Your local flea market could be an opportunity to make some extra cash or even start a small business on the side. The nice thing about them is that they usually only operate on weekends, so it's a perfect part-time operation if you already have another source of income or if you only want to work a few days per week. You can get the whole family involved in setting up the booth, shopping for inventory and interacting with customers. The great thing about a flea market is that it almost always brings a high volume of buyers to one location. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Choice of Venue

Your first task is to search for and decide on the venue where you'd like to be selling. Some areas will have multiple flea markets, and you'll have a choice between indoor and outdoor locations. When you call the various market operators, you'll want to ask about the following things:

  • Rates
  • Booth sizes
  • Merchandise restrictions (some may only allow used items)
  • Merchant requirements or code of conduct (there may be some rules that surprise you)
  • Hours for booth setup and takedown

If you choose an outdoor venue, you'll have to purchase some sort of tent or awning. This will keep you out of the hot sun during the day and keep your merchandise covered if it rains. If you go with an indoor flea market, make sure it has A/C in the summer and heat in the winter.

Seasonal Booths

You might want to rotate your merchandise with a seasonal theme. As fall approaches, you might consider selling outdoor equipment for hunters, fishermen, or campers. Perhaps you could sell household items with an autumn look. Find a wholesaler that deals in camping supplies like gloves, hatchets, camp stoves, knife sharpeners or waterproof matches, for example, and resell the items at retail price in your booth. Hand warming packets, knitted hats and clothing to help customers stay warm in the chilly fall air are items to think about selling. As it gets closer to winter, you can switch to a holiday theme for your merchandise, and so on.

Unique Crafts

Economic trends experts say that people are looking for things right now that are cheap, elegant and unique. If you have the ability to create unique crafts, such as quilts, wood carvings or other items, chances are you'll do well at a flea market. Keep the seasonal theme in mind as well, especially if you're making a lot of the items yourself. The key is to make items that are one-of-a-kind, and don't price them too high. Many people come to a flea market expecting to haggle or find a low price. Just make sure it's something you can produce at a high enough volume to keep up with demand.

The "Used" Booth

Some people go to yard sales constantly to stock their booth at the flea market. They look for used items at low prices that they can resell at a higher price. One thing that many sellers look for specifically is moving sales, the type with the emergency ad that says, "Everything must go TODAY!!!" They go to the sale late in the day when the owner is in a panic and loading up unsold items to take to the dump or Salvation Army and offer to haul the stuff off for  free. You can score some really nice things to resell this way, and you're actually doing the owners a favor by taking it off their hands. If you don't have a specific theme for your booth, or if you're just looking to make extra cash, you can't go wrong reselling used items.

Crossover Ventures

If you want to increase sales and work more than part time at it, consider doing a type of crossover venture. For example, you could set up a unique Amazon bookstore and sell a specific type or genre of books (Christian, self help, science fiction, etc.). Purchase books wholesale that you can sell at the flea market. You can print up business cards with the website for your Amazon store and pass them out to customers and passersby. That way if they don't buy a book from you at the flea market, they can still go to your website and make a purchase later. Think of other crossover ventures like this, so you can be making sales all week long.

If you do decide to sell books at a flea market, organize your booth as much as possible. Group the books together by subject matter or alphabetically by author. Make your selection as easy to browse as possible, and set it up similarly to a real brick and mortar store.

Tips for Success

Flea market experts have come up with a number of tried and tested tips to help make sales. Aside from being friendly and keeping your space tidy, there are some extra things you can do to draw customers in and get them buying:

  • Maximize your booth space. This doesn't mean cram it full of stuff. Put up walls or dividers on which you can hang merchandise, especially the higher priced items. When people shop, they tend to look up before they look down. You can turn that to your advantage by hanging merchandise at eye level.
  • Put up a nice sign to welcome shoppers to your booth. Sometimes things get really busy or you're with another customer and you can't interact with everyone walking by. A simple welcome sign or something that says, "Feel free to browse", can help draw them in.
  • Give away free samples, even if it's something simple. People love to get free stuff, and getting them to notice your booth among the crowd is sometimes half the battle. Think about your own actions as a couponer. If there's a booth that doesn't have anything free, and another one is giving away free lollipops, which one are you going to check out first?
  • Pay attention to what other vendors are selling and what's selling particularly well. Maybe it's something you can duplicate or offer cheaper or in a better form. A little competition is always good for the market. If your items aren't selling well, don't be afraid to change up your merchandise or your booth presentation a little, until you find what works.
How to Make Cash at Flea Markets