Each year The Merchandiser Group polls our nationwide network of flea market vendors to monitor market trends and the state of our industry. This year, results show a diversifying market and industry optimism. Fairs and festivals continue to rise in popularity and profitability for retailers. More and more respondents are using online platforms to sell merchandise, find new products, and market their flea market business. Overall our industry continues to strengthen our core flea market business while evolving into new platforms and opportunities.
Fairs & Festivals
Fairs and festivals are becoming an increasingly important segment of our industry. In addition to the traditional state, county, and town fairs, more and more festivals are popping up each year due to consumer demand and popularity. Themed celebrations, street festivals, and craft and maker fairs all across the country are drawing shoppers and vendors alike. 64% of our surveyed vendors sell at 3 – 10 events each year. Our number of respondents who sell exclusively at fairs and festivals is up to 15 percent. As these events surge in popularity, profitability is rising too. Since 2014, respondents have increasingly reported festivals booths as equal to or more profitable than their regular market booth.
74 percent of flea vendors surveyed say that they source new merchandise from suppliers online, compared to 31 percent who say they attend trade shows to find new products. Vendors using the Web for their own marketing have also increased significantly from last year. In 2016, 18 percent of vendors reported having a business website. In 2017, that number jumped to 31 percent. 52 percent of respondents use social media to market their booths. Facebook is by far the most popular online marketing tool. 90 percent of vendors using social media have a Facebook presence for their business. In addition to physical flea, fair, and festival booths, 30 percent of our vendor respondents also report selling their products on an auction site such as eBay or Amazon.
Much of the stability of the current flea market and swap meet industry can be attributed to dedicated vendors and the permanence of many markets. 85 percent of vendors surveyed have been in the business for more than three years. 20 percent have been selling at flea markets for more than 20 years.
Sourcing and Selling Merchandise
Though more and more vendors are sourcing products online, the most popular merchandise categories to sell have remained very consistent over the past few years. Jewelry, apparel, gifts and novelties are the top categories of products sold by our vendors. Knives, cutlery, sunglasses and eyewear are also very popular items to carry. As in 2016, price and product quality were ranked as the most important factors vendors consider when ordering new products.
We are living in a positive time for the retail and small business industry. Overall, the economy is improving and small business owners nationwide are expecting positive policy reforms and tax breaks. The flea market industry is no exception. 48 percent of our surveyed vendors plan to buy more products in 2017 than they did in 2016. Last year, only 39 percent of survey respondents planned to spend more. 46 percent anticipate earning higher profits from their business in 2017 than 2016. Though our industry is evolving to include more fair, festival, and online selling platforms, all signs point to profitability for this year and beyond at every venue level.