Behind the Market Table: Part Three

Yep, I’m way late with this. Oh well.

Anyway, let’s discuss the special darlings that are outdoor markets. Where I live, summer time brings almost weekly outdoor markets and festivals and fairs. Outdoor markets can be super fun. There’s usually music playing, and people are more likely to bring their dogs along (and let’s face it, cute dogs make almost anything better!)

Outdoor markets require particularly steep investments, and I don’t mean just with booth fees. So there are some extra things you need to consider before applying for an outdoor market.

Weather – The vast majority of outdoor markets are “all weather” markets. (I hesitate to say “every,” but I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t.) That means if it’s raining or cloudy or hot enough to cause heat stroke in five minutes, you’re still expected to fill your allotted spot. Chances are, you won’t be in a covered courtyard, so you’ll have to provide your own cover, such as a canopy. (I’ll talk more about those in a minute.) Keep an eye on the weather reports, but if your local region is anything like mine, the previous day’s weather is not necessarily an indicator of the next day’s weather. Pack lots of sunscreen (and I mean LOTS,) and bug spray. Bring hats, sunglasses, wind/waterproof jackets, light sweaters, and waterproof shoes or boots.

Sunburns/Bug Bites: Bring remedies for sunburn and bug bites, as well as a basic first aid kit. I was sitting mostly in the shade under our canopy, not realizing/noticing that the sun was shining on one part of my arm. I wound up with a wicked, wicked burn right away. And because we were out of town, we got to drive around looking for some place that was still open after the market closed for the day so we could find some aloe lotion. I was pretty miserable. You’ll also need walls for your canopy, to shield against wind and rain, and weights for the corners so the entire thing doesn’t blow over.

Canopy: Most vendors I know have bought their canopies, but I did know one who was super-handy, so he made one. Typically, outdoor stalls are 10′ by 10′, so don’t get anything bigger than that. You can buy canopies at home improvement stores or home goods stores, but do keep in mind that these canopies are not made to be set up and torn down several times over the course of a season. They expect customers either to set them up at the beginning of the season and leave them up, or haul them out once in a blue moon. They will break, some sooner than others. So if you’re serious about doing outdoor markets, you might want to consider spending the $1000+ to get a high-quality one from a specialty supplier. My mom was buying new canopies every year, because the ones she bought from Canadian Tire for $300-$400 each would break. She dropped close to $2000 on one from a specialty place, and she’s had it for five or six years now. And that included getting a custom colour for the roof, matching side panels, a storage sleeve, and four corner weights. Also, keep in mind that canopies are heavy, and no matter how easily the packaging claims the set-up to be, you will need help, and other people will ask for help, too.

Tables, Power, and Other Things: If you’re attending an indoor market, the organizers may provide a table and chairs. You may even have access to a power outlet. If you’re going to an outdoor market, these things will not be provided. So if your displays require power, you will have to figure out something different, or get your hands on a bunch of portable batteries. Outdoor markets are very bare-bones. Most mark out a 10′ by 10′ space, and that’s it. (Though it is kind of fun to see a market spring up from a previously empty street or field, and then disappear just as quickly.)

Space: The best thing about outdoor markets? So much more space! You can usually use your canopy to help display your wares, or support tabletop displays. And depending on what you sell and where your unit is, you can get two to four tables into your booth. That means more stuff! Yay! You can also play with your setup. Some people choose to stay behind their tables, and some people set up their tables so customers can walk into the booth space. This is especially handy if you wind up talking to your customers for a while; let them get out of the sun/rain. You can play with table sizes, too. Use one 6′ or 8′ table and a few 4′ tables. Or whatever. But make sure you have covers large enough for whatever tables you use, and pin those covers down where ever possible. Customers don’t want to see your bins of junk hidden under your tables.

Car Space: If, when you do an indoor market, you normally pack your car to the roof with stuff, you may want to consider renting or borrowing a larger vehicle. Canopies and their assorted accoutrements take up a fair bit of space, as will the tables, if you’re not used to bringing such with you. You don’t want to give up on stock just to make space for your canopy and tables.

