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how design markets can benefit your creative business

how design markets can benefit your creative business

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Design markets are back. For creative businesses born during lockdowns, they present an untapped opportunity to grow revenue and attract new customers. Here, The Makers and Shakers and Slow Fashion Market founder, Emma Morris, explains why.

Before COVID restrictions completely benched design markets, they were one of the most vital components in a maker’s business toolkit. As they make their return, it’s timely to discuss why they are so important for creative businesses (even emerging makers) and how big multi-day markets can help to grow your business.

Design markets can be super-lucrative 
The idea of committing to big multi-day markets can be a little intimidating for new creative businesses. Sometimes, emerging makers are apprehensive about paying higher stall fees because the task of getting in the black becomes steeper. Nothing is risk-free, of course, but the job of a professional market organiser is to host well-curated and well-attended markets that deliver stallholders decent quantities of customers. Asking other creatives for their recommendations and experience of markets in your city or interstate is a good starting strategy.

If your business has only existed online, you might not know that before COVID, a regular schedule of design markets could bring some makers 5–6 figures from participating in 7–8 markets a year. Let’s do some maths: if a market attracts 10,000 people over a weekend, and you get sales from at least 1 per cent of customers (100 people), and your average sale is $60, you could be making $6000 turnover from just one event. Stall fees at The Makers and Shakers Market, for example, start at $650, meaning you’d only need to make 11 sales to cover it.

More than that, after participating in a larger design market, makers often experience a flurry of post-event sales from customers who just needed more time to think about their purchase. As organisers, we are always fielding emails from customers who are trying to track down particular makers they want to spend money on. Design markets help you build your customer base
Even if sales don’t meet your expectations, there are still loads of ways to maximise your market opportunity. Think of your stall fee as a chunk of your annual marketing budget – $650–$1000 is not a lot of money to spend on marketing to reach a very receptive audience in real life (and it’s certainly better than giving it to Meta/Facebook). By participating, you are being associated with a high-standard event and a high-standard community of creatives. 

Customers attending design markets are fans of handmade products and are ready to connect with new makers. These bigger events include structured marketing campaigns that get creative businesses on customers’ radars in the lead up to their events. Many customers prefer to buy in person; they want to try things on or see how they feel in their hands. Let’s face it, online selling doesn’t suit every product. By participating in a design market, you’re benefiting from its marketing reach and being introduced to its existing audience. 

While you’re trading, it’s a good idea to focus on building your mailing list while you’re there. For example, if someone makes a purchase, you can email a receipt via a point-of-sale system like Square. Then, ask them if you can add them to your newsletter list for new products and offers. They’ll likely say yes. It also helps to have cards featuring your logo or product photo, business name, website and Instagram handle, so that people who don’t purchase anything can still look you up later.

Design markets let you tap into what’s happening
Markets can be inspiring places. They allow you to pick up on trends, new tools and ideas, and you can use them as a research and feedback opportunity. It’s always good to observe what products people are drawn to, and you’ll know from your sales what’s popular and what’s not. Asking customers questions about what they like and what they use things for will also give you a clearer understanding of your own products and practices.  

You can also learn practical strategies from fellow stallholders. Seeing how other creatives set up their stalls or hearing their opening lines to get customer conversations on the boil are highly valuable experiences for newer businesses. These subtle things just can’t be learnt on Instagram. 

Design markets help you build a peer network 
If you’ve been in long-suffering Melbourne, you’ll know that connecting has been hard. You’ll absolutely make new friends at a market with fellow stallholders, and strengthen those connections that have only been online. Markets are a bonding experience, especially multi-day events. After the event, you’ll follow each other on Instagram, build a support network and further learn from each other. And who doesn’t love a good gossip sesh! 

The Makers and Shakers and Slow Fashion Market will be held in Melbourne on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 March at Seaworks Maritime Precinct Williamstown, and in Sydney on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 May at White Bay Cruise Terminal in Rozelle. For more information on participating as a stallholder, head hereWant some more top tips on running a market stall? Read this. 

For more small-business stories like this, visit frankie.com.au/strictly-business, or sign up to our monthly e-newsletter. Have a small-business story you’d like to share? Pitch it to us.