Saturday, 16 November 2013

Markets 101; How to dominate any Market.

My wife has always been interested in fashion and design. She is a keen seamstress and has a keen eye for what "looks good". A few years ago, she decided she wanted to start a small-scale, high quality children's clothing line. A few weeks later, we happened across a local market that specialised in handmade items, which was relatively distinctive and exhibitors were thoroughly screened to maintain the integrity of the market.

I predicted that she would dominate that particular Market with her stall within about five tries, but she managed to do it within two. I've been a veteran of many markets in my time, but my products were more automotive-related and at large rural markets. Anyway, we pooled our collective experience and strengths and did really well over a period of a couple of years at selected markets throughout Victoria.

It goes without saying that you need really well-made and distinctive products, but in general, here's how she did it:

1. Positioning your stall is important. Internal or external corners are best. Corners are great crowd "choke points" that slow people down. They slow down just long enough to browse, regardless of the product offering. 

2. Have enough stock to make the space seem interesting. Not cluttered, but not too sparse, either.

3. Run the numbers before you start. A good return is 20 times the stall fee. Do you have enough stock at full retail to add up to this figure, if you sold everything?

4. Have a variety of stock priced at high, medium and low levels. The low priced things usually sell well and they add up over the day.

5. Keep a running sheet of what you sell and review them after each market. This will provide a written evaluation of what sells and what doesn't.

6.Make it easy for your customers to buy from you, and even easier to remember you. Everything you sell needs to have your label on it, and a website/ blog, etc. If possible and feasable, have a mobile EFTPOS machine. If you are only dealing in cash, go to the bank the day before and have a float of at least $150.00, ($250.00 is better), mainly in small note and "gold coin" (in Australia, gold coins are a dollar and two dollars) denominations.

7.Display your goods at different levels; never merely laid out flat on a table. Try to have at least three levels of products available. 

8.Unless you are selling rusty car parts at a flea market, your goods must be clean. If you are selling clothes, they need to be freshly ironed and hanging up on nice timber hangers. They must also smell nice. Never use those incense sticks in your home in the same place as you store your goods ; quite simply, they stink. For added professionalism, clothing displays should be on a mannequin, not a hanger. It's OK to have your sales stock on a portable clothes horse that holds about 20-30 garments.

9.Price everything clearly, but not so it screams at the customer unless you are selling on price only (as opposed to quality). You need to have the prospective customer stop and look at your goods.

10. A market should not be a solo act. Always take a friend with you to provide relief on breaks, to assist in busy peaks, and remain vigilant.

11. Sitting down behind your stall is tempting, but it implies apathy, disinterest in your own goods, and laziness. Psychologically, people are drawn to stores that are bright, clean, and inviting. Standing up gives a feeling of urgency and action to your customers. Standing up allows you to see who is interested, and an opportunity to initiate a conversation with the potential customer without having to get up. This leads me to my next point...

12. Don't jump on your potential customers. Think how you would like to be treated. Educate them about your goods. Speak slowly. Listen. Be cool. 

13. Valuable, delicate or theft-prone goods should be in a glass display case. This is really important.

14. Looks are important. Your stall must stand out from the crowd. You have about five to ten seconds to capture the potential customer's attention. I went to a market recently and saw the same props used (bunting, a mini rotary clothesline that had products hanging off it) in four other stalls (in a really small market, so the stalls all started to look the same).

Marketing hint: Markets are a valuable way of getting your name out there. My wife doesn't do them anymore, because she always had literature made that would direct people to her online stores. She was thinking ahead. 

She has now diversified into vintage homewares and craft supplies, both stores online. 

Links to her stores can be found here and here.