First Look – September 2012
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Sales Boosting Strategies
This month’s audiovisual PROVENDOR mediacast explores a more mobile approach to selling at flea markets. With powerful tools, like social media, vendors can connect with customers and be successful with sales. Watch and listen to this month’s tips.
Rob Sieban, CEO of The Mile High Flea Market in Henderson, CO
Sumner Communications editor, Gloria Mellinger, recently spoke with Rob Sieban, CEO of The Mile High Flea Market in Henderson, CO, on the state of his market and the flea market industry. The Market has been operating since 1976. Sieban brings more than two decades of retail and merchandising expertise to the Market, previously serving as CEO of LolliLocks Kids Salon. In addition, Sieban has held many executive level positions in the direct to consumer market including EVP of BriteSmile, SVP of Illuminations, SVP of Lids Corp., Regional Manager of Pier 1 Imports and Senior District Manager of Sunglass Hut International.
Editor: To what do you attribute Mile High Flea Market’s success?
Sieban: “We were fortunate to purchase the market five years ago from Andy Hermes. Andy had built an exceptionally well-run business over the years and created a great reputation for great product and great services. A lot of our success has come from our ability to build on and to enhance the business we purchased from him. The wonderful combination of a tried and true business that had been successful since 1976 we’ve been able to enhance through systems. I’m a strong believer in technology and people so we’ve continued to invest in the technology side of our business from IT infrastructure and the ability to analyze our business. We run it as a strong business. We’re always looking to attract quality talent from the person serving food to members of the executive management team. A big part of our success is our ability to stay relevant to the consumer, stay true to who we are and be able to enhance the experience our buyers and sellers have.”
“I have been up here about four years and I’ve been traveling to learn from other market owners. There is a lot of great information out there. It doesn’t all come from the highest volume markets. There is a combination of some markets that run with a cash register and some run with a designated IT platform that tracks buyers, sellers and food concessions. There are myriad systems out there. We tend to be technology driven so we are focused on making decisions based on quantitative results.”
Editor: How do you handle the issue of counterfeit merchandise?
Sieban: “We practice a zero tolerance policy here at Mile High. We have a number of steps involved in the process.
Editor: What is one of the biggest challenges you have in your market?
Sieban: “Being in Colorado, it’s absolutely the weather. We are fortunate to have some warm sunny days in the wintertime. But weather can be inclement. We can be having a strong Sunday and the clouds roll in and we get some rain. We are good at managing those challenges but the weather can be unpredictable and we can’t control it.”
Editor: How do you manage inclement weather?
Sieban: “We want everyone who comes here to have a great experience. The entertainment component of visiting a flea market is as important as the shopping experience. If you come out and it starts to rain, we’ll issue Bad Weather Bucks which invite you to come back for free on another visit. If it’s a snow day and it happens early in the week, we work all week to prepare the lot for the weekend. We can get a beautiful warm sunny day in January that clears away the snow. We also use social media as an effective tool. For example, if you come to the box office and say a certain word, we’ll give you a discount on your entrance. That’s a tool that’s been effective to draw traffic to the market on days that were a little inclement.”
Editor: What are popular selling items this year?
Sieban: “We have an assortment of core products, the consumerables you would use day in and day out like cleaning, health and beauty and produce, those are very popular here, they are our best sellers. We also have a number of luggage and carpet vendors.”
“One hot trend is older merchandise being used in a new way. We have seen a resurgence in the last 12 to 18 months in the garage sale side of our business and a large focus on repurposed merchandise. It’s taking your grandmother’s table and refinishing it and bringing it out here and selling it. It’s been fun and exciting to see some of our vendors reinvent themselves. Part of the hunt is not knowing what you’re going to find.”
Read Part One of the interview with Rob Sieban.
10 Tips to Maximize Flea Market Sales
Flea market vendors, like other small business owners, must incorporate deliberate merchandising strategies into their marketing plans to be successful. Here are 10 tips you can easily adopt that will help you bolster your business.
1. Choose what to sell. The best way to see what items are in demand is to visit the flea market at which you want to sell. Walk the aisles, see which vendors are attracting customers, find out what is selling and make note of what purchases customers are carrying around.
2. Find a reputable liquidator. Make sure wholesale pricing allows for a healthy profit margin and find out what their return/exchange policy is. Choosing a well-established wholesaler who has been in business a decade or longer helps minimize risk. Most reputable liquidators will allow vendors to make appointments and physically inspect goods prior to purchasing them.
3. Rotate merchandise. Sumner Communications 2012 State of the Flea Market Industry survey found that the number one strategy vendors use to make their booths appealing is to rotate merchandise. While it’s tempting to continue to display the same merchandise, vendors should make sure they have enough inventory to change up product offerings and keep displays fresh.
4. Get flashy. A flash sale, which makes deep discounts available for limited periods of time, is one of the top trends in marketing. The added pressure of a time constraint can nudge customers who are on the fence about an item so that they are more inclined to purchase.
5. Interact with shoppers. The State of the Flea Market Industry survey also found that showmanship pays off. Several vendors state that demonstrating products, “having fun with customers,” and “hands on customer service,” lead shoppers to trust, and buy from, sellers. Vendors need to engage customers in conversation. They may be looking for an item that isn’t displayed, but can be accessed in current inventory. When shoppers feels they are tended to as individuals, they are more likely to make a purchase.
6. Employ lighting. Where an outlet is available, vendors can decorate the edges of booths, tables and shelves with colored light ropes. Even a strand of rope lights around a sign can make a booth stand out. Gallery bulbs, track lighting and warmer toned lights can make merchandise appear more luxurious. A slightly pink light will make skin and any accessories or apparel being worn, look fresh and vibrant, whereas a more yellow light will make furniture, bedding and housewares look cozy.
7. Get social. Having a social media presence requires less effort than you might think. Register with a group of social media sites for free, and add images and descriptions to make these pages more personal. The more closely a page resembles the business as a whole, the easier it is for shoppers to associate the social media site with the store.
By choosing a few products to highlight through Twitter tweets or Facebook posts, products become more visible both to search engines and potential customers. It’s easy for flea market professionals to boost business with one product- or market-related post every other day. Coordinate all social media pages to relay the same message and market shoppers will find you in no time.
8. Offer snacks. The aroma of free popcorn or roasted peanuts may be just the lure you need to draw shoppers to your booth. If it’s a hot day, cups of water can do the trick. Everybody loves a treat.
9. Don’t overdo it. The best way to alienate customers is to overcrowd your booth. While it can be beneficial to have a variety of products, properly displaying those products is also crucial. If a booth doesn’t have aisles big enough for even one person to walk in, it’s likely that people won’t enter to browse.
10. Be flexible. If merchandise isn’t selling, try a different price point or offer items as a package deal. Some wholesalers will let vendors exchange merchandise if it isn’t moving.
The flea market business is a worthwhile endeavor and can be financially lucrative provided vendors approach it with creativity and enthusiasm. With the right merchandise, properly displayed, and the use of a few marketing strategies, flea market vendors can entice shoppers to stop and look, the first step in getting sales.