by Lisa Evans
Let me share a number with you: $616.1 billion – that’s billion with a B. What does it represent? This mind-blowing number is the amount of money US consumers spent on holiday merchandise during the 2014 Christmas season – all purchased in-store or offline. What does this mean for you, as a swap meet or flea market vendor? It means GET READY because the two biggest sales months of the year are coming! According to all the forecasts done by the National Retail Federation, the 2015 holiday season is expected to not only match last year’s number, but exceed it by over 4% – that’s an extra $24 billion on its way.
If you have a permanent booth installed at a large market, or if you have a booth that you run weekend to weekend at various swap meets and fairs around the county, there are a few simple things that can make a huge difference to your holiday sales this year. At the Merchandiser, we picked the brains of several industry experts and came up with a short and sweet list to help you have a truly happy holiday!
1) Customer Service Is Still #1
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a customer walk away from a booth because they had a bad experience with a staff member, or worse yet, tell a friend about the terrible service they got at a specific stall in a market. Start the holiday season by pulling your staff together and talking to them about the basics we all learned in grade school: A smile can work miracles and we should all treat others the way we want to be treated in return.
As Jon Scheerz, President of Product Hunters Inc. notes, “Your customer is always the priority, not the cell phone, not the tablet.” Although a lot may be going on in your booth space, making sure your staff greets each new shopper with a smile and politely offers help is critical to keeping your customers happy. “Getting off your chair, getting up and showing eagerness and sincerity to help your customer will show everyone in the vicinity that you are there to help.” Scheerz offers.
Stew Leonard, the legendary New England farmer and dairy store owner has even gone so far as to engrave the words “The Customer is Always Right” into a large stone gracing the entryway to his stores. Not only does this reinforce the motto with his customers, it also underscores his expectations from his staff.
2) Make Payment Simple
Cash is still the quickest way to transact business in your booth, but with so many markets becoming Wi-Fi-friendly and the proliferation of easy to use mobile payment services like Square, PayPal or Bitcoin, if you aren’t yet accepting credit and debit cards, now is the time to get set up.
Here’s some added incentive: Gift cards. Millions of dollars in MasterCard, Visa and American Express gift cards are given every year as gifts. If your booth accepts credit card payments, your shoppers can easily use a gift card they have in their wallet to buy that special something in your booth.
Scheerz agrees, saying, “People do not want to carry large amounts of cash when they shop, so when you provide different payment options, they are more likely to make larger purchases.” One simple way to broadcast your booth’s customer-friendly payment policy: post a sign showing your accepted payment methods. Add a fun holiday motif to your sign and it will capture even more attention!
3) Focus On Your Top Sellers
This is simple, but all too often we see smart market vendors running out of their best products mid-season. You know what sells best at your booth, and you’ve heard from your customers what keeps bringing them back to your business time and again. Whether it’s the artisan foods that you carry every Christmas or the special glass ornaments that you only offer during the holidays, make sure you have your supplies ready to go, and nicely displayed. If you haven’t placed your wholesale orders yet, do so now as deliveries will slow down as the holiday season gears up and UPS and FedEx get overwhelmed with deliveries.
4) Keep It Clean
Take a good hard look at your booth and see it as a first-time customer would. Do you have too much merchandise? Not enough? Are things piled together or not clearly visible? The holidays are the biggest sales season of the year and you want to take advantage of every minute of it. Make sure your merchandise is displayed neatly and is easily reachable and accessible. As Scheerz says, “Eye level is buy level.” If your customer cannot see your products, they can’t buy them! Consider investing in new display racks or risers to display your wares, or get creative and up-cycle or recycle some of your older displays to add new life to your booth.
5) Have Some Fun
It’s the holidays, so try something new. Add some holiday decorations, maybe have a guessing-game contest at your booth (remember those “guess the number of Christmas jellybeans in the jar” contests the kids love?), or play holiday music if your venue allows soft music in your sales area. Consider something as simple as moving things around in your booth to attract interest. As David Wolff of Wolff’s Markets states, “Customers who are used to seeing the same thing in the same place now view items from a new perspective,” and many times this simple shift can help a vendor move merchandise faster than ever before.
Getting involved in your market’s overall holiday planning is also a fun way to get terrific publicity for your booth. Talk to your market’s owner or manager to find out what events are being offered and get your business featured. If Santa is coming, sponsor free hot chocolate for the shoppers, if Rudolf and friends will be outside, be the booth owner who gives away free chocolate kisses or hard candies. There are a million fun ways to be involved and to get your booth advertised along with the market. You’ll not only sponsor good will from your market owner, but good traffic –and sales – from the holiday shoppers.
All of us here at the Merchandiser wish you and yours a fantastic holiday selling season. Enjoy!
Jon Scheerz, President
Product Hunters Inc. / LuvALamps
Stew Leonard’s Farm Fresh Foods