(Almost a “How to Do a Flea Market” Tutorial…Sort of)
While we filmed our entire flea market setup video a while back, we wanted to make sure to add some additional info here. Sorry it’s a little late! This summer I’m pretty well booked with my carpentry business and that tends to take me away from the yard-sale circuit, selling on eBay, and of course doing my videos!
But then a couple months ago we got really overwhelmed by all the yard sale inventory in our new house, and we were pretty much stumbling over ourselves from the garage into the kitchen then into the living room (not to mention the office)!
When Your House Starts Looking Like A Hoarder Lives There
So, we decided to clear out a lot of stuff from the older inventory to see if we could make room.
Kath was saying that we were beginning to look like a hoarder’s house – and it’s almost true, except that we still had room on our couch to sit. And the weather wasn’t so hot yet that we couldn’t sit on our screened in porch.
The picture here to the right is in the garage – so it’s not TOTALLY piled high and deep (in the house anyway!).
How We Addressed the Situation
The question was: What would be our best and most effective means to liquidate a lot of inventory in the shortest amount of time? Here were the options, as we saw them:
- Send things to live auction.
- Sell the stuff on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
- Have a yard sale.
- Bring the whole kit ‘n kaboodle to the local Flea Market and dump it at rock-bottom prices.
Live Auction? Nope!
Looking at each option, we were immediately able to cross off the live auction because the local auctioneers are still doing online-only, and not really catering to what we would consider lower-end box-lot types of inventory that many of their regulars would ordinarily buy.
So, Why Not Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace?
Next was the thought of selling it on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. At first glance that seemed like a possibility, at least for some larger items, but I was running out of time. I needed to begin staging myself to get back to New Hampshire for a full season of carpentry, and I already know how much time and effort it takes to meet up with people to deliver or hand off stuff like that.
Nonetheless, I did create a “free” Craigslist ad to dump our two old and rusty beach cruisers since we’re now 7 miles from the beach (instead of being ON the beach). We just weren’t using the bikes, so within moments of putting them for free on Craigslist, we had a taker, and within a day, they were gone.
C’mon! Why Not a Yard Sale?
Next up was the yard sale idea. If you have ever had a good sized yard sale, you already know how much time it takes to organize, set up, and conduct one. Because logistics is a specialty of mine, I knew within minutes of looking at all the stuff we had to get rid of that it wasn’t going to be the best option at this time.
BTW: THIS picture below, with the party tent, was just ONE of our yard sales that we had up in New Hampshire one summer. This took us 2 weeks to organize. Here in Florida, we honestly just don’t have that kind of room. Up in NH we had 4 acres and a private driveway and large area for customers to park.
Here in Florida, we share common areas and have space for 2 cars to park.
PLUS, we’re kind of new to the neighborhood, and we didn’t want to upset our neighbors by having hundreds of cars swarming the already small road. (If you are one of our neighbors reading this, you’re welcome!)
That Leaves the Local Flea Market.
I went over the their offices and looked at their calendar and prices, and decided on a 2-day weekend (Saturday and Sunday) when the market would likely have the most shoppers.
I spent a good week getting ready for this – it’s not easy or fast, so if you are considering putting together a flea market weekend for your own situation, I’d advise that you give yourself enough time to sort through your stuff, categorize it by price, and KEEP IT ALL AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE.
Flea Market Setup: Don’t Underestimate The Effort Involved in Planning
Planning and setting up a weekend of selling your stuff at a Flea Market (or even a yard sale on your own property) is time-consuming and sometimes exhausting – if you want to do it right and get the biggest bang for your buck.
Again, since logistics and planning is something I’m good at, I can tell you writing out your plan before you begin (which is pretty much a bulleted list of what you need to do and have on hand) will be time well spent.
Rather than repeat myself here in this post, if you would like to watch the ENTIRE THING – from start to finish – Kath filmed the whole thing. I even show you my own list of what needed to be done in the video.
One of the important things when embarking on this is to give yourself enough time to actually sort through what you want to get rid of. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can wait until “the night before…” to do this. You are just going to make yourself crazy, and you’ll be all stressed out, and you won’t enjoy the process. You must believe me on this. (Of course if you’ve been separating and categorizing your belongings for a while with this in mind, that’s a different story.)
Remember the following points when you are doing something like this:
Tips for Planning Your Flea Market or Yard Sale
- It’s Just Stuff. You cannot be “attached” to this stuff. You’re getting rid of it for a reason – you no longer want it. Don’t be wishy-washy. It’s just “stuff.” Seriously, you can always get more. Put sentimentality aside. If you can’t bear to dump it at a flea market (or yard sale for that matter) at rock-bottom prices, don’t bother. Just put it back on your shelf until you are really ready to get rid of it. Sorry if that sounds cold, but again, it’s just stuff.
