10 Tips for Selling at Vintage Markets
Before moving to the Western Slope of Colorado, selling at Vintage Markets was one of our main revenue sources.
When done right, we made a month’s (or even months!) worth of sales goals in 2-3 days!
Now, this will not be a sales pitch for selling at Vintage Markets, and I am not saying everyone should do this. It’s not a “one size fits all” strategy. Today’s blog can also be used to help you determine if selling at Vintage Markets would be something to try out for your creative business.
We lived in the Denver area which was convenient for travel to these shows since we lived right in the middle of the most popular areas for markets.
Now that we live four hours away, it doesn’t make as much sense to do markets like we used to. The additional time (and stress!) that comes with the process now is not something that we want to take on in our lives right now.
But having over four years of experience selling at vintage markets, we learned a TON and I’m here to share with you our top 10 tips and takeaways from our experience.
Select Markets that fit Your Target Audience
This is number one for a reason. It is the MOST important part of selling at vintage markets.
Simply put, know who your audience is and only sell at markets that bring in that audience.
For a general example, our target audience is women, age 35-55. Vintage Markets fit this demographic with the customers they usually bring in.
Knowing this, we did not sell at antique style markets. The audience is a higher age demographic than ours.
Our rule of thumb: if the market used the word “antique” in their title, the show probably wasn’t for us.
We also didn’t sell at markets that made no sense for our product. For example, the local beer festivals (because ain’t no one going to a beer festival to buy Furniture Paint and upcycled home decor – trust me).
FINDING THE RIGHT MARKETS…
Sometimes the hardest part is FINDING the markets to begin with. We sometimes got lucky with a Google search, but that was too time consuming for a long term strategy.
A few months into doing markets, we splurged on a membership with Fairs and Festivals . It was the best 35 bucks we’ve spent. The site helped us easily find markets in our preferred areas and gave us tons of info at a glance about each market.
No more spending hours trying to find markets!
If possible, go to the market as a customer before committing to a booth space to get a feel for the market. This will also help you gauge how many customers they bring in, which is key to your success as a vendor.
Build a Relationship with the Market Host/Organizers
The number one thing I loved about markets is the people. The customers, the other business owners and the market organizers.
I have this thing where I can talk anyone’s ear off (even though I’m a total introvert at heart), so building these relationships was so important and the number one thing I miss most!
Be respectful to the market organizer and make friends with them!
My hope is you don’t run into a nasty organizers (yes, those DO exist and BEWARE!) but for the most part, all the market organizers I worked with were great.
Goals can be tough to determine in the beginning. For starters, know what costs you have into the market first.
Start with the basics of booth fee and travel costs (ie: gas, hotel, vehicle/trailer rental, food, etc..).
Then, figure out how much of what you will need to make your sales goal.
For example, if you want to sell $1,500 of goodies, you need to at LEAST bring $1,500 worth of goodies to sell. If you want to make $5,000, you need to bring at least $5,000 of inventory…I think you get the idea here.
And realistically, you will need to bring somewhere between 20%-50% MORE than what you want to sell as it is not common for vendors to sell out of everything in their booth (just speaking to reality here; don’t let market organizers make you think you WILL sell out – you COULD sell out, it’s just not all that common).
In the 4+ years of doing markets, I’ve seen only two vendors completely sell out – one was a vintage vendor with SUPER low prices (they used the market to clear out their inventory) and the other was a spice business.
HOW WE SET GOALS…
A really simple method we used is multiply the booth fee by anywhere from 8-12 times (assuming an in state market with no hotel/extensive travel cost).
If I knew it was a historically ‘slam dunk’ kind of market, I would use 12…if it was a pretty good one, I would use 8.
Example: if the booth fee is $400 (10×20 size), our sales goal would be anywhere from $3,200 – $6,000.
Obviously, you won’t know how successful a market will be until you’ve tried it. Those are simply helpful guidelines to give you and idea of how we approached market goals.
If we did a market that yielded 4 times (or less) the booth fee, we typically would not do that market again. They just weren’t worth the time and effort. There were some exceptions to this rule though.
Only you know what a market is worth to you. We’ve done markets where the vendor was over the moon excited when their sales were twice their booth fee. And there is nothing wrong with that.
