September 18th, 2013

Top Tips: How to maximise your experience as a stallholder!

Today we have a very special post, and yes its a lengthy one! We spoke to 4 amazing designers who have done many a market in their time, we are lucky to share their pearls of wisdom and things they learnt along the way. With markets becoming SO popular and even competitive these days, we wanted to really help new and even existing designers, to have a think about their market stall approach.
How do you make the most out of your Finders Keepers stall?
How do you keep growing your brand?
What is some great before & after work you can do to maximise the connections and sales you make?
Read below for some fantastic tips!

We would like to say a very special thank you to the designers that have very kindly shared their advice and experiences – Milenka from TMOD, Alischa from Bespoke Letterpress (who is also a part of the FK team!), Natalie from Rebound Books & Anna from Able & Game. This is what our community is all about! So we THANK YOU for your support and we do hope its very helpful to all who read it :)

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Q: What was your first market experience like and how have you changed your approach over the many markets you have done?

TMOD:
Our first market was Hope Street Markets (Brooke and Sarah’s markets before Finders keepers was created). It was small and a real community and we put a lot of effort into our display.
Since then our stalls have grown in size with The Finders Keepers growing too so we had to think bigger for our displays. As we knew it was worthwhile, fun and great branding and interaction we had a new level of commitment to the markets that we decided to make our stall design have more longevity and design structures that could be used but changed and adapted to each market.
Our first market was in Sydney where we live so we then learnt over the many markets as we travelled to Brisbane and Melbourne that we had to consider freight and transportation. So we designed stall structures that could be flat packed or assembled and used lighter materials. We also investigated and got props made or hired what we were looking for in the other cities to save cost and time.

Bespoke Letterpress:
It was scary and daunting – but so much fun!!! We put a lot of time and energy into planning how our display would look and thinking about how it would be viewed by shoppers – from both a front on perspective and from ‘looking down’ above our table. It was such a great experience and a great way to get our brand ‘out there’. In retrospect we didn’t have a huge range to choose from and a lot of our items were ‘higher priced’. Which meant that although we got good exposure about our very brand new range of letterpress goodies, our sales were average. We did however get more ‘post event’ sales online. After our first market this encouraged us to really start pushing more product ranges and a greater variety of price points to suit all sorts of shoppers.

Rebound Books:
Our first market stall was at the Rose St Artists Market in our hometown of Melbourne in December 2005. We brought along 50 of the first batch of Journals we had ever made and were amazed at people’s responses to the old book covers. We sold out of stock that day and have been selling our wares at market stalls every weekend for the past 8 years ever since!

Able & Game:
I think I tried to take my whole studio because I didn’t know what I might need. I didn’t pack it very well so I remember taking so many trips back and forth to the car to unload. These days I try and do it in as few trips as possible.

Q: What are the top 5 things you have learnt as a stall holder?

TMOD:

  • You have to consider the functionality of the stall in displaying your product at its best.
  • Once we made a cardboard castle and it was probably our best ever looking stall with lots of effort, but we got so focused on the sculpture that the cards slotted into that we didn’t consider how the customers would see the product and it was too busy and not at eye level etc.
  • You need to learn to take a step back and look at your stall as if you were a customer.
  • You need to make sure you have space to store your product, as we have sold out because we didn’t bring enough. Although it’s a good problem to have, it’s better to be prepared and have extra stock and consider the storage in your stall design so it is hidden and neat.
  • Sometimes less is more. Don’t overwhelm the customer.
  • We like to interact and chat to the market visitors so we have learnt it’s better not to sit and talk amongst yourself as you don’t look engaging. Yes, our feet get sore but it’s only a day and a night and it’s worth while as Finders Keepers is so busy you can be selling and interacting the whole time. So leave your chair at home.
  • Attention to detail is important, as in the end your whole stall is made up of the small details!
  • Remember to bring a float for change and think about whether it is worthwhile for the nature of your products to hire a merchant machine for Eftpos. There’s also a phone app that links to your bank that we have used before but you have to have an online shop E-way account first.

