Monday, February 6, 2012

How to sell at the markets

For a little over two years now I have been getting up early, loading the old family wagon with vintage treasures and heading out to set up shop at weekend markets.  I often have people asking me how they can get involved and become a store holder too.  It takes a little bit of organising and effort but is absolutely worth it for all the fantastic, like minded people you meet, plus it’s a great way to make a little extra cash.  So for those of you who are interested in giving it a shot, here’s what you need to do… 

Figure out what you’re selling 
Do you have an eye for beautiful vintage dresses?  Are you the master of making crafty delights?    Can you bake the most delicious cupcakes the world has ever seen?  You need to decide what your product is.  For me it has always been vintage clothing.  In summer I like to fill my racks full of bright little dresses and sweet blouses, in winter I’ll sell warm coats, vintage fur hats and cosy cardigans.  I know what style I like and I usually stick to it so that my regular customers (yes even at markets you get regulars) always know what to expect.

Find the appropriate market
Okay so you have your product all ready to go and now you need to figure out the best place to sell it.  If you’re selling vintage then vintage/ antique specific markets are always a good place to start because customers come looking specifically items.  If crafting is your thing then starting at a craft specific market is a probably best.  The hardest part in the beginning is actually getting a foot in the door.  Make use of the internet!  If you live in New Zealand the Event Finder is a very useful tool.  Search for ‘markets’ and find something that catches your interest.  There will almost always be the contact details of the organiser at the bottom of the page.  Give them a call, explain what you’re selling and tell them that you would like a stall.  An alternative is to actually go to the markets.  Once you’re there you can easily hunt down the organiser and have a chat to them face to face.  They will more than likely be thrilled to have a fresh faced seller at their market.

Important things to ask the organiser
The more you do the markets, the more you will realise that you want to ask some key questions before you set up shop.
1. What are the stall rates?  For regular rates around Auckland you will usually be paying $25 - $30.  For a speciality market you can pay anything up to a couple of hundred dollars.  You need to think about how much you are willing to shell out for a space before it starts messing with your profit!
2. Is there nearby parking?  There is NOTHING more frustrating than having to lug all your things half way across town in order to set up.  For a long time I did a market that was situated in a bar and while it was a really cute little set up, everything had to be carried down a pedestrian street, up two flights of stairs and then you had to go and park your car in a car park building down the road.  By the time you’ve set up you’re already exhausted!
3. Is the market held inside or outside?  Inside markets are usually held in halls and community centres which is great although you generally get less space.  Outside markets on the other hand really require you to have a gazebo or some form of cover.  You need to be prepared for sun, rain, hail and wind!  I don’t know how many markets I have done outside where my clothes end up hanging on the rack dripping wet, or even worse have been blown half way down the street!
4. How big is a stall space?  You need to know how much to bring right!  For outside spaces the general size is 3x3m (in other words the size of a regular gazebo).  If you’re inside you will often only get the size of a treacle table which means getting clever about how you fit everything into a small space.

Tools of the trade
Regardless of what it is you are selling there are some essential things you will need.
Treacle table – these are the tables with the legs that fold down.  You can get them from most big hardware stores.
Racks – if you are selling clothing then racks are important.  And just a note of caution, those cheap ones that you assemble yourself are absolute rubbish.  It really is worth jumping online and bidding for a quality one.
Money box – you want to keep your hard earned cash safe so find a clever storage space.  Alternately you could pop it into a bum bag (fanny pack if you’re American).
Money – you need to give people change if they buy something so keep some money aside for this.   I don’t want to deal with coins so I always price everything in multiples of  $5 and $10.
Price tags – I personally think that it’s important to put prices on your items before hand.  Nothing turns me off a stall more than when I have to enquire about the cost of everything.
Extras – You want to make your stall look great to catch the eye of potential customers.  Come up with your own clever way of decorating your stall to make it look pretty!  This is actually the most fun part.  I like to use a nice piece of fabric as a table cloth, have beautiful matching wooden clothes hangers and use old suitcases to display accessories.

Extra tips and advice 
- Arrive nice and early so that you have plenty of time to set up, plus there are always enthusiastic early customers who are looking to snap up the bargains.

- Smile and be chatty!  Don’t sit at your stall looking bored (even if you are having a particularly slow day), you don’t want your customers to know that.  Plus you’ll be amazed at the amount of interesting people there are to meet.
- Chat with fellow store holders.  One of my favourite things about the markets is the time I get to chat with other regulars.  They are a fantastic source of advice too and will often tell you about other great markets that they have heard of.
- Don’t pack up early.  It really is important that you stick around until closing time.  Firstly it’s just bad form to get out early and the organiser most likely won’t be inviting you back, and secondly you often make the best sales towards the end when they late comers drift in.
- Take some food and drink.  Unless you have somebody helping you, it can be hard to nip away so have something to keep you going.
- Spread the word.  Let everybody know that you are going to have a stall.  Organisers will often do some advertising but in the end it’s up to the stall holders too.  Let me tell you there is nothing more depressing than putting all this effort in and then having nobody show up!

So there you have it.  Good luck to you!  Get in there and just fun, that’s what the markets are really all about.  Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.
P.S Blogger has really been playing up today so if you notice anything strange in this post (especially with the images) please could you let me know?  Thank you :)


  1. Thanks for the tips! :) I really want to sell smy cupcakes at a market, but it's such an effort with all the food safety stuff I'm too scared to think about it! Hopefully one day I'll get there...


  2. Great guide, Rich and I sold handmade fimo brooches for about a year at markets all over Wellington and we met some cool people and had a lot of fun. However, we eventually got sick of making brooches :P

  3. KC - oh of course I didn't think about that. Are they really strict about those kinds of things at the markets? I've never actually talked to any of the cupcake makers at the markets I do.

    Trees - Ha ha yeah occasionally the novelty can wear off! I'm just taking a little break myself at the moment.