12 Most Important Tips For Becoming A Successful Flea Market Vendor

By David Wolff
Originally published on November 29, 2011. Updated April 15, 2016 including tips by guest blogger Joe Holich
12 Most Important Tips For Becoming A Successful Flea Market Vendor
Published on 12 MOST...
Posted by  on Nov 29, 2011 in BlogBusinessEducation and training,Entrepreneurship 

As a flea market owner, my expertise is running the entire operation, rather than selling the merchandise. However, interacting with both sellers and customers for over 20 years has given me a unique perspective on what makes a successful flea market vendor. Below are 12 Tips for Becoming a Successful Flea Market Vendor.

1. Attractive display

It’s hard to sell items if customers don’t look at your merchandise. If they don’t see it, you don’t sell it! An attractive display does not necessarily mean that it should be an organized, professional or expensive display. In my opinion it depends on the merchandise and/or your strategy. I’ve seen both ways work very effectively. The important thing is to get customers to look at your merchandise. I’ve seen vendors who sell estate or “storage war” merchandise simply put random boxes on the ground with some intriguing or eye catching merchandise on the top. These vendors quickly attract dozens of customers trolling through their merchandise in hopes of snagging the ultimate flea market find in a haphazard collection. Conversely, I’ve seen pristine, neat displays that hid merchandise in a way that no one could easily see it or interact with it and thus not purchase it. Please note that if you sell certain high-end items or food, I would definitely make my display clean and organized.

2. Your “seller’s personality”

Don’t scare away customers. You need to balance your seller's persona between passive and aggressive. If you are too loud and pushy in your sales techniques, you could drive customers away. On the other hand, if someone seems interested in an item but starts to walk away, there is no harm in trying to save the sale. If you have room in the price, maybe you can get them back by offering them a better price. Or maybe you can add an interesting tidbit about the item or point out a similar product?

3. Be nice

You want your patrons to like you. This seems like a no brainer, but one that some vendors ignore. Be friendly; engage customers in conversations on subjects that have nothing to do with your merchandise. If someone is wearing a Cubs jersey, start talking about the Cubs. I have often been suckered into buying merchandise simply because I liked the vendor and felt awkward leaving without making a purchase. If you get a nasty customer, avoid arguments. As a flea market owner, I have occasionally asked vendors with repeated customer relation issues to leave.

4. Change your display

The same display is a boring display, so shake it up a little! We operate an outdoor market in the parking lot of an indoor arena. Years ago, once a season, we shared the lot with a carnival. On those days we needed to reconfigure the market and move the location of the assigned regular spaces. Many reserved vendors told me they sold merchandise that they were never able to move. My theory is that customers who were used to seeing the same merchandise in the same space were now viewing the items from a different perspective, as if they had never seen it before. This lesson can be extrapolated to your normal display; move things around, change things up. Customers will discover merchandise that you always have had out if you rotate the location, placing different items at floor level, eye level, etc. To me this is one of the common elements of the successful vendors I have seen over the years.

5. Change your merchandise

Consistently give your customer something different to purchase. It is amazing how many first-time vendors who come to our market have incredible days. Their second and third day is pretty good too. By the fourth day, their sales slow down. They then tell me how good the market use to be, but is now not so good. I ask them, have you purchased any new merchandise? I actually don’t have to ask the question, because I know the answer. Their stock of good merchandise is gone. The successful vendor is not only restocking base merchandise, but also constantly trying new offerings.

6. Know what your customers want

Many successful vendors know what their customers want. One of my vendors sells food products. He knows I love a certain cheese wafer. He knows that when he is purchasing his stock if he sees this product he has a large sale because I will buy his entire stock of this item. Many collectible dealers know what their regular customers collect. If they are out purchasing their merchandise, they keep this in mind and pick up items they can sell to these customers.

