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Everything You Need To Know For Your First Handmade Market Stall

Kerri Tutton

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YAS! You have made the brave decision to take your handmade business to the local markets. That is absolutely AMAZING, well done you! I know how excited and super amped you probably are whilst at the same time flipping the freak out thinking ‘Eep! What do I need? OMG I need EVERYTHING!’

Well Biz Planner, just relax, I have been where you are now and I’ve got your back, let me help you save your time, money and worry with a list of really useful things to take, things to prepare for plus a few handy little biz tips for a successful event.

Aheee, I’m so excited for you! Right then, let’s get started…

First Things First

The Kezza pep talk!

Please, please, please be mindful that you are starting right at the beginning and it can be hard to get going, so I recommend that you start off small, just to see if you like it.

Be gentle on yourself, because the art of running a market stall successfully is totally based on consistency and development by learning through practice.

Try to avoid aiming for perfection on day one and definitely steer away from any crazy ambitious profit goals, that have the potential to leave you completely deflated if you don’t make them at the end of a very tiring day.

You may disagree with me and that’s okay, but I can make a sure bet that you are emotionally attached to your product, simply because you made them. So be mindful that your products may receive criticism at your stall and it won’t be personal, it will be about preference.

Also, (yep not quite finished) Consider that you may go home on a number of occasions without making any money and all you will take with you is the experience of that day. So make the experience worth while just in case the $’s aren’t.

Okay? Pep Talk over - let’s REALLY get started!

1. Research

Okay, before you sign your life away for a permanent pitch at a market, pay any fees or register for any exhibition stand, do your research.

You need to be able to answer some good quality questions to ensure you attend the right event for you, even better if you have completed the ‘DEFINE YOUR CUSTOMER’ eBook as this will give you the ammunition to really pinpoint the perfect event based on the customer you want to get in front of.

Is this the right styled event for your product?

Put simply, you don’t want to be selling high end luxury wedding products at a stall pitched in a bohemian music festival, the style won’t match, nor will your customer and potentially the price point will be way off. Check the style of the event, ensure it suits your product range. Consider this research as part of a branding exercise as well, as it may help you to step up a little in your game if your business is a little rough round the edges, or it may inspire you to tone it down a little to match the customer you want to sell to.

Is it the right age group for your range?

A little like the style concept, ensure your products suit the age of the customer at the event. You don’t really want to be selling baby products at an antique and vintage market. Yes you will stand out, but your products won’t be relevant to the audience.

Does the price of your products suit the customer at this event?

This is a tricky one, because pricing is forever a hard subject to be confident with in the handmade industry, this is one to research by way of analysing other merchants and their offering and through monitoring how your price is received. I wouldn’t suggest pricing your products to suit the event, ensure you find the event and the location that suits your product and price point.

I have experienced selling baby shoes at a Mumma’s market in a town on the Sunshine Coast, and the audience was really receptive to my products, loved the styles, loved that they were different and had no issue with the price, however the same themed market in another town in the same region, the audience deemed them way too expensive, so monitor the reception and be open to learning new things.

Are there any environmental factors that could effect your product?

Rain and humidity can ruin fragile materials, just like sunshine can tarnish jewellery. Think about the conditions you will be working in and how that affects you, your products and your display. Do you need to consider indoor markets only to protect your range in Winter? How does that effect your business if there are few in your area?

Is the event well advertised?

If you are paying a significant amount of money to attend a larger event, check to see if the event organisers are advertising it because you will want the foot traffic to help you get more sales to cover your inflated pitch. Check to see if there is any free advertising on social media you can take advantage of too and let the audience know you are going to be there, show off your product and promo’s pre event and most importantly tell them where you are located or what to look for to find you. (note later tip about big red love heart balloon)

Location

Is the location of the event doable? It’s great that you have found an awesome event that suits your niche, your customer and all of the above, but if it’s 3 hours drive away - is that okay for you? Make sure you check the obvious logistics before signing up. Consider doing a drive to the event to check transit times, and check things like loading docks / entrances and parking.

