Today's post is a reflection on my recent market experience with what I hope is a carefully thought out response to my less than enjoyable experience and a reminder to other art and craft market sellers to be more careful before signing up and spending money needlessly on less than stellar markets.
As you probably have realised by the negative tone of this post, my recent market experience left me seriously underwhelmed. Not only have I never attended a market with so few shoppers turning up (the majority of visitors were family and friends of stallholders and the number of attendees had not reached even 100 by the middle of the market), but I was also severely disappointed to discover that the "large hall" the market was run in was actually one large room and one very small room and that my stall had been relegated to one of four in the very small room.
Now I don't want to spend this post ranting and raving about everything the organisers of this market did wrongly by the sellers or just wrong in general, but here are a few points to help other prospective market sellers. These are points which I would normally have thought through, but didn't because I knew the organisers of the market and trusted them.
1. So my first point is, always check out a market you want to sell at as a shopper first. Even if you know the organisers and are friends with them. In fact, the fact that I knew the organisers probably made my experience even worse. Just because you know someone, doesn't mean they actually know how to run a market well and doesn't mean they will remember to disclose all market information to you. So if you want to sell at a market, go and visit it, check out the market "vibe" and see how many shoppers attend and whether they are actually shoppers or just there for a fun day out.
2. Secondly, make sure you receive full disclosure of market layouts and stall position allocations before you apply and/or pay for your market spot. Let me tell you from experience (not just mine, but others' too) that markets where there are one or more smaller rooms off the larger room are not a good option if you are allocated to the smaller room. Shoppers will generally stay in the much larger room and do their shopping there, only going into the smaller rooms as maybe an afterthought because if they can find everything they want in the larger room, why go out of their way to the other rooms?
3. CHECK market dates thoroughly to make sure that there are no other significant competing events being held on the same day/time. This was a big mistake I made, not realising that the market I had booked into was being held the same day as the Caulfield Cup Races (which were actually very close to the market) as well as a much bigger and better publicised (and better attended market which I would normally choose to attend as a shopper over this smaller market I sold at) art/craft market.
4. Think carefully about the time of year for your market attendance. While I thought mid-October would be prime shopping time for people thinking about Christmas presents, apparently most people are not as organised or plan ahead as much as I normally do. Also remember that markets in January or February, where people are often still reeling from over-spending at Christmas, may not be as financially productive for stall holders.
5. Related to point one, besides checking out a market to see if organisers are well organised or not or to see if there are many shoppers, also check what kind of shoppers are attending. Unfortunately for me and many other stallholders, the few "shoppers" who turned up to the market I attended were elderly folk who were not looking to buy items for children or teens or interested in buying anything edgy, funky, contemporary or "arty farty". You need to make sure that the shoppers at a market are looking for the kind of wares you are selling. If customers at a market are going for a farmers' market kind of vibe and you don't sell anything fitting that description, then that market is probably not for you if you don't want to spend your day sitting miserably as shoppers completely ignore your stall.
6. Don't be afraid to ask a fair price for your handiwork. I am constantly saddened to see art/craft being sold online and in markets at ridiculously low prices which barely cover the cost of supplies because "Oh, this is just my hobby." or "People don't want to pay such high prices." Reducing your prices not only undermines the value of what you do and the time and effort you have put in, but it also undermines the worth of other people's creations and gives the average non-crafter the erroneous belief that "handmade is cheap".
This is not a definitive list of things to consider before attending a craft market, but it should help you to avoid making my mistakes before you attend your next market. Learn from somebody who wasted their time and money attending an unproductive market (and no, "any publicity is good publicity" doesn't apply when you attend a market where there are few or no real shoppers and market attendees are not interested in taking your business card other than just as a pretty souvenir). I hope I haven't come across sounding as a bitter harpy, but as someone who wants to spare others heartache and wants to learn from their mistakes.