Posted by Dave Wolff on Nov 29, 2011 in Blog, Business, Education and Training, Entrepreneurship
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As a flea market owner, my expertise is running the entire operation, rather than selling the merchandise. However, interacting with both sellers and customers for over 20 years has given me a unique perspective on what makes a successful flea market vendor. Below are 12 Tips for Becoming a Successful Flea Market Vendor.
1. Attractive display It’s hard to sell items if customers don’t look at your merchandise. If they don’t see it, you don’t sell it! An attractive display does not necessarily mean that it should be an organized, professional or expensive display. In my opinion it depends on the merchandise and/or your strategy. I’ve seen both ways work very effectively. The important thing is to get customers to look at your merchandise. I’ve seen vendors who sell estate or “storage war” merchandise simply put random boxes on the ground with some intriguing or eye catching merchandise on the top. These vendors quickly attract dozens of customers trolling through their merchandise in hopes of snagging the ultimate flea market find in a haphazard collection. Conversely, I’ve seen pristine, neat displays that hid merchandise in a way that no one could easily see it or interact with it and thus not purchase it. Please note that if you sell certain high-end items or food, I would definitely make my display clean and organized.
2. Your “seller’s personality” Don’t scare away customers. You need to balance your sellers’ persona between passive and aggressive. If you are too loud and pushy in your sales techniques, you could drive customers away. On the other hand, if someone seems interested in an item but starts to walk away, there is no harm in trying to save the sale. If you have room in the price, maybe you can get them back by offering them a better price. Or maybe you can add an interesting tidbit about the item or point out a similar product?
3. Be nice You want your patrons to like you. This seems like a no brainer, but one that many vendors ignore. Be friendly; engage customers in conversations on subjects that have nothing to do with your merchandise. If someone is wearing a Cubs jersey, start talking about the Cubs. I have often been suckered into buying merchandise simply because I liked the vendor and felt awkward leaving without making a purchase. If you get a nasty customer, avoid arguments. As a flea market owner, I have occasionally asked vendors with repeated customer relation issues to leave.
4. Change your display The same display is a boring display, so shake it up a little! We operate an outdoor market in the parking lot of an indoor arena. Years ago, once a season, we shared the lot with a carnival. On those days we needed to reconfigure the market and move the location of the assigned regular spaces. Many reserved vendors told me they sold merchandise that they were never able to move. My theory is that customers who were used to seeing the same merchandise in the same space were now viewing the items from a different perspective, as if they had never seen it before. This lesson can be extrapolated to your normal display; move things around, change things up. Customers will discover merchandise that you always have had out if you rotate the location, placing different items at floor level, eye level, etc. To me this is one of the common elements to all of the successful vendors I have seen over the years.
5. Change your merchandise Consistently give your customer something different to purchase. It is amazing how many first-time vendors who come to our market have incredible days. Their second and third day is pretty good too. By the fourth day, their sales slow down. They then tell me how good the market use to be, but is now not so good. I ask them, have you purchased any new merchandise? I actually don’t have to ask the question, because I know the answer. Their stock of good merchandise is gone. The successful vendor is not only restocking base merchandise, but also constantly trying new offerings.
6. Know what your customers want Many successful vendors know what their customers want. One of my vendors sells food products. He knows I love a certain cheese wafer. He knows that when he is purchasing his stock if he sees this product he has a large sale because I will buy his entire stock of this item. Many collectible dealers know what their regular customers collect. If they are out purchasing their merchandise, they keep this in mind and pick up items they can sell to these customers
7. Price reasonably Don’t try and be greedy. It is much better to sell 500 items at a $1 profit than 100 items at a $2 profit. This rule would apply to merchandise you can easily replenish. In general more successful vendors have more attractive prices and are constantly replenishing their stock. If an item isn’t moving, lower the price even if you are going to take a loss. It doesn’t make sense to keep it around taking up valuable sales space.
8. Watch other successful vendors It is easy to spot the successful vendor. They are the ones who always have a large crowd around their booth. Take the time to watch them. There is no better place to learn successful techniques.
9. Find a good product and become an expert Know your stuff. You could be the best salesperson in the world, but if you are selling a product that is not desirable, you will not do well. You also have to have enough products to make it worth you while. I’ve come across vendors who have not had enough merchandise on their table to pay their rent. Know your product. Become an expert. If you can extol the benefits of your merchandise you will sell more.
10. A bad weather day can be your friend Believe it or not–a thunderstorm can be help your sales. This advice is for vendors who sell at outdoor flea markets. Many sellers have told me they have their best sales days when the weather is not the best. Why? If it is raining in the morning, many vendors choose to stay at home. The professional vendors will still set up because they know that when the weather breaks, the customers will start to flow in. The vendors who are still there will enjoy much less competition for these customers’ dollars. The customers who do come out on these days are usually the die-hards who like spending their money.
11. Social media Join the social media band wagon. If the flea market that you are attending is involved in social media, make full use of their facebook, twitter and other relevant sites to offer your own discounts, coupons and also to promote your merchandise. What’s best about this is that your posts and interactions are free advertising for you and the market! Many markets have hundreds if not thousands of regular customers who follower their media sites. If the market you attend does not use social media, encourage them to enter the 21st century.
12. Free advertising Nothing beats free publicity. One of the top online sites to get free advertising is Craigslist. If you have a particular item for sale, you may find that no one attending the market seems to be interested in it. Why not expand your reach to the multitude of people visiting Craigslist? These people search Craigslist specifically for your type of item. Simply take a picture, add a description and price and list the address and hours of the flea market you are attending. If you mention your ad to market managers, they may even allow you to add a free admission coupon to your listing.
Most of these helpful business tips can be transferred to other ventures. Many successful vendors have eventually gone on to open thriving retail operations.