In California, the San Jose Flea Market has been successful in trying an unusual give-away. On the first full Sunday of every month, according to general manager Pat DeTar, the market opens its doors to anyone who wants to sell — for free.
“The free weekend is a big success,” DeTar says, “and we’re just trying to figure out how to spread that out all month long.” The market opens up a few extra acres of land for the selling space give-away, which increases vendor traffic by about 15 percent. “This last free Sunday we gave away 250 spaces or so,” he says. That’s on top of the 1,700 spaces rented on other typical Sundays.
DeTar pointed to three concrete advantages in the free weekend offer:
• With unemployment in San Jose at 10 percent, giving away vendor spaces gives people in the community, especially those with no jobs, a chance to earn some money.
• The atmosphere of the market changes, adding a different flavor to the venue. “We get that long-lost feel of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” says DeTar. “That definite feel of a flea market garage sale is cool.”
• The selling space give-away also helps combat persistent rumors that the market is closed — which it most certainly is not. A year and a half after the free weekend program started, “we’re here, it’s a viable business, all of our sellers are happy, and their customers are happy,” says DeTar.
The market promotes the monthly event with print, TV, and radio ads, and with listings on Craigslist.