something with wheels to transport goods and boxes especially if you don't have helpers - foldable luggage carts can work well

    1. I didn't think to use the carry-on luggage carts, that's brilliant and it's what we'll do on Wednesday. I was going to use my flea market cart but the luggage is more secure. I think it was serendipitous that JoAnn's didn't have one of their rolling craft carts because now we're using what we have and saving money. Always helpful.

  3. I just signed up for a new market in June after enjoying my first experiences last summer with flea markets and local festivals. I really enjoyed your post and as always love hearing your Point of view and tips and tricks for reselling! I definitely need to invest in sturdy boxes/reusable ones.

    1. I used to be a supreme cheapskate with market set-ups (note my homemade "team awesome" sign from my first art market, haha) but now I know how important is to invest for easy set-up. I've chased down too many blown away stuff and had lots of long-ass set-ups and break-downs, haha. The next posts will be about tips and tricks for successful sales. Good luck with your local markets, they're really fun :)

  4. Good list, I am a big procrastinator, but I should prepare much more time in advance! After my first show, I made a small bag with tools and supplies that come in handy, like scissors, tape, clothespins, a pen and other knick-knacks like that. I keep all of that stuff together for the next show, so I don't need to gather everythign again, and possibly forgetting some of the stuff :-)

    1. Yep, having a little supply bag is so handy! I've done more than one market where I forget scissors but have the twine and have to find some creative solution for cutting it! Ha~ :) I'm going to keep my supply tacklebox handy, too. Clothespins are super helpful. I, too, procrastinate but we're keeping better every time.

  5.'re so right about the time it takes to label and price items! Since I mainly sell online, I don't have to have everything individually priced. But at shows, everything has to be priced. It can take hours!
    I have done a handful of outdoor shows and will only do indoor shows now. There is too much to chance with the weather!

    1. The behind-the-scenes labor for markets is intense. Pricing, buying market supplies, staging before the market, packing, unpacking, re-packing, haha. I LOVE the ease of online but markets can be a fun way to connect with others, too. I'm doing small consumables vs. vintage now. I don't think I'd like to do big wares like you did, that's a lot to carry!

  6. Since my main business is my fabric store I don't sell at markets, but if I ever expand my handmade lines I will keep your advice in mind :) I'm sure you still have tons to do before your next market. The very best of luck!!

    1. I do, aah! It never lets up! But luckily I got most of it done. Even prepping ahead of time I only got 4 hours of sleep :P

  7. I don't set up to sell but I do set up to promote my faire. The biggest mistake I make is rushing super fast to tear down and get home and shoving things into random bags and boxes so the next time I have to set up everything is all jacked up and mixed up. I've got to do better but it's always so HOT at our festivals and I'm usually in costume and all I want is hurry and get home to take a shower and have cold beer.

    1. I feel you on the swift pack-up, I used to do the same thing. This last market I used lots of a little boxes with rolling luggage cases and it was much more organized. I want to take it to the next level and use labels with pictures to make it easier on my helpers.

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