In a recession economy, people are looking for bargains, and flea markets are doing well. Some folks hear that and want to open a booth. Other entrepreneurs think bigger, and want to open an entire flea market. Here’s a round-up of links and advice from around the Web for people who dream that if they build it, vendors and shoppers will come.
Three articles on advice Web site eHow have step-by-step instructions for opening a flea market. Marlene Affeld focuses on the planning stage. Look for good traffic. Make a business plan. Pick a catchy name. Check with the IRS and local government for tax, permit, and license requirements. Print business cards and go recruit vendors.
Another eHow author, calling himself “waiting4rain,” considers practical matters. Check on zoning. Lay out your booths and make a map for vendors. Consider fees for vendors and maybe charge shoppers to get in. Create rules for vendors. Advertise with signs and ads. And make your market fun with food booths, music, contests, and drawings.
A third eHow writer, this time anonymous, covers much of the same ground. But he has a few more good tips. Look for free advertising on Craigslist; try to get the local paper to write up an article on your new business. Make sure you have port-a-potties. Set up an admin booth to serve vendors and to sell your own stuff.
Moving on to the rest of the Web, in a comment to a would-be market owner, Ed Atun suggests that you need two acres to have enough space for parking and booths. If you are renting the land, lock in a low rent so that the landlord can’t jack up the price if your business is a big success.
Here’s an old (2006) bulletin board message thread with some advice and a cautionary tale. One fellow opened hoping for 15 vendors on his first weekend, but only two came. His Web site is now defunct. Another poster has some interesting advice: The flea market owner can make decent money with a monopoly or near-monopoly on selling food. Offer free or very low booth fees to start with – you can raise the rent later if you do well. Check on what your vendors sell and allow only one or two who sell the same stuff — you don’t need four sock merchants. Offer fun stuff like a bouncy castle for the kids.
A post at Entrepreneur.com covers much the same ground as the other articles above, but puts a greater emphasis on range of products. And there is a big caveat: the author warns that investment costs can be high: $10,000 to $50,000.
This Yahoo Answers post raises some interesting questions. What about security guards? Who provides tables? Discounted rates to regulars? Traffic control? Tax forms for vendors? Should vendors get refunds on rain-outs? Insurance?
Insurance was a problem for an upstate New York flea market operator. John Tedder put a lot of thought and work into his flea market last year, opening in May, but in the end the insurance requirements deterred him from keeping it up, and by August he was out.
But here is an encouraging story from the far far north, where one entrepreneur ran a successful 22-table flea market on the Arctic Circle!
Finally, on two related topics, Melanie L. Marten has advice for people interested in opening a flea market for charity and starting their own swap shop.
The flea market business offers fantastic opportunities, but as with any commercial venture, there are risks too. Read as much as you can, do your homework, and get excited! Good luck, and contact FleaMarketZone.com to tell your story.
Photo above courtesy Ocean Grove United, with thanks.