Food and Water: Invest in a good cooler and a bunch of ice packs. Outdoor markets often have food vendors (the rise of food trucks means I’ve been seeing a lot more of these at outdoor events) but it’s not guaranteed. And if you have a restricted diet at all, chances are good you won’t find something to eat. It’s also not guaranteed that you’ll get a chance to go hunting for food. Even if you just load up on snacks and other things you can nibble quickly between customers, you definitely want to bring enough food to get you through the day. And bring as much water as you can manage. Again, not all venues will have a water fountain, and you don’t want to be buying bottled water from food vendors all day. Those flats of twelve or twenty-four bottles of water are great. You don’t even need to unwrap the flat, just toss the whole thing into your car, and in the summer, they’re usually on sale.

Garbage: Definitely, absolutely bring something to collect your garbage and recyclables! Chances are good you won’t be anywhere near a garbage can, and the wind can send things flying in a moment. I like bringing ziplock bags, because then if I knock it over (as I usually do) it doesn’t spill everywhere. For an outdoor market, garbage bags might be too flimsy on windy days, but you could always clip it under a table. If it’s a multi-day market, bring bags for each day (so you can dispose of any food waste each day to discourage flies and smell.)

Cell Phone Coverage: If you use your cell phone or tablet to process credit and/or debit sales, check your provider’s coverage for the area, especially if you’re travelling out of town. And you may want to look into topping up your data for the month, if possible, or budget to go over for the month. Because you never know.

And of course, bring all your usual bits and bobs that you’d bring to an indoor market. You will need them…especially that portable battery.

Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.

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Behind the Market Table: Part Two

(I know, I know, I’m a little late on this. I’m sick, and my brain gets all boggled when I’m sick.)

Okay, so you’ve packed up you necessary stationary and personal items and food and so on.

But what products are you going to bring? That’s the real question, isn’t it? That’s what customers are going to see and care about, not how many kinds of tape you have in your kit.

Whether you keep plenty of stock on-hand or need to make it, you’ll still have decisions to make. Themed markets can be easy. Upcoming holiday? Bring matching items. But you’ll still have some things to consider.

You’ll want to have one or two larger, eye-catching displays. For me, that’s fancy necklaces or necklace sets. But these tend to be expensive and take up lots of space on the table, so don’t bring too many. And while it’s wonderful when they sell, their real purpose is to draw people to your table and get them looking and asking questions. Once they’re looking at your table, chances are they’ll buy one or more of your lower-priced items.

Focus on mid-priced items. I find $20-40 is a good sweet spot, but this may vary depending on what you make. Obviously, don’t under-sell yourself. The majority of my table is somewhere in that mid-range. I find that most customers are coming in to spend their money at a variety of places, so while they may be walking around with $200 in their pockets, they’re not willing to spend it all at one table.

And then I usually have a few items in the $5-10 range, too. If your items are geared towards kids, you may want to have some things that are even cheaper, so kids can use their own pocket money to buy things.

Okay, so you’ve got your price range figured out…but how do you know what to bring in that price range?

If you already sell online, start with popular items from there. But if you make customized items for sale online, bring only ready-made stuff to your table. Have a sign about custom options, but don’t expect a lot of custom orders at your table. Most customers are going to want to buy items they can walk away with right then.

Planning for a theme is always fun. It could be an upcoming holiday, or you could bring products that tie in with the market’s theme. Think of what the customers are going to expect. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Halloween, the holidays, back to school, the seasons. Tailor your offerings and signage to whatever gift-giving event is coming up. You can also just make up your own theme. Have a new product line? Do up a special feature on your table for it.

I also make some items specifically for markets. The hair accessories, namely. They’re too big and bulky for shipping in an envelope, and I don’t have a steady supply of appropriate-sized boxes, so I don’t list them online. New items I usually launch at markets, too, to drum up interest. Like this shiny new thing? Better come to the market to snap it up first.

