Saturday, September 21, 2013

Flea Market Tips

Last weekend I did some selling at at a local flea market, and it made me think of all the things I've learned going to flea markets throughout the years.  While today is officially the last day of summer, a good time for flea markets, these outdoor sales often continue throughout October as people clear out things they no longer want or need before winter.  So here we go:


1. Bring change and small bills.  It's annoying when you have huge bills and the person you're buying from doesn't have enough change to give you, especially when you're buying something that's inexpensive.  Having to find an ATM, local business, or other table is a hassle; even worse, you may have to pass up on what you wanted in the first place.  Along with this I'd say set a limit for yourself if you have to.  Are you going to give yourself a $10, $25, $50 limit?  Setting a limit to how much cash you bring can help keep you from overspending and make you be more selective of what you buy.

2. Negotiate.  Don't settle for the listed or offered price if you don't think the item is worth that much.  Don't be afraid to ask for a lower price.  The worse they can say is no, so it's worth a shot.

3. Keep an open mind.  This is especially true when it comes to shopping for items for home decorating.  If there is one thing I've learned from watching Nate Berkus for a semester is to look for pieces with "good bones," in good condition, or an interesting shape because you can always fix it up with a new coat of paint or fabric.  Now, I do not advise buying a lot of fixer-uppers if you don't have time for these rehab projects, otherwise you can end up accumulating a lot of pieces that you don't use and are just taking up space.  But, if an old frame or decorative piece can be easily transformed with minimum cost and within the time you have then go for it!  Think frames, vases, lamps, tables, statues, etc.

4. Don't be tempted by the low prices.  This is also true when thrifting.  It feels good to find things you want or need at less then retail price, but this can be a trap that leads to buying things you do not really want, like, or that are of poor quality just because the price is good.  So, really think about whether or not you'd buy the same item if it were full-priced or cost more and whether or not it's something you actually need.

5. Other: bring hand sanitizer/wipes, tissue, reusable bag, water+snacks/eat before you come (this is if you're at a huge flea market, there may be long lines for overcharged food not prepared in the cleanest of facilities).


1. Set reasonable expectations about what you hope to make.  It's easy to convince yourself that your'e going to make $150, but you only end up making $70.  Whether your goal is making a decent profit or just getting rid of things that are taking up too much space, unless you're lucky most flea markets will charge you for the space.  Keeping this in mind make sure you have at least a couple of high ticket items that can pay for the spot, so whatever else you make is straight profit.  Sometimes the spots are as little as $20, but I've seen advertisements for others that are as much as $60-$80.  Sometimes you will only make that much, and you don't want to end up making very little or no money at all--unless you were only in it for the experience.  But even then, you don't want to end up spending you're entire day losing money, when you could have easily donated or sold your unwanted items at a consignment store.

2. Organization.  Have an idea of what you have to sell and how you're going to display it.  Presentation is important.  It may be junk to you, but there is someone who will buy it if it's something they're looking for and appears to be in good condition.  Sometimes a little polish is enough for someone to buy something.  A little extra effort can go a long way.

3. Be prepared.  Save plastic and paper bags leading up the flea market for customers to use.  Bring old circulars/newspapers/magazines for wrapping glass or fragile items.  Customers appreciate the extra effort.

4.  Even if you are selling items that are new or unused the mere fact that you're selling them outside of the original retail environment "devalues" it (antiques are one exception), so people are not always willing to pay as much for it.  You don't want to charge too much, yet there are people who will give you unreasonably low offers.  Don't feel bad about turning down a sale if you know what you have is worth more than what a customer wants to pay.  Just like with buying, be anxious for nothing; wait it out.

5.  Have fun.  There is no real point in doing it, if you don't enjoy it.  Most people will make much more if they go in for an extra day at work, so don't do it for the money or you'll probably be wasting your time.  There are easier and less time consuming ways of getting rid of things you don't want.  Smile, and most people will smile back.  This may bring more people over to your table!  At the very least you'll leave with an interesting conversation or a few good stories.

Like thrifting, flea markets are filled with hidden treasures.  The best part is that you never know what you're going to find, and even if you don't find anything, it sure makes for an interesting way to spend the day.

Anyone have any good flea market tips, stories, or finds?

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