With more than 100 different markets and swap meets represented at their annual conference in Las Vegas in February 2017, the National Flea Market Association (NFMA) is celebrating the strength and excitement of a healthy industry. “This was certainly one of the best conferences we’ve had,” says Ben Campen, NFMA President, “The quality of the markets represented and the quality of the speakers and presenters, plus the variety of all the attendees, it all added up to a great event.”
Now in the second year of his presidency of the association, Campen is upbeat about the state of the swap meet and flea market industry, and he points to the wide range of topics covered at the conference to underscore the health of the marketplace. “All the speakers were extremely well versed and gave terrific advice,” he notes. From Human Resources topics to fire safety, to spotting fraudulent merchandise, to trends in social media, the attending owners and managers were offered a packed agenda of experts who gave freely of their expertise and experience.
Also of note, the association has recently hired a new Federal lobbyist group to defend the industry’s interests in ongoing and upcoming national legislation. Ed Newberry, Global Managing Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, is uniquely qualified to represent the NFMA, having grown up as a flea market vendor himself. “Ed spoke about the landscape of how things are looking for us an industry given the new administration, and how the current legislation may impact our businesses, both good and bad,” continues Campen. “We are excited to have Ed with us as he brings a lot of understanding with him. He knows that the flea market industry is really an incubator for small business, that we really provide a secure place for people to start new businesses and experiment, propelling themselves up to the next level.”
In addition to focusing on the business side of things, the conference attendees also enjoyed the camaraderie and fun of an evening of networking. “We really enjoy getting together and bouncing ideas off of each other, ” Campen adds, “Especially when you’re talking to someone who’s been in the business for 40 or 50 years, these people have tried everything and are really willing to offer advice – we can all learn so much from each other.”
Looking into the future, the NFMA is focused on continued outreach to market owners and managers, as well as cultivating growth in the their current membership roster. “We are really looking to reach out to all markets and swap meets to get them to join with us,” Campen says, “the larger our numbers, the louder our voice, especially in the legislative outlook.” NFMA members currently receive a weekly email that includes national legislation updates, but as a recent addition to the member website, a state-level legislative platform has been added. An interactive search engine allows NFMA members to stay informed of topics pertaining to their home state, as well as overarching national issues.
“We truly value the sense of community we have in our businesses,” Campen explains, “it’s so rewarding to watch someone come in and maybe start with just a table of goods to sell, then they move up to a booth or a bigger lock-up space and turn it into a thriving business.” And the shoppers are part of this too. “We have people who come in and shop every single weekend, they know the vendors, they know the staff, they celebrate birthdays together, it’s great. It reminds me of a village where people really have a sense of belonging and family.”
For 2018, Campen says the conference will also be held in Las Vegas, with the exact dates and venue are to be determined. “It’s been a pleasure working with everyone in the organization,” says Campen. “the past presidents and the current team all work really hard to grow and enhance the industry.” To learn more about the NFMA and their annual conference, please visit their website at www.fleamarkets.org