Affordability

A simple one, but can you afford it? This is why I suggest starting off small. Paying hundreds of dollars for a space at an exhibition does not guarantee you lots of business, it does guarantee that you will need to sell more to cover costs of the event.

Consider also, the price of the stock you have just made, the materials you bought for your stall, perhaps the marque, table, storage boxes, the fuel to get to the event, your morning coffee that you purchased off the stall holder down the way, the food you ate from the one opposite - what I am saying is it it all adds up - and you haven’t had a paying customer yet. So be mindful.

2. Product

Okay, let’s get this one knocked on the head. Before you go off buying up raw materials and making product until your fingers bleed, just wait a moment. All you actually need to do, is make one or two of your products.

I repeat, one or two. I promise you, remember you are in the handmade industry, it is totally acceptable not to have 50 items lined up on the shelf like it came off the factory floor in China! That’s what commercial retails shops are for.

Learn to get comfortable with the fact that it is totally okay for your customer to wait for their product and that they will need to order it through you. (PS remember to add postage).

Focus on getting a healthy amount of stock that makes a great display, presenting at least one (or two) of the variables from your range. The more style ‘options’ you have the more likelihood you will sell one of them, rather than having a massive quantity of just a couple of choices.

If you have images of products you have made that were custom orders or one of a kind - consider displaying them on a gallery on your laptop or iPad for your customers to see.

3. Display

The fun bit! Time to get creative, this is something you can easily find inspiration on via Pinterest, here is a board to help you get started XXXX and here is a list of items to get your creative juices going, with the assumption you have brought or hired a table and chair.

  • Material for your table

  • Different levels of display, boxes and shelves,

  • Hanging displays (eye level)

  • Props such as plants, flowers, crystals and timber

  • Colour and texture

  • Lights

BIZ TIPS:

  • Do a practice set up, time how long it took and take photo so you can replicate

  • Use a really obvious, large and bold eye catching prop for when you are at a large event so people can find you. I used to take an inflatable red heart balloon to every event + give it away at the end of the day - This was one of the smartest things I did.

  • Be sure not to add too much to your display, give your audience a place to rest their eyes. You do not want you customer to feel overwhelmed as it will hinder them making a purchase decision.

4. Storage

Your product needs to be stored for the travel to and from the event, so consider carefully something that will be suitable to carry, that will protect your products and be easy and functional.

Also consider the set up and set down time of your stored products and build it into your ready time so your stall is ready when the doors open.

5. Payment Methods

Offer your customers the ability to pay by a range of different payment methods. You may notice that more and more people these days do not carry much cash and often pay by card, be it Eftpos, Credit Card, PayPal and even Apple Pay or via their smartphone banking app.

There are so many easy ways to set up the ability to take payment, I used a few different methods… back in the day I used an ANZ EFTPOS offering that I would charge and use with an App. It cost me $10 a month + different rates for taking $’s. Years later I ended up purchasing a SQUARE unit, quickly, cheaply and was set up in moments, that was a winner! The app was super easy to use too. Shop around, I’ll pop some links below to help.

Remember to make the effort to carry change for those that have the larger cash notes and also consider an order form for a unique request, OOAK customer design or for an item you don’t have in stock.

BIZ TIP : If offering a sale item is part of your business model, consider including a little bargain bowl near the pay area for an extra treat that the customer may purchase last minute.

Also consider a sale offering, where the customer can purchase 3 for 2 to shift old stock.

6. Mailing List

It is not a loss if you find that someone comes to your stall and is completely smitten with your work but doesn’t buy on the day as they may be a considered purchaser (Different Customer Purchase Types). What will be considered a loss is if you let them go without engaging with them and taking their details so you can connect with them again in future.

Consider offering something absolutely wonderful to encourage customers to part with their email address and register to enter your random draw or competition for that special something.

You know that they are interested in your work this way and this builds up your potential customer mailing list for future new product releases, behind the scenes emails etc. etc..

Be sure to advertise and promote your WINNER across your mailing list and social media channels to encourage trust with your customers and help your winner feel special.

There are lots of ways of taking a customers emails, a simple pen and paper on a clipboard is perfect however, I recommend you write the details down yourself so you do not have to decipher your customers handwriting.

