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5 Things I’ve Learned Running a Successful Flea Market Stand

A scene from the famous Brooklyn Flea Market in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
littlenySTOCK/Shutterstock

Whether you’re renting a space in a market-style mall or setting up your canopy at an outdoor flea market, certain tactics can make or break your business.

I do online sales, sell at local markets, and have two booths I share with another vendor at a local antiques and collectibles mall. I’ve made money in all of these settings, but I’ve also learned how to bring in the most money with mall sales.

Of course, you want to pick a setting that already has a good customer base—a new venue isn’t going to bring in money as quickly as an established business (even if you already have your own clientele).

But beyond the old adage of “location, location, location,” there’s a lot more to drumming up successful sales.

Look for Trends

I’ve got it pretty easy when it comes to looking for trends. The store I rent space from has a vendor’s-only Facebook group to which someone usually posts a list of the most popular items of the week.

This is a great way for vendors to see what’s selling and start looking for similar products. Of course, what’s popular can change from week to week, but it’s a great place to start.

You can check online for trends, as well. eBay is an excellent way to find out what sells, but you’ll need to know what to search for. Of course, you can search for specific items.

However, even if you search a broader term (like “Batman”), you can scroll down until you see “Show Only” on the left, and then select “Sold Items.” You’ll then see everything in that category that’s recently sold, so you can see what’s popular (and what’s not).

Need some help getting the hang of searching for pricing trends? Check out the informative video below.

Where to Find Products

When you’re buying stuff to resell, you want to put as little money into those products as possible. The more you spend on something, the higher you have to price it, and the longer it might take to sell it.

Below are some great places you can find stuff to resell:

  • Thrift outlet stores: Items that didn’t sell at stores are sold here in bulk and by weight. It’s a fun adventure digging through bins of stuff and seeing if you can find any treasures. It does take at least a few hours, but you can easily score $300 worth of products for around $50.
  • Other outlet stores: These are all a great place to find discounts, depending on what you sell. Just look for the cheapest deals.
  • Resale shops: Not all are created equal—some boutique-style shops have higher prices that won’t give you much resale value. Find the shops that price low, so you can stock up and make back more than what you paid. Some of the best are those connected to churches or nonprofits.
  • Yard sales: You can find a plethora of great deals, although not all of them will be priced low. However, another bonus of shopping yard sales is you can wheel and deal to get the lowest price.
  • Curbside: Not everyone takes the time to donate the stuff they no longer want. Find out when trash day is in the neighborhoods near you and go for a drive. You can score some great furniture for free that might only need a paint job.
  • Clearance sections: If you sell clothing and collectibles, these can be especially beneficial. If you’re not selling current products, though, this might not be the best place to look.
  • Your home: I make a good deal of money just selling stuff I don’t need or use anymore. Right now, we’re going through our movie and book collections.

Pricing Things to Move

While you’re looking at those sold items on eBay, check the prices at which they sold. This will give you a good starting point for pricing your stock to move. If you’re selling online, you can go for any of the price points. If you’re auctioning on eBay, though, consider starting around the lowest price at which a similar (or the same) item sold.

I figure out my prices by combining how much I spent on an item, with what it sold for on eBay, and any additional fees (for online posting, or vendor space or booth rental). You want to make your money back, plus enough to go toward expenses, and still leave some for your pocket.

I want my items to fly off the shelves (or table), so I tend to price them a few dollars cheaper than what they’re selling for online. I find the middle ground between what I spent and what something’s selling for elsewhere.

My strategy is that even another reseller could feasibly buy my products to resell. This way, I still make money, but open myself up to more sales opportunities.

Presentation

Good pricing is one key to getting sales, but when you’re selling in-person, you have to think about presentation as well. Online sales allow you to snap a few clear photos with a nice background. In-person selling requires a designer’s eye with a pack rat’s touch.

Whether you’re selling in a store daily or at a one-day flea market event, you want your selling space to look presentable. Use table cloths on your tables. Add shelving if you have a lot of items, so everything is easy to see—not everyone likes digging through a ton of stuff to find something they didn’t know they needed.

Another thing that works is moving stuff around regularly. Even if you haven’t added any new products, rearranging items will even attract your regulars because they’ll be looking to see what’s new. In the process, they might spot something they hadn’t noticed before.

Keep Up with your Sales

If your products are moving, you’ll need to do more than move stuff around. If you’re selling online, post more stuff. I’ve found that sales come in faster on Etsy when I have 36 or more items available.

When there are fewer products, I rarely get a sale. Buyers seem to trust sellers who have more inventory and are seemingly skeptical of those who don’t. If you’re selling at a one-day or weekend event, bring enough stuff to restock your table when necessary, so there are always items to browse. I’ve found people are far less likely to approach tables that are nearly empty.

Once each week, I visit my indoor rental space (which is open to the public five days a week) to add new stock and rearrange things. I’ve found this pulls in at least double the sales. If you have popular items, keep them coming, even if you have to substitute it with something similar. Grab-bag sales make up about 75 percent of my monthly booth sales right now.

I also try to group similar products: movies on one shelf, books on another, board games stacked, and grab bags organized by type. Don’t let empty space do the same to your pockets!


Whether you resell items on- or offline, there’s a great potential for profit. You just have to know where to get products for the best prices, and where to put them so the greatest number of people will see them.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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