By Mario Sbaraglia, vendor and blogger
Unlike humankind, all flea markets are not created equal. Learning to recognize the different types of markets, and how each serves a unique purpose, will save you time, money and frustration where your flea market business is concerned.
Learn to discern
Exploring different markets to determine where to sell your wares should be a thought out process. It is not as simple as choosing a place because it has a lot of shopper traffic. You need to find venues that are not only bustling, but also are suitable for your merchandise and your price points.
Here are a few areas to consider:
- Sellers’ vs. Buyers’ Markets: These are not absolutes, but generalizations based on whether a flea market leans more towards being a better place for professionals to sell at or to buy from. Obviously, for the most part, you want to sell at sellers’ markets, where you are more likely to get better prices for your medium to high-end merchandise. However, if you sell inexpensive merchandise, or, if you do not mind “wholesaling” to other professionals, you might do well at buyers’ markets.
- Year-round vs. Special-event Markets: Special-event flea markets, held anywhere from once a year to once a month, often have festive feels that tend to put customers in spending moods. If you have choices, a good strategy is to plan your yearly schedule around special-event flea markets and use the year-round markets to fill in the gaps.
- New vs. Used Markets: Although most flea markets advertise that all types of merchandise are welcome, almost all are more favorable to new or used goods. Learn which are which, and stick with your type.
- Antiques Markets: Though many antiques flea markets allow vendors who do not sell antiques, the shoppers they attract tend to be staunchly loyal to all things old. If you do not sell antiques, you are in for an uphill battle at these markets.
The best way to gauge a flea market is to take a trip there and talk with both vendors and shoppers. You will find some flea marketers are guarded, but many will share private information with no hesitation. I never ask vendors how much money they make, but you would be surprised how much information a simple question like “how is it going?” will garner. Recently, at a flea market, I was set up next to a very nice, seemingly conservative, older gentleman. At the end of the day, while packing up, I asked how he did. I was surprised when he answered: “About $500. Not bad, but this is my only source of income.”
Here are some clues to look for when you visit a potential selling venue:
- More than one vendor says: “The people are nice but they want everything for nothing.” Probably a buyer’s market.
- Several shoppers say: “The stuff here is beautiful but so expensive.” Seller’s market.
- There is a difference in space prices within the same venue. I know of a flea market that is open on Wednesdays and Sundays. The price on Sundays is $25 per space and on Wednesdays it is only $10. The reason is that on Wednesdays, it is a buyer’s market swarming with dealers who prey upon desperate vendors. On Sundays, it becomes a seller’s market, teeming with collectors and end-users. Real pros only sell there on Sundays.
- Do they segregate merchandise? If a flea market separates vendors by merchandise type, look for inequities. For example, if the used section of a particular market is smaller than the main section, off the beaten path or costs less per space, then the market is more favorable to new merchandise.
Do your homework
When visiting flea markets at which you are considering setting up shop, ask questions, dig deep and take notes. After visiting several venues, go over your notes, compare the pros and cons, and then make an informed decision. Your livelihood is on the line.