If you’re like most of us who embark on the market stall circuit, we love what we do and we cant stop creating. We spend our free time honing our skills, learning new tricks and improving our creations. Many of us have a garage or craft room full of art sitting around gathering dust. Then comes the prospect of a market stall. How do I break into the market stall arena? What do I need to set up a market stall? How do I display my work? In the coming posts I will answer all these questions and more.
It took a whole bunch of courage to get myself out there, and it wasn’t easy, but the journey is worth its weight in gold (or hemp, these days).
BUYING A GAZEBO FOR YOUR MARKET STALL
Once you have a product its time to buy your gazebo or marquee. Most market events will allocate you a 3x3 metre stall space, so it makes sense to maximise your potential and invest in a 4 pole marquee of the same size. These can be bought from your local boating, camping and fishing store. You will be looking at around $180 for a sturdy gazebo. I know it may sound like a lot of money but it is an investment and this shade will last you many years if you look after it. I purchased one that came with a carry bag with wheels which has made the setup and pack down so much easier.
While you are there buying your gazebo, I cannot stress enough the importance of buying frame weights for your gazebo as well. Weather conditions can change quickly and without warning, and the last thing you want is for your shade to be lifted up by the wind and transported very dangerously through the air into someone else or on top of someone else. I have seen this happen at events and it is not something you want to occur. So start smart, buy the necessary weights and you can rest easy on market day no matter what the weather may bring.
If you have perishable or breakable products, or products that are not waterproof I strongly recommend buying sides for your particular gazebo. We are out there in the sun, wind and rain, sometimes for long periods and being adequately prepared means we don’t lose stock, don’t get sunburnt and don’t get saturated. Even if you only intend on working the summer months at your market stall there is still the possibility for tropical rain and storms at that time of year.
MARKET STALL INSURANCE
Most market stall organisers will require you to have your own public liability insurance. AAMI have a few options and have recently began offering 3 month and 6 month insurance packages (as well as the normal 12 months). Prices begin at $99. In my opinion the 6 month is ideal for market stall holders as we generally only participate in markets between the good Australian weather months of October to March every year.
DISPLAYING YOUR PRODUCTS AT YOUR MARKET STALL
How you display your goods will depend largely on how much stock you have and what size your products are. No matter what you make, having a stall that is appealing to the eye will usher in customers to see more of your work and learn more about you. Have a look on pinterest or instagram for product styling ideas, use inexpensive props to fill space if you need to and build your brand.
I use 3 trestle tables laid out in a U shape, but started off with 2 tables positioned in either an L shape or at either side of your gazebo, like this, | |. I use three 6 foot bi-fold tables.
For my framed photography and wall art I depend on cardboard box cutouts to house my frames which makes it easy for customers to flick through and browse my stock. If you don’t have many items (which is totally okay as I started out with only 8 products), you can display a combination of flat lying frames and frames that are perched upright to drawn customers in from afar.
Aesthetically I find the general rule of 3 tiers works best. It is appealing to look at and offers an overall balance to the display. To get this effect I use old fruit and veg boxes from my local supermarket as stands underneath my work, to give some extra height. I flip them upside down and position them toward the back of the table so its easy for people to reach. I also have some wooden storage boxes I use and 3 table top easels for larger pieces. My clever grandfather made me some free standing shelves that I have two of and use all the time. If you have a clever someone who is handy with woodwork I highly recommend using their skills to have custom made displays for your work. Nothing beats custom made creations! As another option, I have seen some artists use lattice and other wall set ups to hang their work from.
I then throw a big black king size sheet over the top of my fruit boxes and tables. This is big enough to hide my storage boxes housed underneath the tables, and because all my stock is in white frames it makes them stand out.
A great way to get a feel for how you could set out your first market stall is to do a mock one at home before the big day. Have all your products at the ready, your trestle table set up, your display boxes handy and start playing! Muck around with layouts, colours and balance and see what works best for your items. Show it to friends and family for their feedback, and adjust if you wish. Once you’re happy, take a photo and use this as a reference on market day. It can be a huge help during set up on your first few markets.
