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#1 fleamarketvendor

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Posted March 22 2012 - 06:29 AM

Hi,

I'm a flea market vendor currently in central Tennessee. I've been looking for a forum that discusses small businesses. I've lived solo in my Class C motor home for over a year and and stay at flea markets and of course Wally World. I've been a full time vendor for about 6 years. The Ohio markets were really down this year so I've been traveling south since February to look at different markets and test the waters elsewhere. It's warmed up so I'm slowly working my way back to Ohio.

I guess my home area is still Ohio with monthly trips to Pennsylvania. I did one small concert last Halloween but it was colder than a well diggers arse so sales weren't great. But since I was one of the wacky few that showed up I've got a spot if I want it this year

Currently I sell jewelry- mainly factory but heading toward hand crafted. I also have some new full length blue jean skirts. And of course miscellaneous crap. In the past I've sold stuff that I picked up from the curb on trash day- that was until the competition for garbage got intense. Now it's cheaper to buy new. I've also sold hardware items, outdated/ close dated food, charcoal, and... just generally anything I could buy cheaply.

I've been thinking about a "mobile hippie/head shop" type thing. I'm halfway there with the skirts and jewelry. No chemicals, maybe some glass, different jewelry, tie-dye, incense, and just general stuff. Others have similar goods but not usually in any variety.

I'm pretty much self taught on the jewelry making and need to learn more techniques. Tie-dye? Never tried it. But I think some poor laundromat might provide an education for me! Factory tie-dye is pretty pricey wholesale. I know jean shorts turned into skirts have some potential.

The internet is out for me. I helped a wholesaler with his large ebay business this past November through January and learned I prefer to see the people to whom I sell and would rather deal in cash. I also discovered I dislike e-bay and despise paypal. There is money to be made there. It's just not for me. Also pyramid schemes (aka "multilevel marketing") are out.

I'm just introducing myself and thinking out loud. Any helpful suggestions and insights are very welcome. I love to travel and I'm not looking for a sticks and bricks opportunity. I would appreciate any suggestions about products, wholesalers, and markets.

Thank You,
fleamarketvendor

--if anybody needs a ride north in return for jewelry making instruction, let me know. Maybe I'm close enough to pick you up. I guess I'm a little dense; the internet instructions are confusing to me.
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#2 Mothman

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Posted April 11 2012 - 03:04 AM

Paypal can be evil sometimes. I'm with ya. Flea markets are good. Find a good and rent the same booth consistently. Handout flyers during the weel to let people know you will be there. I think the mobile thing can be done but I imagine it would be harder to get a steady customer base and you will be using gas. Find a busy and clean flea market and make a nice display. Even though its a flea market your display is important. Don't limit your products. Jewelry is big business at flea markets but only certain customers will want the hand made products you are offering. I'm sure they are great don't get me wrong but don't limit yourself.
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#3 fleamarketvendor

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Posted April 11 2012 - 04:59 AM

Mothman,

Thanks for your insight.

I know quite a few vendors who have "permanent", usually inside, spots. Some do well, others not so well. The indoor areas of some of the southern markets are huge. I've heard there are a couple of places near Detroit that compare but nothing else I've seen. I tried inside a couple times and lost my butt. But it was winter. Most indoor vendors in northern areas spend the summer complaining about outdoor vendors "stealing" all the customers.

I usually find a 1/4- 1/3 bump in sales the first time I do any particular outdoor market. I don't get another bump unless I'm gone for a month or two. I do get some repeats even at the monthlies. Thanks, I do need to think about ways to attract more. Most of my customers are one time impulse buyers.

I look around and both the specialists and the generalists make money. The "pandora bead people" even do fairly well, especially considering there are so many of them. In doing my taxes I saw that a lot of my income was from the inexpensive commercial jewelry- rings particularly. I don't think I'll dump those lines completely.

Local Georgia and North Carolina customers had no interest at all in hand crafted stuff- even some really nice work from others. Alabama and Tennessee buyers were more like those from Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Several vendors in NC told me to come back when the Floridians come back- about now. A pretty well known lady from Georgia said to toss that "stuff" and buy new... or change states!

