Each year The Merchandiser Group polls our nationwide network of flea market vendors to monitor market trends and the state of our industry. This year, results continue to show a healthy and growing industry. Overall, the American economy has seen positive growth over the last year, which of course plays a role in the health of flea markets. But, market owners and vendors are also taking proactive measures to continue to evolve and grow their businesses.
A Strong Community
Despite a transient appearance on the outside, the flea market industry is composed of many dedicated industry veterans and family businesses that have been passed down for generations. Much of the stability of the current flea and swap industry can be attributed to these passionate and devoted professionals.
Our survey results show that 86% of vendors have been in the business for more than three years, and 17% have been in the business for over 20 years. Each year, market owners and flea industry professionals gather in Las Vegas for the National Flea Market Association (NFMA) Conference where they swap ideas, best practices, and sales strategies.
Market owners and flea vendors across the board have doubled down on strategies to attract shoppers. According to our vendor survey, after competitive pricing and personality in sales staff, using advertising to draw in shoppers was the top sales tactic. 38% of respondents reported using social media to advertise their booths. Of those, 100% use Facebook. 31% of respondents have a business website, and 63% plan to add a website.
For the second year in a row, market vendors reported price, product quality, and shipping costs are the top three deciding factors when ordering new products. The top five most popular merchandise categories for vendors are jewelry, apparel, collectibles, home goods, and toys/hobbies.
43% of vendors plan on purchasing more products in 2018 than in 2017, and 39% plan to spend around the same amount as last year. When sourcing new products, 74% of vendors use online sources such as WholesaleCentral.com and 31% attend tradeshows to find new products.
Diversifying Revenue Sources
Our survey reports just 11% of vendors sell exclusively at fairs and festivals. The majority of respondents sell at both fairs and flea markets. 41% of 2018 vendor respondents said that they sell at 3-5 different fairs/festivals annually, and another 25% sell at 5-10 events for a total of 66% of vendors selling at 3-10 events each year. 27% of vendors also say they sell on auction sites like eBay or Amazon.
Though overall the survey indicates a healthy market, there is always room for improvement. Top areas of business concern for vendors are finding low-cost quality goods (75%), a lack of customers (50%), rising costs of merchandise (50%), and rising costs of rental space (50%). Flea vendors also cite concerns over too many booths offering the same merchandise. So, overall this year sellers are searching for unique low-cost merchandise that offers the opportunity for high markups.
Though many of our survey respondents also sell at fairs and festivals, the majority reports their flea market booth as being the most profitable. We are seeing many flea markets across the country reaching out and engaging with their communities by adding farmer’s markets, crafts and activities, music and entertainment, and all kinds of family-friendly events to bring in more shoppers. As our economy continues to improve shoppers are buying more but still seeking out a great bargain. It comes as no surprise that the flea market industry is thriving and continuing to capture shoppers.