Even though COVID-19 cases are on the rise in many U.S. states, large city hospitals such as those in New York City have their capacity under control. Doctors are saying that more occupants are testing positive, but their symptoms are not as harsh or they are asymptomatic. While this is not something to panic about, sellers should still be prepared for a second wave to hit and shutdowns to ensue.
Flea Markets Are Open for Business
Despite the rise in COVID cases, the flea market industry has been doing outstanding. While most markets had to shut down earlier in the year when the pandemic first started, reopening weekends saw massive turnouts and guests continue to surprise market owners by coming and shopping.
“Like everyone else, we did not know what to expect upon reopening,” Rob Sieban, President, CEO and co-owner of United Flea Markets, said. “What we do know about the flea market industry is that it is an incredibly resilient business. Flea markets have been through tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes, but no one has ever been through a pandemic. It’s fascinating to see that upon reopening, we were able to ramp up back over the period of 4-6 weeks, trending at 90 percent of last year’s numbers.”
United Flea Markets is the owner of the largest portfolio of flea markets in the country. They are focused on responsible expansion through acquisitions that create efficiencies and — importantly — maintain each individual flea market’s character.
Flea Market Success
UFM’s 14 flea markets aren’t the only markets who have been successful amidst the reopening. Yuma Swap Meet in Yuma, Arizona, just recently reopened their market on September 12 and have seen huge success in attendance. They are keeping both guests and vendors safe with COVID-19 guidelines clearly listed on their website, such as mandatory face masks, social distancing, and general hygiene practices. Hand sanitizing stations have been placed all around the market and all employees temperatures are checked daily before starting their work day.
Mercadome Valley Marketplace in Alamo, Texas is another flea market that has been doing quite well since their reopening back in May. They are only open at 25 percent capacity, but consumers seem to love the fresh air at outdoor markets, and it makes them feel a little safer to not be in an enclosed area.
Keeping the Markets Safe
During the six to eight weeks earlier in the year that UFM’s flea markets were closed due to the pandemic, they utilized that time wisely to build the best practices and protocols in case the virus continued for a longer period of time than they expected, very much like right now. All of the markets have been able to keep those practices in place and are in constant communication with officials from each state.
With the safety protocols and mandates at each market to protect both buyers and sellers, Sieban says that consumer confidence at flea markets is very strong. “I say that because I have experienced over my many years in the industry that our customers are very loyal. They understand the operations we have, that we have a competitive advantage, and all of our markets are outdoors, so they can shop to get what they need and enjoy the fresh air.”
To help keep their markets open and encourage safe shopping, Sieban has actually encouraged the restructuring of fixtures in each vendor booth. In the past, consumers may walk around selling spaces under tents to view all of the seller’s merchandise. Now, vendors are encouraged to put a table at the front of their booth and display all of their products behind the table. Shoppers can then communicate safely with vendors and prevent customers from touching all of the merchandise.
How Vendors Can Prepare for Another Possible Shutdown
The good thing is that most states are prepared and know what to do if COVID cases get too high, but it is extremely important for vendors to be ready for the worst case scenario if another shutdown were to occur. A Brightpearl study found that a staggering 47 percent of retailers still have not made any changes to their model in order to prepare for the possibility of a second spike of COVID-19. Overall, just 37 percent are planning any further digital investment to better prepare their business for future spikes in the virus. These stats are concerning. To help vendors prepare for second wave success, here are some tips to follow as we roll into the new year:
1. Have An Online Selling Platform Ready to Go
Having an ecommerce website will definitely give sellers a leg up on powering through the pandemic, but it is not mandatory. There are plenty of online platforms such as Etsy, Fleabay, vFlea, and Bonanza, among others, that are basically online flea markets where consumers can shop from and bargain with tons of vendors.
They are easy to sign up for and you can sell from the comfort of your home. Winter can be a slow season for flea markets anyway, but in case your go-to market shuts down, it is important to have alternatives to keep that cash flow coming in.
2. Offer the Right Products
On top of face masks, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer, Hartford Healthcare released a list of ‘10 Things You’ll Need to Get Through a Second Wave of COVID-19’ which include items such as exercise equipment, humidifiers, air purifiers, thermometers, and even house plants. Offering these types of items to consumers can not only guarantee sales during stressful times, but it can also increase consumer trust in your business to give them the products that they need.
3. Build an Emergency Fund
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that emergency funds are a necessity. Even though these are trying times and it can already be difficult to set some money aside, there are many different ways to save a little extra cash. Consider sourcing your products through closeout or liquidation companies who offer pallets of products for super cheap.
4. Keep Your Followers Updated on Social Media
If shutdowns start to occur, your customers are going to need to know how your business will be impacted. If you sell products online, let them know they can still shop from the comfort of their home. If your usual market closes, definitely let your followers know so they do not show up to an empty lot. It is also comforting for both you and the consumer to have consistent updates on what is going down and how you are being impacted by the pandemic.
5. Stock Up on Household Staples
Retail conglomerates such as Target are preparing for a second wave by stockpiling on household items that left shelves barren in February and March. Items in high demand such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and bleach all sold out quickly at the onset of the pandemic, but those conditions have improved and suppliers are more than ready to stock sellers as much as possible. Take advantage of the availability of these products right now and stock enough so your customers can rely on you when things get ugly.