posie children's aprons blowing in the breeze
Greetings. I have been asked by a couple of ladies, you know who you are Jade & Belinda, who are planning to do a stall at their local markets . . . for some tips. I've really only been doing markets on a regular basis this year, as 4 young children & a war in the Middle East haven't allowed me the freedom on Sundays to 'work' outside the home. Trust me, a Posie stall 'lemonade for sale' style, on the nature strip outside the house was looking like my only hope for a while. So I've jotted down some ideas & things to think about for the day which might assist you.
I've added in some some snaps of how Posie looks at the markets. I'm no expert, but I am confident in my product, my set up seems to work, I'm very chatty but not in a used car salesman kind of way & find it's the BEST market research you can ever hope to do, in the flesh, face to face with your customers. I am probably on the same page as lots of crafty mummies out there, who work really late into the night, alone, wondering if anyone will buy their handmade goods & setting up a craft stall for an 8a.m. start could leave you trembling. I have taken some random close up images of my set up, as of course, the ONE day I take a camera to the markets, I leave the back wall of the marquee at home . . . so the overall stall just didn't look photo or blog worthy. See, be prepared as you will probably forget something, minor or major. Please keep in mind I have been doing Posie for almost 5 years, I have lots of different tried & tested products, over 1000 different fabrics from the US, so if you're a first timer, please don't be overwhelmed, it took me years to get to a market stall stage with a neat display, variety & gentle pitch to customres.
Stock Sells Stock - my father, a naval commander gave me this advice, how he would know?? Anyway, he is sooo right. I rarely sell a product where there are only 2 or 3 of them in different fabrics to choose from, but if I have 20 products in different fabrics, I'll sell tonnes. It also looks 'shop like' without being mass produced, to have sections of the same product. You can also say "wow, I've sold lots of them today, good choice".
handmade rattles by my girlfriend Geneen &I Made It Myself - nearly every single person asks me if I make the products myself, it makes a huge difference to them to know they are speaking to the designer & craftsman. I sell a few products (noted above) made by friends, who I tag as 'local mummies who are at home today', plus some Lark products, who I tell each customer are hand knitted from a lovely lady in Victoria, & they love it. Apart from the craft fairs I attend, which are strictly handmade only, I do Nightcliff Markets, which is primarily an Asian food & Tropical smoothie type market, with lots of imported Jewellery stalls. It's very alternative, hippie & grungy, with local live music acts, massage tents, organic produce & plants. There was an obvious niche for me there, but it did take people a while to get used to me.
some hand knitted Lark donuts, ice creams & vegetables from Allison
some hand knitted Lark donuts, ice creams & vegetables from Allison
a swatch of fabric goes a long wayVariety of Products & Prices - so I set up Posie because I loved fabric & handmade quilts, seemed like a good tax deduction & child friendly enterprise. I soon had people asking for other products & realised, I'd have to diversify with a range of products at different prices, for cash flow. Same for markets, sure sell your beautiful bags or clothes, but while people might love what you do, it might be a small swatch of fabric that they need to start off as a repeat customer. So make up baskets of smaller products, in the same style or fabrics, for people who just want a 'piece of the action'.
Layout & Set Up - I'll confess now, I hated markets. I never had any interest in them at all. I never liked what I saw, found them too hot, too cold, too muddy, my husband pushing me past or saying "you have 5 minutes", too overcrowded, too grandmotherly . . . hmmm . . . my taste & expectations of course have changed. I was 24 when I became a mummy, so my shopaholic ways turned from me to my daughter. I started loving wooden & handmade toys, but still never saw anything eye catching like a bib or outfit I loved. So that was 1999. My point is, I never paid any attention to how people set up their stalls or displayed their products, neverlone, what they were selling. So when I attempted my first market, I had big IKEA bags of products, but how to display them?? I'll fast forward to now, where I have 2 or 3 trestle tables, pretty Cath Kidston tablecloths, a string of bunting pennants in some of my favourite fabrics around the top of the marquee. It's eye catching for sure. I display most of my products in pretty fabric lined baskets with clear neat little tags or signs, with a description & price for each basket of products. It saves you having to repeat 100 times "that's for little girls, it's $15".
a basket of posie coin pursesChit Chat & Customer Service - this is certainly something you have to gauge, I'm chatty so can talk to anyone about anything, but try not to at the cost of making a quieter customer wait to ask a question or make a purchase. People understand you're 'at work' & looking around while you talk, but sometimes they will drill you about the ins & outs of a product, not let anyone else get your attention, & other potential customers walk away. Being polite & friendly, with a cheery "excuse me while I just fix this lady up" usually works.
Admin - I set up a card table & chair in the back corner of my marquee, with the cash box, mobile EFTPOS machine & carry bags, business cards, plus pen & paper for notes or orders. This has just opened up a can of worms for other points to mention.
a posie tiny tote in story book fabricMarquee/ Shelter - in Darwin, we have 2 seasons, Wet/ Monsoon (hot, wet & humid, every day for 6 months) & Dry (hot, dry & glorious for 6 months). I stick to Dry Season markets (April to October) as I know it won't rain!! So all I need is shelter from the sun, a good camping marquee does the trick & I can set it up solo. I'm only 5'6" tall, but very strong, so a 35kg marquee is no problem. I also get a 3x3m stall space, which is the right size for my marquee. I find the metal frame the perfect place to display my bags & aprons, using lovely wooden coat hangers, which are easy to access & customers can help themselves to trying on a bag etc. You must consider wind of course, but I rarely have to peg my marquee down or stop products from flying away. For the heat, just take plenty of water with you & remember to take the back wall if you have a marquee, prevents heat stroke!! A wall is well worth the investment as it gives you a display wall, plus privacy & security if you back onto someone else's stall or the car park. I drape the sides back, like curtains, which helps indicate to customers, they are not meant to come behind the tables!!
