One of the things that has occupied a fair bit of my time in late February and early March, was preparing to hold a stall at the Mareeba Markets, with Sarah from Say! Little Hen. It took a lot of preparation time, as neither of us has been to the markets since 2013/14, so there was a lot to sort, label and organise.
For me, I was taking my fabric store along to the markets, so I was busy cutting fat quarters, labelling and packaging. I started my preparation weeks out, with a master list of everything I needed to get done in order to attend. Each day, I crossed off one or two small tasks from the list and as it turned out, a lot of unexpected things cropped up the week of the market so I was SUPER glad I had pretty much gotten all the major tasks done before hand. It pays to be organised! As a market veteran (I have been a stallholder too many times to count!) I am well aware of how much work going to one little market can take, and as I have an online business to attend to as well, I didn't want to neglect it by spending all my time getting ready for the market.
I also knew that the market stall set up needs to be relevant to the market one is attending. Don't create a set-up worthy of a big city trade show when you are not going to get your time back sales wise! Yes that means the big complicated Pinterest set-up has to go (sigh) - save it for when it counts! A lot of that stuff looks pretty out of place in an outdoor-under-a-tent setting. Believe me, I have been there and done that. Go for simple, yet gorgeous. Like a casual outfit...you know, if market stalls wore clothes!
The Mareeba markets are a lovely little local market, and are filled with a variety of local produce, pot plants, craft stalls and some second hand. It's a variety market, with the most popular selling items being the produce and of course, food! Attending a local market is an excellent way to get out and meet people in your local area - in fact most people I now know have in some way been a result of my being a stallholder at the markets! Sarah and I had one main objective with attending the local markets: to have FUN. And seriously, if that isn't up there in your top three, then I don't think it's a great idea to go.
And....we did have fun! After our initial rustiness wore off - we felt a bit slow and clunky after being out of things for so long. It was refreshing to take my wares out into the public arena again and receive real life feedback - all of which was extremely positive. It's a bit of a change from the liking and following system of the online world. A local market is also a much, much smaller pond than the interwebs. So your ability to stand out from the crowd is a lot, lot higher.
|Hazel made her market debut!|
Sometimes those expectations will be realised, and other times they may be crushed. I hate the idea that someone would give up after only going once or even a couple of times. Unless the market is completely dead-beat - as in it is completely the wrong place for your products or you can count the visitors on two hands - it may and will take a little while for people to realise you exist. A market stall isn't so very different to a shop front, it does take a little bit to establish a regular and consistent presence.
Sarah and I had a fantastic day. We did well and had a lot of fun. The market day itself was quiet. Checking in with regular stall holders, and being aware of what the crowd is usually like, confirmed this. We are already discussing a few things to change on the stall, because it doesn't matter how many practice set-ups you do, the real test is market day itself. Watching how people behave in your stall and how they observe or don't observe the items you want to sell is important. Our business goals were the same - we wanted to promote our craft supplies. They were a little overshadowed by our handmade pieces (lol) so we will be changing things up a little for next time. It's not a bad thing our handmade pieces were the star of the show, but as we both are incapable of making items for sale as full time jobs, we need to promote the pattern and supply side of our businesses too.
It was refreshing and almost grounding to get out in person. To hear such positive feedback and be able to chat with people in real life really made me feel a bit more balanced. It's easy for me to spend a lot of time on instagram, however from a business perspective, it's a bit of a case of all the eggs being in one basket. It's pretty much the only place I promote Dolly Henry, and that is because it's very effective. I don't really want to spend more time online than I already do, and as I have physical limitations that prevent me from doing so (shoulder, neck and arm pain) the markets were a good alternative for me. Plus I absolutely love having everything physically out and in front of me. I love seeing people walk up and notice the quality of my work - something that can be pretty hard to convey accurately in photography. Nobody can turn your seams inside out online ;-)
Another thing to remember when you attend a local market, is that the entire audience is not your target customer. This will really help you not to feel low on days when the sales aren't as good. If you sell pretty handmade pieces, you naturally assume that most of the men walking past won't come in (though don't discount them completely, Dads do buy gifts!) You don't feel disappointed because in your mind, they aren't your ideal customer. Now you need to take that mentality and apply that to the female audience...because every single woman is no more your ideal customer than all the men are. Everyone has a specific customer, they just don't usually walk around with badges on so we can distinguish them from the people who are never going to buy our products!
If you really want to hit the high notes with your sales, then attending a more specialised market can be the way to go. For example, when I was a regular marketeer, attending a craft fair or a baby and children's market with my products resulted in ten times the amount of sales I would make on average at a local market. In your local area, you are also competing with other local events. Sometimes if there was another festival on, the local markets were pretty s.l.o.w. On a long weekend and with good weather, everyone went camping, not market shopping.
On the flip side, when a big event came to town that actually drew in visitors from further afield, the markets were fabulous! Hanging around in the slower months of the year, also makes people aware you exist and places you in their minds when it comes to Christmas. Sales pick up around Christmas time, and believe it or not, that used to start in August for me! By December, sales were down because the weather was too hot for people to venture out and anyone inclined to purchase presents from the markets had already done so.
Even though the bluetooth decided to be a little naughty when I went to process a sale, I am really glad that we had our Paypal Here credit card processor on hand. It was purchased a few years ago when we had a popup store and were attending markets, so I took it along because as you will know when YOU attend a market - you don't always carry a large amount of cash or any cash at all! So many of us have cards now, and a lot of people budget using a credit card. Having card facilities I would say is a bit of a MUST these days. You will lose sales without it, and you will even make more expensive sales, as a lot of people put those on card.
I'm sorry this has become quite a long post, but I really did want to encourage others to try the markets and have fun! It's a tough gig as it can be emotionally draining. It can be easy to take things personally or as a reflection of your business's success. You can't. There are too many variables to factor in. I was surprised after so much more business experience at how calmly and easily I took the day. It wasn't stressful after the initial flurry of setting up (Lol) and confidence in my business and products took away any expectations that I used to harbour about trying to sell tonnes! If I was a market baby, I'd say I've grown up in my absence. Now I just have fun and I hope other people will give them a go too, and just enjoy the journey of building a little local customer base. It more often than not takes a little bit of time for these things to grow!
Have you ever attended a market? I'd love to hear your own experiences below!