Bespoke Letterpress:

  • Display of your stall is everything. Really consider how and where you place things on the table, and how customers will interact with the products and also with you as the seller. Don’t be afraid to change things on your display and experiment with moving things around between the first and second day of FK to see how placement can effect how items sell.
  • Make your pricing clear and easy to read. Lists that stand up with all prices outlined are not very clear and if a shopper can’t see and make a decision about a price in an instant you are more likely to loose the sale.
  • Learn how to read customers – some want to have a chat, and others are already overloaded and fighting amongst busy crowds to view your goods. They may just want to shop and browse without feeling like they need to interact with every designer at the market. Take note of what shoppers are doing and learn to respect their time and effort if they just want to browse.
  • Listen to what shoppers say – if they pick things up but then change their mind – is the price too expensive? Is the item too similar to what other designers produce? Really take the feedback you get from shoppers to help invest your energy back into growing your brand and pricing in the right direction.
  • Ensure that you have a wide variety of pricing in your products. Remember that a lot of shoppers come to FK and like to go home with a stash of goodies – this may mean that they may not buy your bigger investment pieces and would prefer to buy a few smaller items. Ensure that you cover a good spectrum of pricing. Shoppers are more likely to ‘think over’ buying higher priced goods which may mean they would prefer to shop online at home down the track.

Rebound Books:

  • Be prepared.
  • Know your product.
  • Want to help your customers.
  • Have lots of stock.
  • SMILE!

Able & Game:

  • Make things easy for yourself on the day, especially when things get busy. Have everything you need like bags, change, water at your fingertips. Have easy access to well organised stock, so restocking product is easy as well.
  • Keep good sales records. It helps to be able to look back and see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Treat the market as a way to get your brand out there. For me this means it isn’t just about people buying your product and the sales you make, but also about people seeing your product. Make sure they have something to take away from it to remember you by. One thing I love to see at markets is someone say to their friend, ‘oh have you seen these cards?’. I don’t have a marketing degree but I’m sure people say there is real value in having a product recommended to you by a friend so being able to see that happen is really lovely.
  • Have water. Oh boy have lots of water.
  • That your bladder can do amazing things and that you can go a whole day without needing a pee break despite having all the water.

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Q: Markets are much more popular than we first started 6 years ago. It has also become very competitive, and with this means that designers have to have good tactics or tools to help them sell and bring their brands exposure. How do you maximise your market experiences and keep growing your brand?

TMOD:

  • We consider how our products are viewed and as all our designs need an explanation as they are interactive, we make sure there is clear legible signage.
  • We also use social media as a tool for communicating and marketing leading up to the market and during and after. This includes Instagram, Facebook, and our blog (and sometimes Twitter, but we are not so committed to that)
  • We are vibrant on our stall and say ‘hi have you seen our scratchie before?’ or ‘have you seen our designs before?’ to engage people as they walk by. Confidence and pride in your products shows too.
  • We also have a mailing list that people can leave their details for future network and community and also we sometimes run competitions too that increases brand exposure.

Bespoke Letterpress:

  • Always attend each market with new items – give return shoppers something new and exciting to view at FK. Shoppers are more likely to come back to your stall market after market if they know that you are producing new goods and can rely on you having new things for them to look at!
  • As your brand grows, consider investing into larger stall sizes – this allows you more space to display your growing range – as well as allow more exposure for more shoppers to view your work.
  • Keep an eye on what other designers (in your category) are producing. Ensure that you stay original and try not to follow trends – build your own style and develop work which is truly unique.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things – often those ideas which seem the scariest, can in fact turn out to be the best decisions you will make.
  • Don’t over saturate your products at lots of weekend markets. If shoppers know that you are only selling at set key large design events they are more likely to buy from you. If you attend every different market available your products are more accessible and less desirable. Choose the very best events to attend.

Rebound Books:
It can be hard for brands like ours after eight years to stay fresh and new, but it helps that every single item of stationery we make is from an original book, so no items are ever going to be the same. That said, we do add new pieces to our range every year, and have designed and developed seasonal products that appear from year to year that are highly anticipated, like our Diaries and Calendars.