What matters is what you deem as success for your business.
NOT ALL MARKETS ARE A SLAM DUNK…
We’ve also done a market where we made ONE sale. That’s right folks, ONE sale — ALL DAY. It was 100 bucks to get in and we later realized it was a bad idea to sign up.
It was not a vintage market and the style of vendors were all over the place. From baby clothes to koozies to wacky tobacky pipes (no joke; welcome to Denver lol). It was a terrible market and we steered clear after that one.
Not all markets will be a slam dunk success. The key is finding the right markets for your product and sticking to only those, once you’ve found them.
The more markets you do, the more all this will make sense to you, I promise 🙂
Don’t Blow the Budget on Your Display(s)!
One day, I was stewing over our booth display and overall set up…now, we have never been the type to win any kind of ‘booth display’ awards and we were OK with that.
But in a state of questioning our strategy, I was brainstorming extravagant booth display ideas with a seasoned vendor (and friend). These ideas would have cost a pretty penny and would have taken some time to build.
He stopped me mid sentence and said; “Girl, are you here to make money or are you here to make things look nice!?”
What he said had 100% validity.
I’ve seen so many new business owners spend hundreds (or even THOUSANDS) of dollars on their displays and booth set up. That money was spent on something that won’t even be for sale in their booth.
Don’t get me wrong, a good booth set up is HUGELY critical to a successful market, but I don’t believe you need to spend hundreds or thousands on your displays. We certainly didn’t and still experienced wildly successful shows.
You can use what you’re selling as the display (ie: if you have a table, place small items on top of it in a eye catching way).
If you want ‘walls’, use fence wood (or even old doors) as a cheaper option….just make sure they are something you can haul around and set up from show to show.
For additional booth setup inspiration, follow our Pinterest board Vintage Market Booth Ideas
Have a Cohesive Theme
Have a particular style and color scheme in mind. By doing this, everything in your booth looks like it was meant to be there.
It also helps the customer see what that item could look like in their home.
If you have a few things that don’t quite go with the rest of the booth, create a separate space for those items within your booth (assuming they look good together) rather than sprinkling them in with the majority of items.
Nothing pops out more than when it doesn’t belong.
If you use a lot of color, keep the colors together. This will help with the cohesive feel.
Add Life with Plants and Flowers
You’d be amazed with how much better a booth can look when it has greenery in it. I recommend finding some faux greenery (and/or flowers) that you can also sell…but if that is not possible, that’s ok too. You can mark them as NFS (not for sale).
I’ve heard it time after time, nothing is more annoying to a customer when something isn’t priced.
Pricing can take time, especially when each item you have is different from the next (it’s not so hard if you have items that are the same price).
Having your own branded pricing tags make your booth look so much more professional; however, I don’t necessarily recommend it as an expense to have until you know markets are your jam and you have a list of shows lined up.
Bring a Variety of Price Points
In the early days, we totally missed the mark on this. Our booth consisted of big ‘ol furniture pieces priced in the hundreds or small home decor pieces priced usually at $35 or less.
We were missing the $45-$75 ish price point.
If customers coming into our booth were not interested in furniture, we missed a huge opportunity by not offering something else in that middle ground price point..
Once we realized this, we got to creating and made products that fit the $45-$75 price point.
Much to our pleasant surprise, this price point was incredibly popular and made up for the huge pricing gap.
Don’t Forget the Details!
Be sure to have a small space for your checkout area and bring the essentials.
Some of these may slip your mind, so make a list of common essentials you should always bring with you to a market.
Here is the list of common items we brought with us for our checkout area:
- Small bills and coin for change
- Cash keeper (we use this one)
- Power strips (like these)
- Credit card swiper(s) – we used the PayPal Here app and like it
- Cell phones with credit card app installed
- Blank email sign up forms (we just created a simple one in Word)
- String lights (we used these) in case the venue doesn’t have ample lighting and to add a little pizazz to our booth
- Shopping bags (we used plastic clear bags like these in the beginning to save on expense, then switched to kraft paper bags like these as they looked nicer and we could stamp our logo on them)
Best of luck with your first (or next!) market and please do drop any questions or additional tips you have in the comment box below.
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