Another create option if you are a bit tech savvy and that is to have your customer type it into your spreadsheet on your laptop or I use Chimpadeedoo, which is product related to Mailchimp and it collects all the inserted email and back it up to mailing list that you have already created. A massive time saver!

BIZ TIP: Email your audience that visited you that day and give them a reason to come and purchase from you, be it online or at the next event. A discount voucher would be perfect.

7. Business Cards / Contact Flyer

So, I am a little bit of a stationery geek, I have to have stern words with myself before entering shops like Kikki K so I am not a great person to offer advise about Business Cards and flyers as I have spent lots of money on them. This is an area where you can save money, so I will give you an alternative as well.

Firstly though, you will get asked for a business card at the event, you have a couple of options you can go armed with businesses cards and have them displayed, you could make them function and incorporate them into the design of the product packaging, as a tag.

You could also skip purchasing biz cards and encourage people to FOLLOW your instagram or facebook, this way they have all the information they need about you on their phone.

I’m all for business cards, however I prefer functional business cards, you can read more on my thoughts here.

8. Run a Promo

There are heaps of people out there that love a bargain, they also love to win things. it makes them feel special. If you want to make it part of your business model to have a promo, offer a discount or run a comp this is an awesome way to encourage people who are interested in your work to part with their email address.

The thing is, a promo doesn’t work unless you talk about it. So make it part of your mission in every conversation you have with your potential customer that you have a promo / comp happening - all they have to do is register.

Be sure to follow through, this cements trust with your audience, and advertise who wins - and if you can get some product photo’s off your winner of them using or wearing your prize. Then you can use this for your social media updates.

9. Labels and Pricing

Now, I’m going to give you a couple of spins on this one as I have seen 2 approaches work in retail.

So having the price available helps the customer to make an informed decision. Personally, I like to see the price of what I am look at generally because my purchase behaviour will naturally reason with the value versus the product. However, there are emotional purchase days when I am blind to the number on the tag and I’m happy to purchase anyway (within reason).

Note that this buying behaviour is subjective to each customer - everyone has a different opinion on good value, which is why you need to take the opportunity to educate your potential customer on the story of your business and the detail, material, time and effort it took to make the product as this will impact the buying decision.

Now, not advertising the price creates a few outcomes, either the customer will make an assumption that they cannot afford the item (as there is no price tag, so it MUST be expensive), or they will assume you forgot to put one on and ask, or they will not think about it and naturally engage and ask the price.

The benefit of the customer engaging with you, is that they are showing you a buying sign and they are opening up the door for you to engage with them - which is great! Cuz that’s always the hardest bit. I’ll talk more about sales technique later, but its up to you if you want to advertise your prices or leave it to the customer to engage with you for that number.

10. Marque

So if you are considering running stall at an outside local market, you may be able to hire your marque and table from the event organisers. If you were lucky like me, they may even have it set up and ready for you when you arrive.

Hiring or borrowing a Marque is a great idea when testing out your resilience to the ‘Market Stall’ approach to selling your product.

The reason why I say this, is because doing the markets does sound very romantic, and fun and creative however the reality is, if you are working full time in the day job, which most of you are, then you have to get up super early on your day off to go ‘market’ - the newness of this wears thin on the rough days when you socialised the night before (or didn’t because you have to go to market), on the days when it raining or windy and especially on the days when you didn’t make hardly or any money 3 markets in a row.

So, trust me when I suggest you borrow or hire your marque until you reach the line in the sand when you know you are doing this for the future. Or perhaps there is a need for a marque in your home and the value is a given.

When it comes to buying one - I went cheap and I wouldn’t go cheap again. You don’t just need to consider the price, you need to consider the ease of putting it up by yourself at 4/5am in the morning when the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Some are easily to put together than others. So do your research.

11. Sales Process

I’ve done a lot of sales in my time, face to face and over the phone and in order to get good at it you need to practice, be confident and stay out of your head. It also helps to have a bit of a plan coupled with a big dose of positivity, a dash of fun and sprinkle of ‘crazy’ - what can I say it helps take the edge of EVERYTHING!