Able & Game:
I think it is important to keep developing your product. People love to see new and fresh things so that always helps. I view the competitiveness as a good thing and I’m thankful I live in both a city and a country that supports such amazing artistic and creative people. Having visited big overseas cities, we are really fortunate to have a population that is excited about supporting people like us. Sure when you don’t get accepted into a market you feel like a 16 year old who got rejected by Mr. Hot Stuff when you asked him to be your partner at the Deb Ball, but everyone can’t be in everything and it gives others a chance.

Q: What are some of your ‘must do’ steps prior to a market, and post market? In terms of any promo or leg work prior, and any follow up approaches?

TMOD:
Definitely promote you are going to be there in the form of an email newsletter and across all social media networks you have available.
You can even email / approach media and tell them about the markets and your stall and they may do a little write up or invite them down to take pics of your stall.

Bespoke Letterpress:

  • In the week or two leading up to a FK market – we Instagram our new products we are working on and ensure that our followers know that they will be the first to see them at FK. We blog about the upcoming event, update our Facebook page and sometimes send out newsletters if we have more information to share with our followers.
  • During the event we ensure that we Instagram and Facebook to show how amazing the turn out to FK is!
  • We have a newsletter sign up form front and centre in our display and a hefty supply of business cards available. Sometimes shoppers are too overwhelmed or too worn out to keep on shopping, and will often go home and buy online. Always be prepared with more business cards then you will think that you will need!
  • We also have a video running on an Ipad that shows our letterpress studio in action. This is a great educational tool and helps shoppers understand more about our products.
  • Make sure you have a bigger float then you will think you will need and really consider setting up an Eftpos system or Paypal payments prior. Both systems will add to your costs, but can assist shoppers who love your goods but are running low on cash supplies.
  • We compile our newsletter signups into a data base straight after an event.

Rebound Books:
CHECK THE LIST! We wrote a comprehensive list a few years ago that contains everything from safety pins to pens to flyers and paper bags. Sometimes it’s the most obvious things that you can forget to pack. I’ll never forget the time we drove from Melbourne to Ballarat but forgot the EFTPOS machine. Ben drove a three hour round trip home and back again to pick it up. I wrote our list the day after!

Able & Game:
Get prepared! I am always tweaking how I prepare so I don’t have to take boxes and boxes of cards. With over 300 in the range I used to take a few of every one but now I try and focus on the cards I have out and a lot of the others are just in flick boxes on the table. We like to promote it on our website, Facebook/Twitter and newsletter as well as Instagram the shit out of it on the actual event day. Afterwards we have sent out specific newsletter to people who are from another city and signed up to the newsletter, often to let them know which shops we are stocked in nearby.

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Q: What are some common mistakes you see from newbie stall holders, and what advice can you give them to help ‘get them over the line’?

TMOD:
Mostly don’t be shy and engage and talk to your customers. It can be scary at first but you should be proud as it’s even hard just to get a stall so your products must be good!
Also, try to do something away from the ‘norm’ of what’s on trend as if every stall has bunting or something else you want to stand out and be different. Think big and get creative, because you are.
In planning and designing make sure you display at eye level primarily because no-one looks on the floor when it’s really busy.

Bespoke Letterpress:

  • Not making pricing clear enough and easy to read and understand.
  • Not giving shoppers enough access to see their goods. Really think about how you maximise the space you have available to both show your work, and also allow shoppers the ability to interact with your products. Stalls which require shoppers to ‘step inside’ the space can make it harder for shoppers to see your goods.
  • Coming back to FK without new goods. Always push yourself to have new products and something exciting to share with shoppers!
  • Giveaways are lovely – everyone loves the chance to win something. But shoppers may be less likely to buy an item, if they think that they could win it instead. You might be better off having a ‘market special’ pricing to entice shoppers more.
  • Consider wisely who you get to assist you at the markets. Working with your Mum or best friend may be fun – but you have made an investment to attend so you need to ensure that those who are helping you are also working hard to present and sell your work as best as possible. As your brand grows, consider paying people who you know will be good workers to help you work your stall.
  • Having cluttered displays can confuse shoppers. You want to ensure that you are displaying your goods in the best possible light. Propping up your space is wonderful, but ensure that your products are always the focus.
  • Not bringing enough stock – always bring more then you will think that you will need!
  • Be prepared with lots of packaging bags ready to pack. Shoppers may not have time to wait around while you wrap their products. Try to find ways to maximise how you will package things and try and prep as much as this at home prior to the event.
  • Always attend each event knowing that each city has different types of shoppers who attend! Something which sells well in Brisbane, may not sell as well in Melbourne. Each event is unique! Try and attend each cities event and learn about that environment – so that you can then ensure that your display and products best suit that market. Investing in doing interstate markets is scary and daunting – but its the best way to share your products with a whole new potential city of fans! Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to have a mini break in another city to recover after a busy event!!

