Saturday, December 15, 2018

Flea Insider Tips from Rob Sieban

Image Rob Sieban Mile High Flea Market

Sumner Communications editor, Gloria Mellinger, recently spoke with Rob Sieban, CEO of The Mile High Flea Market in Henderson, CO, on the state of his market and the flea market industry. The Market has been operating since 1976. Sieban brings more than two decades of retail and merchandising expertise to the Market, previously serving as CEO of LolliLocks Kids Salon. In addition, Sieban has held many executive level positions in the direct to consumer market including EVP of BriteSmile, SVP of Illuminations, SVP of Lids Corp., Regional Manager of Pier 1 Imports and Senior District Manager of Sunglass Hut International.

Editor: To what do you attribute Mile High Flea Market’s success?

Sieban: “We were fortunate to purchase the market five years ago from Andy Hermes. Andy had built an exceptionally well-run business over the years and created a great reputation for great product and great services. A lot of our success has come from our ability to build on and to enhance the business we purchased from him. The wonderful combination of a tried and true business that had been successful since 1976 we’ve been able to enhance through systems. I’m a strong believer in technology and people so we’ve continued to invest in the technology side of our business from IT infrastructure and the ability to analyze our business. We run it as a strong business. We’re always looking to attract quality talent from the person serving food to members of the executive management team. A big part of our success is our ability to stay relevant to the consumer, stay true to who we are and be able to enhance the experience our buyers and sellers have.”

“I have been up here about four years and I’ve been traveling to learn from other market owners. There is a lot of great information out there. It doesn’t all come from the highest volume markets. There is a combination of some markets that run with a cash register and some run with a designated IT platform that tracks buyers, sellers and food concessions. There are myriad systems out there. We tend to be technology driven so we are focused on making decisions based on quantitative results.”

Editor: How do you handle the issue of counterfeit merchandise?

Sieban: “We practice a zero tolerance policy here at Mile High. We have a number of steps involved in the process.

  1. First, the property is signed with large signs, which communicate that counterfeit merchandise is not permitted and if counterfeit merchandise is found you will be removed from the property immediately and not permitted to sell again.
  2. I issue reminder memos quarterly to reiterate that we do not permit the sale of counterfeit merchandise.
  3. Our employees are informed to keep their eyes open to identify or look at products that may cross the line.
  4. One of the most effective means we employ is off duty deputies and police officers who are better trained to ensure that counterfeit merchandise is not being sold.”

Editor: What is one of the biggest challenges you have in your market?

Sieban: “Being in Colorado, it’s absolutely the weather. We are fortunate to have some warm sunny days in the wintertime. But weather can be inclement. We can be having a strong Sunday and the clouds roll in and we get some rain. We are good at managing those challenges but the weather can be unpredictable and we can’t control it.”

Editor: How do you manage inclement weather?

Sieban: “We want everyone who comes here to have a great experience. The entertainment component of visiting a flea market is as important as the shopping experience. If you come out and it starts to rain, we’ll issue Bad Weather Bucks which invite you to come back for free on another visit. If it’s a snow day and it happens early in the week, we work all week to prepare the lot for the weekend. We can get a beautiful warm sunny day in January that clears away the snow. We also use social media as an effective tool. For example, if you come to the box office and say a certain word, we’ll give you a discount on your entrance. That’s a tool that’s been effective to draw traffic to the market on days that were a little inclement.”

Editor: What are popular selling items this year?

Sieban: “We have an assortment of core products, the consumerables you would use day in and day out like cleaning, health and beauty and produce, those are very popular here, they are our best sellers. We also have a number of luggage and carpet vendors.”

“One hot trend is older merchandise being used in a new way. We have seen a resurgence in the last 12 to 18 months in the garage sale side of our business and a large focus on repurposed merchandise. It’s taking your grandmother’s table and refinishing it and bringing it out here and selling it. It’s been fun and exciting to see some of our vendors reinvent themselves. Part of the hunt is not knowing what you’re going to find.”

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