November 25, 2013

How to have a great Market Stall

I've done a couple of market stalls this month, the most recent being yesterday, and I thought I'd show off some photos of it...lots of photos! Then lots of words at the end as I talk you through my top tips for having a market stall.
It was the first time I'd held a stall at this market, called the Artist Market in the Vines, set in the beautiful gardens of the Cassegrain Winery in Port Macquarie.
After a lot of storms lately, including one on Saturday afternoon as we were loading up the cars, we were blessed with a stunning day, thankfully!  
If you follow my Facebook page you may have seen my posts about buying a new marquee for my stall...I had been wanting a pretty white one for a while now, and decided it was time to pull the trigger...I am glad I did, although because it was such a hot sunny day, it was pretty bright in there!  I just love how all my things pop off the white backdrop, just as envisioned.  I have white walls in my studio for the same reason...I just think things look nicer with a plain backdrop!

Above: my gorgeous girl and I at the start of the day :)  The photo below was taken at my first ever market stall in February 2011...look how much closer to my shoulder height my little girl is now!

I've made up a photo portfolio of my work, showing before and after shots of some of my transformations. It is a great way to show what is possible with old furniture...people often recognise a piece that is similar to theirs, and start thinking of the possibilities...
I made myself another sign - my first one is currently hanging out at the shop in Taree. This one looks very green here, but it's not, it's white (just not as white as my bright marquee!)

My top tips for having your own market stall would be as follows:

- Present your business well with a strong branding presence. Get some business cards printed, along with swing tags (I use business cards in the same design/colour but with less info on them). Have a sign or two - I use Vistaprint for my printing needs, they are good value and the quality is great. If you make items that you could put embroidered tags on, do so. I order mine from Cash's name tapes. I also have a sticky label that I put on the underside or back of my painted pieces - it is actually an address label but it just has my business name and website printed on it.

- Be organised, like really organised. Keep to do lists for the couple of weeks leading up to your market, cross off things as you do them and add more as soon as you think of it. Have a 'master list' of things you need to do/bring/use every market.

- bring a change float, making sure you have small enough change to work with the cheapest price item you have.  I took gold coins to yesterday's market as I was selling some vintage style Xmas decorations for $2 each or 3 for $5 - but everyone that bought them did so in multiples of 3, so the gold coins weren't used, but I would rather have them and not use them, than not have the right change. Take cash for the stall fee - over and above the change float. Don't expect to pay your fee out of your sales - you might not have made enough by the time the organisers come looking for payment. That's not fair to them.

- I have a 'market box' which stays packed all the time. It contains business cards, swing tags, ribbon, scissors, sellotape, string, safety pins, pens, baby wipes, fine sandpaper, a cloth, duct tape, a folder and paper for noting sales on the day as well as contact details for leads to follow up, a receipt book, and cable ties (these are very handy for hanging things from the marquee frame).

- Price your items clearly - I use my swing tags but also for some bigger items I use a perspex photo frame with pretty paper in it that I write the details on.

- Introduce yourself - I have written up a bit of an introduction about myself and what I do, what services I offer, where else people can find my items, where I am based, and how they can contact me. This is printed on pretty paper and I display it in an A4 size perspex document display holder. This isn't going to do all the work for you though - some people won't see it or bother reading it, or would maybe just prefer to hear it from you. That's okay and you have to be prepared for a lot of talking about the same thing over and over...but if it's your passion, it should never be a chore!

- have some practised responses in regards to what people might ask and how much you want to tell them - some people seem to think it is okay to ask us little businesses what all our secrets are - my skills, knowledge and experience are based on years of hard work, lots of investment (financial and emotional), trial and error, and sheer determination. I give away plenty of information on my blog as I do love to inspire others (hence this post!) BUT some things cannot and will not be handed to just have to get in there and work it out for yourself, like I did :) This is not meant to be mean so I hope it doesn't come across this way - it is just that you wouldn't walk into KFC and ask the what the Colonel's secret recipe was don't ask us little guys what ours is. Also, with a hands-on skill, you learn it by being hands-on...and the creative side of it has to come from within, I think you either have it or you don't.

- take water, lots of it. And food - particularly if you are by yourself, you won't be able to nip away to grab something to eat, or even go to the stall neighbours are usually a friendly bunch though and it's always nice to make introduce yourself at the start of the day so they can watch out for you while you do duck to the loo ;)

- take something heavy to hold down your marquee - I use large concrete blocks which aren't the most user-friendly option when it comes to carting them about, but work quite well all the same. I don't use tent pegs because the usual market I do is on very sandy ground and they don't hold. It also gets very windy there which is a challenge!  Another nice neighbourly thing to do is rush to help pick something up if your stall neighbour has something blow over, that usually happens every market I've been to.

- display your items nicely, think about where things will go and how it will all look together. If you are selling items such as cushions, have something to display those on - luckily I've got a bookcase at the moment and they are good on there but if I didn't, I'd use a selection of cane baskets. Vintage suitcases are great for displaying your wares in too. As items sell, re-shuffle things about to fill in gaps as best you can. The cushion I had on the chair out the front of my stall yesterday sold first thing so I put another in its place, then later in the day I swapped them around again.