7. Price reasonably

Don’t try to be greedy. It is much better to sell 500 items at a $1 profit than 100 items at a $2 profit. This rule would apply to merchandise you can easily replenish. In general more successful vendors have more attractive prices and are constantly replenishing their stock. If an item isn’t moving, lower the price even if you are going to take a loss. It doesn’t make sense to keep it around taking up valuable sales space.

8. Watch other successful vendors

It is easy to spot the successful vendor. They are the ones who always have a large crowd around their booth. Take the time to watch them. There is no better place to learn successful techniques.

9. Find a good product and become an expert

Know your stuff. You could be the best salesperson in the world, but if you are selling a product that is not desirable, you will not do well. You also have to have enough products to make it worth you while. I’ve come across vendors who have not had enough merchandise on their table to pay their rent. Know your product. Become an expert. If you can extol the benefits of your merchandise you will sell more.

10. A bad weather day can be your friend

Believe it or not–a thunderstorm can help your sales. This advice is for vendors who sell at outdoor flea markets. Many sellers have told me they have their best sales days when the weather is not the best. Why? If it is raining in the morning, many vendors choose to stay at home. The professional vendors will still set up because they know that when the weather breaks, the customers will start to flow in. The vendors who remain will enjoy much less competition for these customers’ dollars. The customers who do come out on these days are usually the die-hards who like spending their money.

11. Social media

Join the social media band wagon. If the flea market that you are attending is involved in social media, make full use of their facebook, twitter and other relevant sites to offer your own discounts, coupons and also to promote your merchandise. (Use relevant "tags" on your posts like #antiques, #furniture, etc. to attract attention to your specific products). What’s best about this is that your posts and interactions are free advertising for you and the market! Many markets have hundreds if not thousands of regular customers who follower their media sites. Wolff's Flea Market has over 12,000 followers on facebook. That's a lot of exposure!. If the market you attend does not use social media, encourage them to enter the 21st century.

12. Free advertising

Nothing beats free publicity. One of the top online sites to get free advertising is Craigslist. If you have a particular item for sale, you may find that no one attending the market seems to be interested in it. Why not expand your reach to the multitude of people visiting Craigslist? These people search Craigslist specifically for your type of item. Simply take a picture, add a description and price and list the address and hours of the flea market you are attending. If you mention your ad to market managers, they may even allow you to add a free admission coupon to your listing.
Most of these helpful business tips can be transferred to other ventures. Many successful vendors have eventually gone on to open thriving retail operations.

And now for a few more fantastic tips from successful flea market vendor and guest blogger Joe Holich:

13. Set a Goal for the Day
If you need/want $300 in sales, then adjust your prices to reach it. Sell a few items at a loss or at a break even point. If you bought smart up front, you'll still be ahead. You can't succeed if you haven't defined success.

14. Know your Competition
Consumers aren't stupid. If you are asking $5 for a widget that everyone else is asking $3 for then don't be surprised if yours doesn't sell.

15. Other Vendors May be your Competition but they aren't your Enemy
If only you succeeded then eventually the other vendors will leave and customers will stop coming too. Shoppers don't just go to a one-store shopping mall.

16. Be Honest
Stand behind your sale. Your reputation is everything.

17. Build Relations with Other Vendors
They can be your best customers and best referrals. Help others succeed and you will too.

18. Get Business cards
Offer to help customers by finding out what they are looking for. Help them find it even if you don't make any money. They will eventually be your customer for life. 

19. Have Fun
If you are desperate or pushy, the customers won't come back.

Wow! Thanks Joe for your insight! Many people can learn from you!



  1. I like #11. Social Media, and here is another thing that is really going big is Mobile Marketing. If you can get people to "text" your number they will be subscribed to your mobile messages. You can use it to remind people about you or if you have anything new. One of the most affordable one we found also has Social Media and Email Marketing Included -http://seo-alien.com/band-bar-promoting
    Thanks for the great information and allowing me to share!

  2. Thanks for sharing such an informative article. I really enjoyed it. Please visit http://goo.gl/P8dQ8I


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