how to run a top-notch market stall
Learn how to sell that cool shit you make.
Cute illustration by Ashley Ronning.
STEP ONE: DO SOME SOUL-SEARCHING Before you can know your customer, you must first know yourself. What is it you’re trying to achieve with this market stall? Are you just looking to earn some extra pocket money and scoff jam doughnuts with a pal, or is it a platform to launch your brand into the world, like a fresh, glowing debutante? Your answer will determine whether a low-key community market is more your thing, or a bigger, slicker design fair. (Budget will play a part in this, as well.) If in doubt, take a trip to your favourite market hangouts with a trusty pen and paper, and just observe. You should get a sense of where your wares will fit in – plus, you can take notes on stalls that appeal to you, and ask yourself ‘why’ and ‘how’.
STEP TWO: SELL YOURSELF Once you’ve found the market that fits just right, it’s time to sign up for their next event. You may have to put down a holding deposit for a spot (though, if it means you’ll end up near the bustling entrance instead of downwind from the manky old loos, the financial outlay will be worth it). Some larger markets ask for a formal application, which will require a bit of preparation and careful thought. Include high-quality pictures of your products and stall setup; show how they fit together to create a cohesive ‘brand’; and give a sense of who you are and why you do what you do (without launching headfirst into your full life story). Remember: this is a chance to stand out from the crowd, so focus on your own unique charm, instead of mirroring what others are doing.
STEP THREE: MONEY TALKS With any luck, you’ll wind up raking in the big bucks, but there are a few costs to bear in mind ahead of market day. Things like cute carry bags and packaging may cause you to dip into your kitty, as well as marketing tools like signage and business cards, and of course, your stall display. (For cheapie options, pop by your nearest two-dollar store – you’ll be surprised how much is available.) When it comes to pricing your goodies, don’t undervalue yourself – aside from materials, consider labour costs and overheads, too. Having a range of products at different price points is a nifty way of drawing in passersby. Consider making low-cost ‘bread and butter’ items (as they’re known in the biz) that will spin some extra revenue should your pricier items not sell.
STEP FOUR: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN In the lead-up to the market, adopt the scout motto and always be prepared. Make a thorough checklist and tick each item off one by one: ensure you have enough stock ready on the day; figure out how customers will take their goodies home; organise your cash-handling facilities and a well-stocked change float; create a ‘just in case’ box with things like blu-tack, double-sided tape, clamps and band-aids. Make sure you turn up to the site nice and early (that means no crazy benders the night before), and check what the market provides in terms of tables and chairs. If it’s your first time setting up a stall or using a new display, it’s worth having a practice run at home. There’s nothing worse than arriving for a day of marketeering only to find you don’t know how to assemble that newfangled shelf.
STEP FIVE: ADD SOME PIZZAZZ There are plenty of ways to pretty up your space, like popping plants or flowers in empty nooks or draping fairy lights across the front. Don’t feel pressure to splash your cash, though – some op shop vases will do the trick with a few blooms nicked from your front garden. As a rule, tablecloths should be nice and long to hide extra stock stashed behind your stall, and tiered displays tend to look best. The higher your products, the more likely folks will spot them in a busy crowd, so create layers with nice stands, simple boxes or vintage tins. If you’re selling clothes, use matching wooden hangers. A doily or retro postcard makes a sweet (and low-cost) price tag. Be sure to keep the area around your stall nice and tidy, and don’t forget: you’re part of the display as well, so why not wear the pieces you’re selling, or don colours that match your brand?
STEP SIX: MAN THE STAND So you’re all set up and ready to roll – what comes next? Sit back and let the shoppers flock your way, but also be prepared for long stints of nothingness. If you’re selling something crafty, you could plonk yourself behind your table and make some more goodies while you wait. It’ll break up the tedium that comes from sitting on your arse all day, and give passersby a reason to stop and have a peep. Whatever you do, don’t slouch and stare at your phone – the universal sign for ‘do not approach’. Be warm and friendly with customers and read their cues; some folks are happy to quietly browse, while others welcome the chance to have a bit of a chinwag. Remember that markets can be tough going, so don’t be discouraged if your product isn’t flying out the door. Watch what people are picking up the most. Be open to feedback from customers and other stallholders (this is literal market research!), then try tweaking things a little bit and giving it another go.
A big ol’ thanks to Sarah Thornton from The Finders Keepers for helping us compile this nifty how-to. For more information on achieving market greatness (and to find out about upcoming events around Australia), head to thefinderskeepers.com.