- be prepared to hear some comments you'd rather not. Usually along the lines of  'oh you are ruining perfectly good wooden furniture', 'I used to paint furniture', 'I could make that myself', 'wow that's expensive' etc. You have to have thick skin to put yourself out there at a market stall! Don't let it put you off though, just get out there and be awesome!

- wear something that you feel good in, and make sure it is comfortable!  It is a long day with an early start, a big job setting up, standing all day then packing up before unpacking again at home (hopefully with less than you started the day with!)

- on that note, don't be too disappointed if you don't sell much, or anything at all. You cannot tell in advance if your stuff will sell on the day - some months market day will be excellent, some not so good. Because I sell furniture, I cannot expect people to come to a market and go home with an impulse purchase of a large piece of furniture...but they may fall in love with it, go home and think about it, work out where it will fit, and make the decision to purchase a few days or weeks later. In saying that though, I did sell a dining suite by 9am at a market a couple of weeks ago, so you never can tell who is looking for what! Think of it as getting your name out really are excellent for that. If you offer a service, make sure people know that. They will go home with your card and when they are in need of your service, they'll remember that time they saw you at the market, and call :)

I think that is all I can think of for now - if I think of more I will come back and add it to the post.
I hope it has been helpful...if you do markets and can think of anything to add, please let me know in the comments! If you have been thinking about putting yourself out there and doing a stall, I'd love to hear about it!


  1. Thanks Karen, this is a great post. As you may have seen, I did my first market this month, and it was a lot of fun. It was indoors which was brilliant. I'm looking at doing it again, but have to think of the outdoor elements for next time. Went to a very windy market on the weekend and saw the need for weights on pop up tents as the Proffertjes tent blew upwards knocking over a table and gas bottles! They were in a dead-set panic running to turn power off before anything caught fire! Thanks for sharing your tips. You always have lovely things to sell. Do you have a trailer or a van to transport your goodies? Any tips on parking/access, a trolley perhaps to get things to your site? Do you have extra muscles to help with your big pieces?

    1. Thanks Sharon, yes I did see that you did your first market recently, good on you! I've never done an indoors one, which would be great to be out of the weather but I imagine would pose a different set of challenges such as access. You've raised some great questions here (and made me think of other points I've missed!) - I will add the answers and the other things I have thought of into my post later today :)

  2. Great post Karen - I have done one market stall, but it was really poorly organised despite being in a great location - it put me off a bit, as I had put in a lot of effort in preparing for he day. Hoping to start fresh next year and I have scoped out a couple of other local markets that are much more organised and suit my style a bit better. It is daunting getting out there initially, but I have had lots of support and encouragement - the only thing holding me back is me :-)

    1. Thanks Tracey, that is a shame that your first market stall put you off a is hard to go to all that effort to find it not worth your while, I've done one like that too and learnt from it...I always like to scope out any markets as a shopper first but even that isn't enough sometimes, you just can't tell, and it depends who is out and about on the day. I totally understand how daunting it is - despite how it may look on my blog I am not the most confident person in the world lol...but I find doing this equal parts scary and exciting, so I let the exciting part talk louder to me! I look forward to hearing about your foray back into markets soon then :)

  3. some very sensible advice, and is pretty similar to what I do!

  4. I did markets and craft fairs all over NSW for 15 plus years everything you have said is true and pretty good for someone starting out.I used to always have some of those plastic drop sheets in my basket in case of a light shower they are only a couple of dollars and worth it ...The thick skin is the most important.I used to get oh how do you do that ,or don't buy that Aunty can make it my pet hate was people taking photos .Your stuff is different but with mine they would take a photo to go home and copy.I must admit to being naughty sometimes when they asked how I did it I gave them the wrong answer.I had worked it out after a lot of trials so should they.all the best -love dee x

  5. Excellent advice. I wish my daughter would do this with the stuff she refinishes.

  6. Your stall looks gorgeous, love the sign, and the bunting. Your before and after photo book is a great idea! I'm planning to sell at the Sydney Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair in Sydney next May so I'm starting to think about the practicalities now including 'branding' and how to incorporate that into the look of my table and other practical matters so while the size of the pieces we each deal with is VERY different your market tips are helpful. One thing I'll be faced with that I don't suppose is usually much of a problem for you is shoplifting - hard to believe that that and theft from bags would be an issue at something that seems like it should be friendly and 'all girls together' but it's unfortunately quite an issue. And I'll be sure to wear my thickest skin because I'm also planning to exhibit my 1/12th scale Parisian brocante and apartment, it's entirely different to the 'usual' dollshouse style being very time-worn and a bit grubby looking so I'm expecting that the 'traditional' folks are going to find it a bit shocking and maybe not entirely to their taste ;) Good to shake things up a bit now and then though!

  7. Great advice Karen!! I wish I had a marquee...but only doing one market a year, it isn't really feasible.
    I always play music at mine! just for some atmosphere, I pop some batteries in my ipod dock and have a market playlist that plays through all morning. its more for me though, always gotta have music going ;-)

  8. Thank you for putting your advice here... I've only just started doing this and your words of wisdom and experience are beyond helpful... I will print them off and post them beside the computer to keep me motivated and just to remember "the little things".... I appreciate this... thank you...Siobhan...from Sunnybrook Farm...

  9. Great tips Karen and as usual your stall looks terrific! I know I've been MIA for a while but I still come and check out your blog now and then. Good to see things are still going so well xx