First Look – July 2013
Welcome to First Look, a sneak peek at empowering business information and insights, for PROVENDOR members only.
Michigan’s Dixieland Flea Market Place Manager Shares Challenges & Successes
by Gloria Mellinger, Editor
How to Choose the Right
Jim Gardner, manager of Dixieland Flea Market Place in Waterford, MI, joined the market on July 1, 2012. During the past year, he has made significant changes to the market, launched 45 years ago. Dixieland Flea has space for about 100 indoor vendors in its 75,000 square foot building, and around 150 outdoor spots. It is open year round, Fridays, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PROVENDOR newsletter editor, Gloria Mellinger, recently spoke with Gardner about Dixieland Market Place, his business challenges and market trends.
Editor: “You just celebrated your first year with Dixieland Flea. What did you do before you became manager of the market?”
Jim: “I am 57 years old. I had been a police officer for 32 years. I started in Pasco County, Florida, and I was there for about five years. Then I came up to Michigan and I worked for Franklin Village for 27 years. After I retired, a friend of mine, who owns the management company that runs Dixieland, asked me if I would manage the market. He needed a strong person for that job.”
Editor: “As a police officer, you must have developed a lot of skills managing people.”
Jim: “Yes. As a police officer, you learn to deal with a wide variety of people. I like dealing with the vendors. Many of our vendors are here every weekend but I also get a lot of new people. I get a lot of different merchandise coming in and I get to see what my vendors are selling. I monitor it carefully to make sure we stay on the up and up.”
Editor: “What types of merchandise do your vendors sell?”
Jim: “It is a wide variety. Antiques, tools and appliances are big sellers. We have new merchandise as well. I have a couple of jewelry vendors that sell new jewelry and car audio vendors that strictly sell new products.”
Editor: “What are some of the things you do to attract shoppers?”
Jim: “We do not charge for parking or admission, which is unlike some of the competition in the area. We host events, like car shows. We also advertise. When I started, I changed up the advertising. We went from 60-second to 30-second commercials on the radio and we changed the stations we were using. They are wacky, weird, fun commercials. I also advertise for vendors on the radio and many of the vendors who come in tell me they called because of the radio ads. We also do print ads in the Metro Times. In the Michigan area, there are a lot of theaters and I advertise in those as well. Advertising has been really beneficial for our market.”
Editor: “How has business been since you started with Dixieland Market Place?”
Jim: “We do a thriving business. On a good day, we get between 3,000 and 4,000 shoppers. We are open year round and, even last winter, there were die hard vendors outdoors every weekend. You know, Michigan gets snow and they would shovel the snow away from their spaces and set up their shops. Vendors who come here from other markets tell me that their sales are much better at Dixieland than at the other markets.”
Editor: “I understand you have added security guards. How has that affected your market?”
Jim: “Last November, we hired a security guy. He sits at the front entrance and everyone knows who he is. People have a lesser tendency to create a disturbance if they know someone is watching. Nothing has escalated to violence and we have had to call the police very few times, which is unlike it has been in years past.”
Editor: “How does your location impact your market?”
Jim: “We border Pontiac, Michigan, and we are about 30 miles north of Detroit, so we are in a good location for traffic. Pontiac is kind of a depressed area because of the car companies and the unemployment here is really high. During hard economic times, we seem to do well. If they can get a good deal, people are going to come in and buy.”
Editor: “Have you found that some people who might otherwise be unemployed have become your vendors?”
Jim: “Absolutely. In the past year I have attracted a lot of new faces. There are a lot of other markets in the area and many vendors choose us. I watch other markets’ rates and I undercut them slightly, which helps the vendors.”
Editor: “What has been your biggest challenge at Dixieland?”
Jim: “Keeping good, consistent vendors has been the hardest. In the year that I have been here, I know what is going to sell and what is not going to sell. There is no sense in moving in a vendor that isn’t going to sell. It is not good for our market or for the vendor. I moved a coffee company in a couple of months ago and I told the vendor that a $3 cup of coffee would not sell here. She told me it was great coffee and she thought it would sell. Unfortunately, as it turned out, she had to fold up and leave.”
Editor: “It’s great that you counsel potential vendors as to whether they will succeed in your market. What else do you do to keep your vendors happy?”
Jim: “I am very consistent on my policies and my vendors know what to expect. If you talk to a vendor, they will tell you which direction I will go on any topic. Everyone is treated the same and fairly.”
Listen to Dixieland Market Place’s 30 second radio ads.
For more information:
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
Here are a few areas to consider:
Here are some clues to look for when you visit a potential selling venue:
Do your homework
Mario Sbaraglia is a flea market vendor from Philadelphia, PA, and an Internet book dealer. He has a website called World Flea Market News, where vendors, collectors and Internet resellers all over the world obtain and share useful information about flea markets.