Markets Are Back!
With markets back in full swing I thought I’d share some of the tips I wish I’d known when starting out as a vendor. Everybody has different experiences and every market organizer runs things differently too. Sometimes things will work better in different settings then others so it’s always good to plan for everything.
As a vendor and as a market organizer I can not stress enough the importance of reading everything in the application and any follow-up info the organizers send you. Before you ask the organizer any questions please, we all beg of you, please read ALL the information that has already been sent to you. Most organizers will have mentioned in the application or the follow up emails the basics like; payment due dates, table sizes (or lot size if that is applicable), how many chairs are provided, the time you are expected to arrive and the parking information for the venue.
A good organizer will have thought out and put every detail they can think a vendor would want to know in the application. If they haven’t, then absolutely email them for more information….but DO NOT wait until the last few days before the market. Those days are very hectic and busy for everyone involved as they try to get everything ready for you.
Organizers also very much appreciate when a vendor asks a question about something and does not assume something will be done a certain way just because a different market ran that way. To be sure, every market runs a bit differently.
The following are a few tips that we at Square Lemon have learned along the way and would like to share with you.
This is something you’ll want to have figured out way before the market, Obviously you want people to pay for your amazing wares, you need to give them as many options to do that as possible. Unfortunately the days of everyone carrying cash is long gone and ATMS are not as available as we’d all like. Some do still carry cash but most will want to pay by debit, credit or e-transfer. I’ve seen a lot of heart broken vendors lose a sale because they only dealt in cash.
E-transfer is probably the easiest one to have ready. You just need to have online banking, which is free to set up with your bank. I suggest having your email address written out on a card to make it faster for the customer to type into their banking app. If you are comfortable with it, remove the password option so the payments go through faster or if you want to keep the password then write a short answer on the card with your email address and have your customer use it so you can accept the transfer faster and get on to more sales.
Debit and Credit payments require a 3rd party POS (point of sale) payment system but they are more affordable and user friendly than most think. Square is one of the easiest and cheapest systems I’m personally aware of. Signing up for them is free and you may still be able to use the basic strip reader (credit card only) for free through their website.
I have heard that this is not always free anymore but, fear not, the basic reader is available from places like Wal-Mart and Staples for under $20. The tap reader, which can accept credit cards and debit cards runs for about $55 and it is definitely worth the investment. The app is easy to set up and can be used on both Apple and Android. Please remember that the set up for these apps may take a few days as they have to communicate with your bank,
Of course even if you do use the card readers make sure you also have some cash on hand to make change just in case your customer only has cash with them… I’ve known many customers who only bring a certain amount of cash on them so they don’t spend too much at the markets.
-Packaging and Self Promotion
We all want customers to buy lots of stuff so make sure you have a way for them to carry it all home. Some vendors will simply bring whatever stash of plastic bags they have on hand, others will purchase gift bags. If you have breakable or delicate items bring tissue paper or something to wrap it up in! The brown or coloured paper bags at the dollar store are very handy but they do add up. There are places that sell more for less, i.e., Walmart (in the crafting section) and Staples (in their packaging section). If you get the plain paper bags you can even put your company name, logo or whatever you want on it to promote yourself.
On the topic of self promotion, you’ll want your customers to remember you. Business cards are great, relatively cheap to get now (VistaPrint usually has a good deal for first time users) and you can include one with every purchase.
Another great idea is to get a stamp made of your name, logo, social media handles and contact information. With it you can stamp simple paper for a cheaper business card or those paper bags or other packaging you use for your products. And a great place to get a stamp made is with us at Square Lemon!
Self promotion should also happen in the moment with your customers. NEVER ignore a customer. If someone walks up to your table, say hello, maybe ask how they are today. DO NOT ignore them and play on your phone. Many customers will find this extremely rude and not buy anything just on principle. On the flip side, you should also refrain from inundating them with too much information before they have a chance to get interested in your product. It can be very intimidating for new vendors to be able to find the right sales tactics that will work for them. Practice with a few friends or family members. Be silly, be creative and think about how you would want a vendor to approach you if you were the customer.
-Having someone to give you a break
Markets are long when you think about having to sit behind a table for 5+ hours and talk to customers. Having someone with you is always nice or at the very least have a friend come to the market for a few minutes so you can go to the bathroom or get some water if you’ve run out. Some markets have volunteers who can watch your table for you as you run out quickly but not many do that so be prepared. Making friends with the other vendors around is strongly recommended so perhaps they can watch your table and you can repay the kindness too.
-Bringing food and water
As I just mentioned, it’s a long day and you’ll probably get pretty hungry and without a doubt thirsty. Bringing water and a snack is a must. If you are used to having a bigger lunch then bring it too. Some markets are able to make food on site, some can only offer non-perishables and some don’t have facilities to provide anything more than the faucet in the bathroom to get water. Be prepared and bring your own. If they do have food or beverages there, be prepared to have to pay for them, and mostly in cash too.
Do a set up at home first. Figure out what will fit on the size of table that will be at the market you are going to. As different places have different size tables this can sometimes mean adjusting how your products are arranged. A great tip is check out how other vendors with products like yours are setting their table up. Do they have everything laying flat out or are some products on little shelves to bring them closer to eye level. Would your products be better hanging?
Don’t feel you have to pile everything on the table and cram as much as possible onto it. Sometimes a little empty real estate on the table can make you more approachable as people won’t feel that they may cause an avalanche of product if they start to go through your wares. This will also leave you some room to pack up and handle the transaction. All that being said, try to make sure you have some extra stock to replace pieces as they are sold.
If you have products like jewlery that may require a customer to have to bend over to get a better look at, you may want to consider getting table risers. These are blocks that go under the feet of the tables, usually around 6 inches (approx) high. Make sure to check with the organizers to see if the tables they provide can accommodate them or be prepared to not use them on the day.
Bring a tablecloth with you. Most organizers will not provide one but it will make your table look much more professional and tidy. You’ll want one that will cover the front and sides all the way to the ground (if possible) so that customers don’t see under your table. Trust us it’s usually a mess of boxes and crates from unpacking your wares.
These can be requesting that your spot at the market has electricity, this should not be assumed but most organizers have a place on the application to request it, you will most likely be told to bring your own extension cord and tape to secure the cord to the floor so that no one trips on it.
Another request can be that you table spot have a wall behind it to lean products on. NEVER assume you hang anything on the walls, even with Command Strips that won’t leave marks. The majority of markets are not owned by the organizers and if any damage is incurred from the vendors the organizers will get in trouble, having to pay for damages and most likely losing their privilege to hold markets at that location.
Some vendors like to set up without a table, this should ALWAYS be cleared with the organizers first so they are not wasting time setting up a table that will have to be moved again. Also, some organizers may be able to find a better spot in the market for you. You just have to let them know how you plan to set up, ie, with coat or clothing racks or free standing walls to display artwork.
Create a checklist that is catered to your table. Here is a sample to start you off.
-extension cord (if needed) and duct tape
-water and snacks
-cash box and card readers
-packaging and business cards
-fully charged phone!
Hopefully this has been helpful to everyone and I very much hope everyone has fun and success at all the markets they choose to join. Small businesses lifting up small businesses!