Carry Bags - definately take bags for people to carry their goodies home in. I stole the gorgeous packaging ideas from Meet Me At Mikes with pretty decorated paper bags (thanks Pip). That way people WILL recycle & reuse them, so put your label or shop details on the bag too. If what they have bought is a gift, all they need to do is add a ribbon & card. I just think beautifully handmade crafts, shouldn't been plonked in a grey grocery bag next to their organic bananas.
a basket of drawer doves
a basket of drawer doves
Orders - while it's really exciting to take orders, which you can post, deliver mid week or have collected next market . . . seriously consider the time it makes something to order, versus you whipping up 10 products in the fabrics you want to use, production line style for a market, versus making a 'one off'. Think about adding a premium for orders or delivery & make them pay now. It's very unlikely they will call you, check your website, etsy store or email you when they get home, dizzy with market day overload. That said, do have some business cards or pretty notes with your contact details INCLUDING what you actually do, as they might have picked up 20 cards on the day, so ensure you stand out. Also add a personal note like "pinafore in blue corduroy with fabric trim' as I am sure Jade will be doing 100 times over on Saturday!!
posie feeding bibs displayed on a paper towel holder
Money, Money, Money - I use a cash box with approx float of $60 in small notes & gold coins. You will have people using a $50 to purchase a $5 item, DO ask them for something smaller, TRY NOT TO give out all your change to one customer, as if you don't have change, some people will say 'forget about it'. What a waste. As I have products priced from $3 to $80 (no, I don't take patchwork quilts to the markets) . . . I find my EFTPOS machine invaluable. It's a mobile one from ANZ, costs $50 rent plus small % per transaction, it is what I use for the Posie plus Edna&Alice May businesses for on line & phone orders. In short, brilliant!! It pays for itself every weekend, as people say "oh, you take EFTPOS, right, I'll grab this & this & this too".
Discounts - think about some specials like $5 each or 6 for $25, everyone loves a bargain!! Plan in advance if you would be willing to sell 2 x $35 products for $60, so you're not thinking on your feet, face to face with the keen purchaser waiting for you to have a maths break down and say "sure, why not $50??" You'll regret it. I do 90% of my markets on my own, only selling my products, so if you are in a group, ensure you know what your partners are willing to do so far as taking ORDERS & offering DISCOUNTS. People are impatient & if you are saying "um, it's not my work, I don't know if she would, um" they will walk away as it's all too difficult.
a selection of cushions
Visitors - it's great that your friends, neighbours, family & school mummies have come to support you, but really, you are at work & like when you're in a retail shop being ignored by the sales assistant on the phone, talking to a colleague or having a personal conversation with another customer, it's something to be careful about. Also think up what you are prepared to charge that lovely teacher at school, a friendly discount so she's still nice to your son in class, or can they appreciate the investment of time & materials that has created such a beautiful product?? Personally, I find it very difficult when my husband brings the children to visit me, as a) they want to help themselves to products, b) he has usually brought them for lunch as well so they have food fingers, c) for well adjusted school aged children, they suddenly have a bout of separation anxiety & don't want to leave me, I also dread this for when I can finally participate at Canteen for Tuck Shop Duty at school, d) it's not 'bring your children to work' day is it?? Do I take them to his barracks for a visit, hardly!!
some Cath Kidston oilcloth purses, these sold in the first few minutes
Now that's about all I could think up while actually doing a market on Sunday. There are lots of other tips like 'wear sensible shoes', appropriate clothing for the weather, try to look fresh & happy, not like you were up until 3a.m. finishing off the trim on this & that. I know, even I still do that one & confess to a customer "oh, so glad I stayed up to make that one". Take snacks if you can't escape to eat a proper meal, & before you ask, yes, there are plenty of markets where I don't find time to even use the toilets. Follow the basic rules, like 'no packing up before 2p.m.' as you really will get customers at 1.55p.m. coming back to make that final purchase. Thank hard about spending your hard earned money at other people's stalls, try for a product swap instead. Oh, if I could swap a bag for 10 containers of Thai Beef Salad, I'd be so happy!!
I hope this helps, happy to answer any questions - perhaps as a blog comment, as I'm sure I've left major points out. Our Darwin markets are all very relaxed, no tape measures from the organisers or 'you are in my spot' dramas. Plus my regular spot is against the car park, so I can reverse RIGHT UP TO my site. That has saved my arms falling off & making for a much faster get away. You might be new & a threat to other stalls, they will check you & your products out to suss out the competition. It's just part of life. Just be friendly. Say hello & introduce yourself, say it's your first time, they might help you!! Then ask if you are in their way, car spot, pathway etc, better to check than to set up & them have a hissy fit & bring the coordinator over to you, then you have to move everything over 20cm. Deep breath ladies, you can do it!! Really, enjoy it, take notes on what customers suggest, what sells, a tally of the total & so many new ideas will come from the experience.
Also, if you only sell a few things, people who are regulars, do take time to warm up to your new concept, style & presence at the market. So don't be put off if you do have a slow day, or first few weeks are a lot of foot traffic only. Good luck!! Please let me know of your success. As for me, I'll be back at Nightcliff on Sunday 8a.m. to 2p.m., then a Craft Fair on the Esplanade on Sunday 5th August 9a.m. to 3p.m. in Darwin City, a beautiful setting with lots of tourists. Love Jennie
PS sorry for the haywire spacing & text not being centred, I'll still learning . . .