Dennis Dodson is director for all R.G. Canning attractions, and he has been with the firm for more than 50 years. “The corporation started shows in 1957, and we started flea market and swap meets in 1968,” he recalls. “We’ve been promoting events, probably 9,000, over the years, including concerts, auto shows, motorcycle swap meets and a little bit of everything.” Dodson recently spoke with FleaMarketZone.com about the Rose Bowl Flea Market and market trends.
On the Rose Bowl Flea Market: “Our March 10th event at the Rose Bowl was the fourth best in the history of the Bowl, and we’ve been there for 42 years. Overall business is very good. We have a number of good things going for us. We have a high-end market with a hardcore antique and collectible area, and a tremendous amount of vintage clothing. We also have the new merchandise services, and arts and crafts.”
“Flea markets are growing in popularity with consumers because they are entertainment that is relatively inexpensive. We’ve kept the parking at the Rose Bowl free because the city is our partner in the venture. We pull in around 20,000 shoppers on a good day.”
“We have 2,400 vendors. About 60 to 70 percent of our vendors are repeat, and the rest come and go. We keep it fairly simple for our vendors. All they have to do is call us and book a space on the phone. It’s $25 to $100 to get a space.”
On the importance of advertising: “Luckily, the Rose Bowl has been here 42 years so it’s well established. It’s the largest antique event in southern California. We rely on word of mouth and continuous advertising. We do TV, radio, display, classified and the rag sheets—a little bit of everything. We move our money around. That’s what you have to do because you’re always looking for new customers. If you have a certain amount of money for advertising you don’t put it on TV and stay on TV, you move it from TV to radio, to display advertising, to the Internet. There is a lot in Internet advertising, such as Yelp and Yahoo.”
“We’re always looking for a bit of a hook. We have feature sections where we highlight different things that come and go such as pin swaps, comic books and baseball cards.”
On his market’s biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge is to keep your crowds up and keep your vendors happy. You’ve got to keep the advertising out there. Hopefully, the vendors will have the right prices and they’ll keep the public coming back. That is the same nationwide.”
On the weather: “Fortunately, we don’t have the major weather issues some of the East Coast and Midwest markets have. We get rained out periodically but nothing like back East. A lot depends on what else is going on in town. LA is the entertainment capital of the West Coast. We’ve got tons of competition. We’ve got Hollywood, Disneyland, sports, beaches and mountains. We’re living in paradise.”
On merchandise trends: “It varies. Here in Southern California, we’ve got the big box markets like Price Club, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, so our new merchandise vendors have to find something you can’t buy at Wal-Mart. If you can find it at Wal-Mart, you’ve got to be able to sell it cheaper or you’re not going to survive. They have to find a catchy little trendy item or items whether it be clothing, a tire, something for the house, landscaping or plants that is either cheaper or you can’t find it at the stores.”
The Rose Bowl Flea Market takes place the second Sunday of each month in the parking lots of the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. It is the largest flea market on the West Coast. R.G. Canning also hosts several other events in California, including flea markets in San Bernardino, Beaumont, Ventura and Orange, as well as many other shows and attractions.