There was a retired couple in Ohio that were stamping the outside of stainless steel rings at one market. They were only there a few times but seemed to do a high volume even though their work was pretty inconsistent.

Gas is my biggest expense- more than stock. I think that's why there are so few gypsy vendors now. Most transients now do a small route both in the north and then the south during the winter. I do save a little because my only rent is my "spot" and a storage unit or two.

Any thoughts about the mobile "head shop"?

Thanks again.
fleamarketvendor

#4 Mothman

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Posted April 12 2012 - 02:02 PM

I don't know much about mobile headshops but the fisrt thing that comes to my mind is college towns. Get your mobile shop in front of the foot traffic. I would also say clean signage on the vehicle but my business is pest control so I'm brainwashed to think like that cuz going against the grain on certain issues hurts my income. You should try south carolina since you seem to float around it. Columbia has a nice college town. A decent flea market here also. Do you have any pics of some of your products?

#5 fleamarketvendor

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Posted April 13 2012 - 04:25 PM

By "mobile" I mean a flea market or festival/concert set up. I'm considering a product shift and likely a move toward venues with a younger market. Although many of the 60's flower children have grown "old" but not "up".

I'm thinking of adding products like incense, glass, tie-dye T-shirts, rolling papers, and the like. Unless I come up with a hippie bus (now THAT would be great!) the vehicle isn't terribly important. Sometimes mine isn't even close to my set up. At festivals and concerts, spots tend to be smaller and a 27' motorhome eats a lot of retail space. There are a few skoolies (schoolbuses) at the markets but I've yet to see a VW bus used as a work vehicle. But, even if it had to be towed... might be worth it.

I was a contractor for more than 25 years and I see where you're coming from. Sometimes 25% or more of my yearly income was from one customer. And then if they referred a friend, an entire years success of failure was based on that one customer being happy. On a remodeling job you can lose $20K worth of work/referrals by missing just one little pile of sawdust on just one evening.

For the stuff I'm doing now volume is the important thing. Incense at 10 cents a stick is entirely different.

I don't post photos anymore. I used to even show my market setups on a few forums. One day I was making some changes to some "albums" and discovered most "hits" were from blogs that had simply stolen the images, embedded them, and used them as their own. You can't stop dirtbags on the internet but you don't have to make it too easy.

fleamarketvendor

#6 Mothman

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Posted April 14 2012 - 05:21 AM

Man I can def dig what you're sayin. Contracting services is tough. It's nice to meet people who can really grasp what that's like. I have a friend at the local market here and incense is huge business for him. His shop is more of a metphysical shop though and he offers lots of different things but his incense and his detox are his bread and butter. He also sells soaps and raw shea butter that are more geared toward african americans. Those products do well also. I'll try to think of some other things that do well out there.

#7 jaredfelix

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Posted April 14 2012 - 05:25 AM

theres those things you can get for a smart phone to swipe credit cards and deposit the money in your bank or something. that would attract a lot more customers :D

#8 fleamarketvendor

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Posted April 14 2012 - 04:35 PM

I'm certainly grateful for any help.

Service businesses, particularly in home services, are rough. I often found myself listening to the most ludicrous and bigoted crap imaginable. All I could do was smile nod my head and make somewhat "agreeable" noises.

Incense kind of surprised me. There are many places that sell it but those with a good variety still get a lot of play. A local market known mainly for rusty tools and guns is a good market for incense. Too bad jewelry won't sell there. LOL!

Sometimes I see relaxation or meditation balls (aka ben-wah balls?) selling at booths with the same type of incense/ tie-dye stuff. Those are more iffy- and the markup doesn't seem to be there.

jaredfelix- Thanks. I saw one last year that took money, while you waited, from a checking account. The smart phones are better at it and the fees aren't as bad. They do leave a paper trail which... "helps" with accounting. While not as convenient for the customer, almost all markets now have automatic tellers.

On a different tack- for those new at small business- this year's Schedule C IRS form (Profit or Loss From Business) had a new unused line. It's "1a" and is labeled "Merchant Cards and Third Party Payments". For 2011 it was "0" for everyone but it looks like a specific place for "paypal" and like income next year.

Just a heads up. If your zero it out next year it looks like you're specifically saying you have received NO such payments!

fleamarketvendor