First Look – October 2013
Welcome to First Look, a sneak peek at empowering business information and insights, for PROVENDOR members only.
Manager Interview: John Chism, Quakertown GM and NFMA Board Member,
Vendor Story: Sleeping Gypsy’s Leslie Yetter Shares Winning Strategies
by Corryn Henry, editorial assistant
Quakertown Farmers Market and Flea Market in Bucks County, PA, is a landmark and shopping tradition celebrating more than 80 years in business. John Chism is general manager of the market. He is also a National Flea Market Association (NFMA) past president, board member and co-chairman of the association’s legislative committee. ProVendor asked Chism to discuss recent activity at the NFMA as well as strategies his market employs to ensure its continued success.
Editor: The NFMA invited members to visit Washington, DC, October 2-3 for the fourth annual “Day on the Hill.” How did that go?
Chism: It went very well, in spite of the government shutdown. We had 15 meetings with different Congress people and Senators. We were able to spread the word that the NFMA is around, and that we have people available to the legislators if they have questions about legislation that may involve our industry. We discussed in general terms a couple of the bills that are out there now like the ORC (Organized Retail Crime) and the Mainstreet Fairness Act.
Our position is that all types of retail should be treated the same. We do not object to any particular legislation, but we do object to legislation that singles out flea markets or that specifically names flea markets. Our mantra is that all forms of retail be treated equally and that no one be taxed unfairly. We do not want other forms of retail being taxed differently than the flea market industry.
Editor: You also gave out the Legislator of the Year award during the event. To whom did that award go and how was he or she chosen?
Chism: Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-PA) was the recipient. We chose Jim based on his record and history of work on small business issues. The Congressman has a strong background in promoting and protecting small business along the lines of assisting small businesses with taxes, training programs and funding. He is very active in those areas.
Editor: You have been general manager of Quakertown Flea Market for 18 years, and the market has been operating since 1932. To what do you attribute its long-term success?
Chism: One major factor is that we reinvest in our market and we are very conscious of the modern amenities that our market needs to have. We constantly improve the market to ensure that the shopping experience is convenient with things like up to date rest rooms, lighting, automatic doors and shopping carts. Another major factor is the variety we have. We literally offer one stop shopping, and we do that by choice not by accident. We balance our selection of vendors in the categories we have so that we do not have too many in one and not enough in another.
Editor: Is social media important to your market?
Chism: Absolutely. We have one full time person devoted exclusively to monitoring and responding to social media. We are very active on Facebook and we have about 8,000 fans and that is growing. We feature each of our merchants, and we rotate them with photo albums. We also started doing video on YouTube. In addition, we are redoing our website to make it more interactive and user friendly. We are rolling that out in November. Our Facebook page and YouTube will be linked with our website.
Editor: What are your market’s biggest challenges?
Chism: Right now, one of our biggest challenges, probably like everybody else, is the cost of doing business. This economy has been in recession so long that people have not been able to be in business for themselves for a long time where they have the capital or can borrow money to buy merchandise. We are trying to keep expenses down so we don’t have to raise rents. Another big challenge is finding new permanent merchants.
Editor: How do you find new merchants?
Chism: We advertise in the Merchandiser Group magazines and other trade publications. We do other innovative things but I’m not going to give away all our trade secrets.
Editor: How about product trends. What are you seeing along those lines?
Chism: People are interested in a bargain, no matter what the category. They are looking for value and that is what we try to present with our merchants. We have to compete on service, price and value. We regularly communicate with our vendors through email and newsletters to share ideas for merchandising and improving their sales. The bottom line is, if they do well, we do well.
Quakertown Farmers Market and Flea Market does not charge admission, and hosts from 20,000 to 30,000 shoppers each weekend. It has around 450 outdoor and 100 indoor vendors, and 110 indoor farmers’ market merchants. Both the indoor and outdoor areas are open year round, but the outdoor market is weather dependent. Quakertown is open Fridays and Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The market is located at 201 Station Road in Quakertown, PA 18951. For more information, call 215-536-4115, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.quakertownfarmersmkt.com.
The 2014 NFMA Annual Conference will be held February 12-13, 2014, at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. For more information, visit www.fleamarkets.org and click on the More / Conference tab at the top of the page.
Flea market vendor Leslie Yetter sells spiritual items and provides tarot card readings at St. Augustine’s Marketplace in St. Augustine, Florida. Yetter, who has been a vendor for 20 years, runs Sleeping Gypsy with her husband John Kiang, and together they focus on creating an inviting ambiance. “The outside walls of our booth are dark purple with light purple trim, and it has little shutters that make it look like a cottage,” Yetter shares. The inside décor is light lavender. When interested buyers enter her shop, the soothing colors, lighting and music touch all their senses. “I burn the incense I sell, and I try to create a new age type of environment,” she explains. “When customers come in, it is like stepping into a new place. They say it is their favorite shop at the market.”
Product choices based on suppliers
Sleeping Gypsy sells new age and spiritual items, incense, handmade jewelry, tarot cards and tie-dye dresses. Yetter chooses which products to sell based on what her suppliers offer and on the cost of shipping.
About St. Augustine’s marketplace, where Yetter has had a booth for two years, she says they are one of the better marketplaces in the area. “They try hard to improve and bring in a good crowd of vendors,” Yetter continues. The market has been open for about 30 years and, according to general manager, John Gravesen, it is “the last old fashioned flea market around.” The venue, which is open Saturdays and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., has hundreds of full time and weekend vendors. “We are very unique out here in that we have just about everything,” Gravesen notes. “Our vendors are one big, happy family.”
Previously, Yetter sold handmade crafts, Native American and historically correct pieces, leatherwork and handmade jewelry. She became a vendor because she enjoys running her own business. “I have worked for large companies and big corporations, and it is just not as fun. It is more fun running your own business and doing your own thing,” Yetter states. “Every morning, instead of getting up and having to go work for some guy in a big box store, I have my own business, and that is a success to me. I love the business and the people I get to meet.”
Promotion through free business listings and the Web
When people ask Yetter for advice on how to start their own business, she tells them it takes dedication and time. Her number one tip for success is being cost effective. “Start small, and don’t borrow money. Start with your own capital and be creative at finding ways to get the word out without spending a lot of money.” Yetter does this through free business listings as well as through her website, Twitter, Facebook and business cards.
According to Yetter, the biggest challenge and advantage for flea market vendors is the economy. “The economy is weak and people do not have a lot of leisure money to spend, and people come to the market to find deals.” The solution, she says is to offer things that people can afford without losing your integrity and by keeping them engaged in shopping.