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The Flea Market, Finding An Audience

One thing my family loves to do is put together garage sales.  It is not very often we do it but when it happens, it becomes an event.  Over the years, it has become evident that we need to take our joyful little hobby and try to generate a steady revenue stream.  How we go about that, we were not certain.  One of our first efforts was to move our gently used items to a larger venue with better foot traffic, the Austin Country Flea Market.

We decided to try a couple of weekends of selling our wares at the venue after witnessing a day of the hustle and bustle of bargain hunters and vendors alike haggling over their products.  After a couple of weekends, we discovered a few truths about our efforts selling items from our garage:

  1. There is only one of any particular item to be sold (no volume sales)
  2. The sales area was basically an eclectic collection of items (no theme)
  3. ALL ITEMS WERE USED!!!

If we wanted to continue down this path, we need a steady stream of products that are high in consumer value but low in volume cost.  In other words, we need merchandise!  But how do you go about finding the right product to sale?  That is where we are at the moment.  Here is what we tried so far.

Seasonal items

In an effort to capitalize on Easter, my sister created baskets of various sizes for both boys and girls.  Well today is Easter and only two of the lot of 10 baskets sold.  In retrospect, compared to what were sold from Walmart and other large supermarkets, the baskets were a bit pedestrian in the toy department for the cost.  Though the baskets had a Martha Stewart quality, the folks mostly ignored the craftsmanship and were too focused on quantity of items offered.

Balloons!

Noticing the number of small children accompanying parents through the maze of the flea market, we decided to try our luck with balloon animals that float a few inches off the ground and appear to walk when pulled with a string.  A couple of things that failed in this approach, helium is not easy to come by and confusion about the balloons in general.  Party stores have stop selling helium tanks and the few we did find were not going to be enough for the quantity of balloons so we had to be selective.  The balloons that were inflated did not seem to trigger much interest among the masses and thus basically sat in deflated sadness.

Oils

Finally we tried an upscale approach by selling scented oils design for men or women.  We had samples to be shared and proceeded to actively reach out and have the folks try the oils for themselves.  There have been some success but not at the volume we had hoped.

Conclusion

SO… what have we learned?  We we are still looking for a product that sales at a brisk pace.  Until we then, there are a few things we did learn about our process:

  1. Inventory is your friend only if it moves, otherwise it is like a virus consuming your resources (storage, management and all items listed below)
  2. Product display is at a premium.  Products that do not sale takes up a spot that could be used by something else.  Rotation is the key.
  3. Play the discount game.  Week 1 = full price, week 2 = 25% discount, week 3 = 50% discount, week 4 = closeout sale (remember the first item on this list)

Obviously we are still trying to figure out who our audience is and the product that match so that is going to be work in progress.  We also realized that we like to continue and explore other venues, Kiosks and the web.  Each of us have particular strengths in products we know, we just need to figure out how to align that knowledge to folks who are willing to pay.  I am going to document this process of finding our audience and products that work.  If you are in the same boat, stay tuned as we slowly develop our brand and maybe you might find something useful for yourself as well.

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