Rebound Books:
I think the only common mistake I see, and this really applies to all stallholders, is a reluctance to talk to customers at your stall. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to talk to strangers about your product endlessly, and perhaps sometimes people aren’t as appreciative of your handiwork as you’d like them to be, but being friendly and offering your expertise about your product can convert a potential customer to a paying customer. There is nothing more frustrating than a stallholder behind their stall glued to their phone, talking to their neighbour and ignoring their customers. Be friendly, smile, and tell everyone who’ll stand still long enough about what you do.

Able & Game:
A market is a great way to get instant feedback on your product. You are face to face with customers and you can’t get that online and when you wholesale your product to shops. You get to see how people react to it and what people like and don’t like so really take advantage of that. Sometimes when people are not selling much product they complain about the customers, but I think this is a good time to also look at your product and think about why it isn’t working.

All images in this post are from our AW13 Melbourne Markets – all photos by Mark Lobo

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Great huh?! So what are some of the things you have learnt too? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

13 Comments

  • What a great article!

    I have done many markets over the years, and am keen to return to more markets, as the chance to interact with your customers is priceless.

    I especially found the tip about viewing the market as a ‘marketing exercise’ useful, so if sales are not that great on the day, the flow through is possibly worthwhile.

  • THIS IS GOLD!!!!! thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I got so much out of it and will be applying it to my little stall – EXCITING!!!

  • Jodi Henninger says:

    Thanks for that! Lots of food for thought as I contemplate going to market…..

  • Margie says:

    Oh wow. Alischa you have answered a whole raft of uncertainties I had after our last FK experience in Sydney. THANK YOU!

  • Victoria says:

    Oh wow, what a great an comprehensive list of things to think about. I will be having my first market in October and would love someday to get into big design markets like Finders Keepers and Markit.
    I love the point of having something new – it is very hard work but I’m sure it will be worth it to see immediate feedback from actual customers.

    I am also very excited to get out there and start talking to people. I was at a market recently and a stall had the prime position of a table by the entrance door. Great opportunity? No – she looked miserable and I didn’t want to approach her and neither did anyone else.

    Thank you for the pointers – I will definitely be trying them out!

  • Anita says:

    It can be very discouraging as a stallholder with so many markets on offer around. It seems that everyone wants to be a market organiser but only a few are really needed. Thanks for the reminder to be choosy. Loved all that positive help by your interviewees. I love FK’s as a customer and am really encouraged to try to use my own customer experience to assist me in making over my own market stall. HUGE THANKS, fabulous info.

  • Jess says:

    This is amazing, thank you so much for the time taken to interview and be interviewed! I’ll be in the debut area so absorbing every tip I can – from visiting some great markets I totally agree with these points, and appreciate their great insights x

  • What a fabulous article – i haven’t done many markets at all but one day hope to do more as love the customer interaction so to read this hopefully means i get a good go at it from the outset. thankyou very much contributors.

  • What a great read! Really love the point of only choosing the best events. I’m doing that this year after trying lots of markets last year, good learning exercise but very disheartening to be at the ones that allow junky imports. I really enjoy your website too:)

  • Jelaine says:

    Thanks for a great read. Lots of wonderful advice for market newbies like me!

  • Jacqueline says:

    Thank you so so so much for sharing these tips – all gold and some very good points which I’ve never thought of! :)

  • Naomi says:

    Thank you for sharing these great tips! Valuable advice for those new to markets :)

  • A great, informative read
    I have been doing markets for a long time, but am always looking to improve and grow my business. Thank you for all the advice…. very much appreciated. Roz

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