YOUR PORTABLE SALES DESK
On market day you will need a way to take payments. When happy shiny customers want to buy your creations, its important to have all the tools necessary to make this happen.
You will need carry bags for customers, business cards, a calculator, a float of at least $200 with small change and notes, pens, markers and receipt book just in case. (In this little tool box I also house all my gaffa tape, sticky tape, various hooks, screws, pricing stickers, stands, blu tac, scissors and little thank you gifts for every purchase – all super important on market day).
Most of the general public do not carry around cash these days so it is imperative you have the ability for people to pay with their bank card or credit card through a POS system. Don’t be caught out by those traditional bulky and expensive bank supplied EFTPOS machines. The fees are ridiculously high and you could be saving yourself a heap of money. I use a Square Contactless Reader and have been using it for many years now. I cannot recommend them highly enough. It accepts all major bank cards and credit cards including Amex via chip cards, mobile wallets and tap and go, and is available from Officeworks. If you go to this link you can receive free processing on all your transactions for your first 180 days as a market stall holder.
CHOOSING MARKETS TO PARTICIPATE IN
I cannot stress this enough. Your first step is to figure out who your target market is. Who is your audience? Who are the people that will resonate with your work the most? Where do they shop? How old are they? What suburbs do they live in? Are they coastal, inland, city or hill dwellers?
A lot of my work is ocean themed, so I will always gravitate to markets that are held in coastal areas near the beach. My mum makes crochet beanies and so she attends lots of winter markets held indoors, with her audience being older women who appreciate handmade items.
Once you have answered these questions, it is then time to find markets that attract your tribe. Choosing who you partner with for your markets is super important. It will save you headaches if they are well organised, experienced and approachable. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to organise your market stall so it makes sense to do your homework first. I ask other stall holders for feedback, I attend prospective organisers’ events as a punter and I scope out the event before committing. I pay attention to layout, quality of stalls’ products, parking, crowd size, how many people are carrying shopping bags etc.
A good market organiser knows that we all win if the public know about the event. It will make the whole market shine if the organisers invest in marketing and don’t just rely on your market stall fee to make their money (which far too many have done in recent years). Of course, as a market stall holder it is very important that you assist with the marketing too by reaching out to your own tribe via your social media channels of instagram, twitter and/or facebook, and that on market day you engage with your customers with a genuine smile and a willingness to help. Common courtesy goes without saying. Acknowledge every customer, be in love with what you do and your products and you’ll be well on your way to a successful market day.
If your market organiser has a track record of holding great events that pull a large crowd and aren’t charging ridiculous amounts to participate, then apply apply apply! Most event organisers will open up registrations around August/September for the coming summer so start hunting around then. Get a bunch of potential markets you would like to attend and do as many as you can within your means. Summer will be busy but so fulfilling and totally fun!
While we can minimise disappointment by following these tips, there are so many variables on market day that it is impossible to predict. On my first market I sold absolutely nothing, zero, and I was gutted. It was a very hot summer day and people were more interested in swimming in the ocean than shopping, and rightly so. But I didn’t let it stop me, I kept going and by my third year I was connecting with more people than ever and selling more than I had ever hoped for. If you get a rainy day or the event happens on the same day as voting, for example, then perhaps it may not go as well as what you had hoped. But thats the nature of the market stall circuit, and taking the good with the bad is how we gotta roll in life and at markets.
For now you have everything you need to hold your very first market stall! I encourage you to put your stuff out there and connect with your audience. We can learn so much about ourselves in the process, and if you just cant stop creating markets are a wonderful way to share your gifts with the world. I wish you all the very best and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below.
*I am not endorsed nor paid by Square, AAMI, BCF, Officeworks or any other retailer to provide these links or information.