- Avoid the “But They Want $XX on eBay!” Syndrome: You are NOT going to get “what people are asking on eBay” for your stuff. People who typically shop flea markets – at least the early birds – are going to be dealers. THEY are gonna try selling it on eBay. So they cannot (and should not) be buying your item at eBay prices. Price it to sell cheap, and the dealers WILL buy it. Seriously.
- Don’t sell broken or dirty stuff. Would YOU buy a piece of broken junk? When’s the last time you just HAD to have that shirt with the coffee stains on it? Oh, and that J.C. Penney bedspread that your mother had (that now has moth holes and smells like mold)? How about that old non-stick Teflon pan that’s all scratched up? Would YOU buy it? Didn’t think so. Then don’t expect someone else to buy it either. Put it in the dumpster, or on your “Magic Tree Lawn” (that magical space where you put your trash each week, and someone may take it even if it’s broken – crazier things have happened). You get the idea.
- Get Going EARLY! This is something I cannot emphasize enough. While many venues open early, the dealers are there earlier. You WANT to sell to dealers. If you are one of those “no early birds please” types of people (such as, if you are having a yard sale and want to start at, say 8:00 am), I implore you to reconsider. Dealers are the ones with cash in their pockets, and they want to buy. They NEED to be out early. Let ’em come. Sell it all, big and small. With any luck, they will buy you out, and you can close up shop early. Kidding (sort of). But seriously, dealers are going to be some of your best customers. You will see in the video how early we got to the flea market. And you’ll see the dealers there with their flashlights. I am not joking.
- Prepare for a LONG Day. We’ve been down this road so many times, at least with hosting yard sales, that we know what it takes. Bring a couple of chairs. Bring bug dope (if bugs are an issue). If you are not under cover, consider a pop-up canopy or umbrella. Bring water, coffee, power bars, sandwiches or whatever it takes to get you through at least 8-10 hours. We were unpacking the truck at the market by 6:00 am, and didn’t pack up the truck to leave until mid-afternoon.
- Have a Helper. In our case, Kath was my helper. But if you don’t have a willing partner, consider hiring someone – even your kid or a friend’s kid for the day – or at least part of the day. This is important, for several reasons:
- 1) you are going to need to take bathroom breaks, and won’t want to leave your table unattended – even if your neighboring vendor insists that they’ll watch your stuff. If they get a customer at their own table, there are no eyes on YOURS.
- 2) When you are suddenly inundated with customers (they seem to suddenly appear in droves – and then disappear just as suddenly), it helps to have more than one person available to tend to them.
- Have Small Bills and Bags, etc. People will be asking to break a $20 or $50. If you feel uncomfortable breaking larger bills, consider having along a counterfeit bill detector. We’ve used them in the past. Also, bring a supply of shopping bags, cardboard boxes and flats for those people who buy a lot of stuff. Also, just in case there is someone who wants a receipt (for business purposes), have a small receipt book handy.
How We Priced Things
Again, you’ll see it all in detail in the video (below or here at YouTube), but we decided on a “$1 Table” (i.e. EVERYTHING on the table is $1. No exceptions.), a “$3 Table,” and a “$5 Table.” With the exception of a few “special items” that we priced separately, it is definitely the way to go, and makes things VERY easy. And almost impossible to confuse or mix things up. (Although people tried – but gratefully, not too many.)
Does that mean that we didn’t give special deals to people buying a bunch of stuff? Of course not. We were there to dump stuff. We gave deals even while we were still emptying the truck.
We repeated, throughout the day, “Come back tomorrow – we didn’t have room in the truck for everything, and we’re loading a lot of new stuff for tomorrow!” Trust me, people came back the next day!
Wrapping it Up
While we were tired at the end of the weekend, we were also satisfied with our results, as you’ll see in the video! So satisfied that we’re planning on liquidating a bunch more stuff in the fall when I get back to Florida.
One of the reasons I think we did so well was that we were not “regulars” – that is, we were there for one weekend, and so dealers noticed that. They are used to seeing the same ol’ same ol’ when it comes to the Flea Market. I know, because I’m a dealer that browses the aisles there every week. I see the same old stuff week after week after week.
And, this, to me, begins to detract from the inventory. After months (and in some cases years) of hauling out the same old stuff that I see there, it gets grimier and more beat up with every set up. The dealer takes it out of the van or truck; handles it; it gets exposed to the rain and the dust and the sun – getting more and more faded as the weeks go by.
In our case, this was the one and only time that particular load will ever see a Flea Market (unless some of the dealers who bought our stuff re-sell it on their own tables). What did not sell for the most part went to the local non-profit thrift stores. Or the trash.
There was only one item that did not sell at the Flea Market that we reconsidered and put up on eBay (where it sold after all!). That was the 3 Vernonware Bel-Air cups and saucers – we had the set of three on the $3 table, but no takers.
Oh well, seems like we did ok with them on eBay anyway! See the photo… 🙂
It was a good weekend. See it all here! Enjoy! And thank you for reading – I hope it was helpful!