How much stuff should you bring? Some vendors I know pack their tables with stuff. Personally, I like a little blank space in between displays for balance. That part is up to you, and something you may experiment with over time. And if you want, feel free to draw up a scale chart and plot out your displays. I tend to arrange stuff as I go. I have preferences for certain things (like my tall necklace spinner, that goes off to one side, and the Shaman’s Trinkets bracelets go next to it, since the ST bottle necklaces are on the bottom row) but everything else? It all depends on what I’m feeling at the moment. Maybe it takes longer than coming in with a set plan and just setting things out, but it’s what works for me.

It’s always worth it to bring some extra items. If it looks like things have sold from your table, customers are more inclined to buy. What I do, with my Shaman’s Trinkets bracelets, is I have several on display and sell from that. And then I have extras in a box. I don’t restock the display until I’ve sold several. Customers will often ask me which ones are most popular, but they will sometimes just look at the display and see that, say, Protection has sold the most, so they want a Protection bracelet. I’ve seen the same thing working in retail. Customers will often assume that the item with the lowest available stock is the most popular and therefore worth buying. But you definitely don’t want your table getting so bare that you have nothing.

I hope that gives you some idea of how to plan out your market table.

Read Part One here.
Read Part Three here.

New Listing: Twee the Beaded Spider

Twee

The adorable Twee is here!

Twee is a petite darling of a beaded spider, made of glass beads and wire. She has a swirly blue and white abdomen with a gold-coloured flower on her bum. She wants nothing more than to sit in a sunny window where her pretty blues will catch your eye. You can pose her dainty legs so she’ll stand steady on uneven surfaces.

Buy here.

Behind the Market Table: Part One

I’m part of a few crafting groups on Facebook, and I’ve been seeing a number of posts from crafters heading to their first markets. They’re looking for tips.

There’s lots of people offering tips on how to set up your displays. You can check Google or Pinterest or whatever tickles your fancy.

But people tend to forget about what you’ll need behind your table. Some things are obvious. Bags, or some other packaging so customers can carry your products. A cash float (tip: if you don’t have to charge sales tax, make your prices all whole dollar amounts, so you don’t need to bother with small change.) But let’s go over a few other things you might want to bring that no one seems to think of. These are general things that any crafter will find useful, for indoor or outdoor markets.

Scissors: Yes, the humble scissors. They don’t have to be large shears. I actually have dog grooming scissors in my box, because they were handy. But most markets I go to, someone asks to borrow scissors at least once, but no one else has any. Don’t be the person scrambling for scissors.

Tape: I pack four kinds of tape in my box. Yes, four. Scotch tape, double-sided tape, packing tape, and dry-erase duct tape (it’s really cool, y’all.) I bring so many because there isn’t one tape that’s good for everything. I’m actually considering packing masking tape and regular duct tape, to make sure ALL my bases are covered. Anyway, again, people ask for tape all day. And I wind up using it pretty often, too.

Sharpies: Bring at least a black one. This isn’t as commonly asked for as tape and scissors, but it does happen.

Notepad: Someone may ask for some paper. But more likely, this will be something you’ll use. One of the things I do at markets is take notes. What people are looking at but not buying, what is selling best, what people are asking for, what took too long to set up, what displays are unstable. Any ideas you come up with while you’re sitting at your table.

Portable Battery and Charging Cords: These are a must if you use your phone to process transactions. The last thing you need is to lose sales at the end of the day because your phone’s battery died. Make sure the battery is charged a night or two before (I don’t recommend charging it overnight, in case you forget to pack it.)

These are things you’ll need at any kind of market. Other things I pack are an assortment of pens, some dry erase markers, paper clips, binder clips, sticky tack, and post-it notes. I use the calculator on my phone if necessary (another reason to keep that battery charged.)

Of course, you should also pack necessary personal-use items. I keep a bottle of Aleve in my box, because my joints and tendons are crap. I also make sure I have lip balm and my Fiddlestick. I always forget to pack a hair elastic. So make sure you pack anything you need to get through a long day standing and lifting.

I keep all these things in my market bag at all times, so I don’t have to think to pack them (the exception being the battery. I cart that around in my purse.) It makes the night-before prep a little easier.

Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.