Yes, most people don’t want to be sold to however whether they realise it or not people want to connect, so the key to being successful when attracting customers to your market stall, (I believe) is generating a feeling of fun and familiarity , in essence that means laughter and trust.

Being a English gal, self depreciating humour is a thing for me - I’m a down to earth gal and can laugh at myself, generally because some of the things I attempt to do is laughable, sarcasm is also typically English but can go wrong so go careful with that one, generally having a good laugh to remove the seriousness of life (because you never know what is going on in the world of your customer) - really does help connect us.

So does finding something familiar with your customer - this is the powerful connection of trust. Whether you have been through a big life experience, seen something amazing or awful, a place a person - we connect and feel relaxed because, well we sort of know what each other has experienced. That sense of familiarity naturally creates a level of trust - that is what win’s customers relationships.

So when you go out into the big wide world with your stall, think about what you are trying to create - a sale? or a relationship with your customer? Which one is going to come back and visit you? Which one will follow you on social media and look forward to your new product releases?

Connect with your customer, remember why you are there. Show them your work, share your story, find their problem they have where you product is a solution, then when they are ready to buy offer them options.

Now when I recommend options, I mean at least 2 product but no more than 3. Otherwise your customers will get confused.

Here is my reasoning…

  • Offer your customer 1 option - their answer is either yes or no.

  • Offer your customer 2 options - its either A or B, it may likely be the cheaper option.

  • Offer your customer 3 Options - its either A, B or C - and it is likely to be B or if your luck all 3!

If you want sell a few items and you can see your customer is really keen on a variety with one in particular - tell them that if they buy the range they were looking at, you’ll throw the favouright one in for free.

Always be prepared for someone to ask for more discount - have a deal or a promo to hand out or get creative with what they are interested in.

Build relationships, share knowledge, share your story, share your details and if your customer doesn’t want to buy, that is okay, just get an email to communicate to, they may want to buy from you at a later date.

The number one thing to remember is to observe, watching and listening are the simple keys to understanding the different types of customer buying behaviours.

12. Insurance

Keep an eye out for something called Public Liability Insurance, this is insurance to protect you if a member of the public is hurt or damaged as a result of your product or injury at your event stand. If any of those things happen, the injured party may want to make a claim against your insurance policy to help with medical costs or loss of income. If you do not have an insurance policy to pay for this, it means it may likely come out of your own pocket. So - research insurance for your stall and find out from the event organisers their requirements as they may wish to see a document (called a Certificate of Currency) to prove that you have insurance up to a certain dollar value. Generally it can be up to $5 or $10 million, but check first as you may be able to pay a little extra and sit under their insurance for the event.

Insurance is really affordable as it is possible to purchase monthly, quarterly as well as annually and if you do your research, you will find market stall specific insurance. If you need clarity on what some of the words mean, refer to what is called the PDS (this is a product disclosure statement) it sound very boring but it’s super helpful and basically tells you want word and event used in the insurance document means.

Before Your Event

Here are a few items to do or check the before the event:

  • Drive to the location to assess drive time

  • Practice the display set up and take a photo

  • Check location loading / drop off area and parking

  • Do a Tech Check and charge all Phones, Apps, Ipad, Eftpos, Laptop

  • Pack your car the night before

  • Advertise the event and where you will be located

After Your Event

First things first, you may well be shattered, so before you have a little nap, make sure you unpack your car, because then you can truely kick your shoes off and relax, then when you are ready:

  • Complete a Retro on your day (What was good, what was bad, what you would change)

  • Review your stock inventory and list items that need to be made and replaced

  • Send an email to the newest members of your mailing list and thank them for coming to visit

    • Perhaps offer them a promo to give them reason to visit again

  • Create an announcement on your social media channels of the promo winner

  • Send an email / text to thank the event organisers

  • Notes/journal this for the next event

Right that’s it for now, I think I have dropped a heap of useful items for your first handmade stall, if you are interested in a coaching session before your event, send me an email and we’ll book a time in - if you have read this as an experienced market and events attendee and you want to add another item, definitely drop a note in below to share the knowledge and help the newbies coming in.

Kez x