some thoughts on being a market trader

Yesterday we were at the Somerset West Country Craft Market, and our neighbours were a couple selling baby products and wooden toys. We hadn’t met them before and, as one does, ending up chatting quite a bit. The husband told me that they weren’t doing particularly well at the market and thought they’d give it up. I’ve been thinking over our conversation, and here are some thoughts about trading at markets (for what it’s worth!) And to avoid a boring text-only post, I’m chucking in some arb pics of the day….

Even though these proteas are dried, they don't lose their incredible colour

Even though these proteas are dried, they don’t lose their incredible colour

1. Don’t give up on a particular market until you’ve traded there at least three times. It takes customers and other vendors time to get to know you and remember what you are selling, and that’s the only way to build up sales over the long term.

2. You might need to try more than one market in the same general area, because there are so many variables. If a particular market in, say, Rondebosch isn’t working for you (after 3 or more tries), it doesn’t mean that you won’t do well at the Baxter market down the road, which attracts a different age group and is on Saturdays instead of Sundays.

Beaded arts and crafts - can anyone ever get enough of this stuff !?

Beaded arts and crafts – can anyone ever get enough of this stuff !?

3. Try a market in a different area. For example, in Cape Town, customers who come to the Kirstenbosch Market in the southern suburbs don’t usually also visit the Country Craft Market in Somerset West, which is in the northern suburbs, and has a completely different customer profile.

4. Don’t get despondent if you have a bad day. Yes, much easier said than done (trust me, I know!), but you CANNOT LET THAT BRING YOU DOWN. If you’ve planned your stall and given it your best, then bad sales could be due to the weather, to a public holiday, to a range of things you have no control over. That’s just the way it is. Believe that the next time will be better. Everyone has bad days, even traders who’ve been doing it for fifteen years!

wooden hippos

wooden hippos

5. Avoid the temptation to pack too many items into your stall. We fell into this trap over and over in the first few months of trading. Yes, you are a creative genius and all your products are stunning, so I know you want to display every single thing you’ve ever made — but don’t. An over-busy display will mind-boggle the people just strolling past, and they won’t be able to focus on a single item. They will walk past. If you can attract them your way with something really eye-catching and striking, then you can tell them about the other colours and sizes, and your ideas for crocheting a rocket ship.

6. Use blackboards or printed notices to display prices or what the item is. People wandering around markets are distracted by all the activity and bustle, and may also be trying to keep an eye on their rug rats/spouses/dogs, so you need to make things really easy for them. For example, on one side of a row of house slippers, I put a little blackboard that says “House slippers, 100% cotton and slip-proof”, and on the other side “R135 = perfect xmas gift”. A lot of people don’t like to ask the price of an item, and some people don’t even want to engage much with the vendor, it makes them feel pressured. Make it as painless as possible!

The t-shirt lady's amazing jacket

The t-shirt lady’s amazing jacket

I have many more thoughts, but really don’t want to bore you. Maybe I’ll do a ‘Thoughts #2’ post later in the week?

Back soon x


31 thoughts on “some thoughts on being a market trader

  1. Gail

    Thanks, Jill, this is very informative and just what I need because I am considering different selling options for my table nets and bags and other future sewing inspirations.

  2. tgonzales

    Very good advice; I can’t wait to hear what else you have in that head of yours. You make me laugh; especially the one where we shouldn’t overstock our booths and that not everyone wants to see everything we make. That would be me (raising my hand). ;) I fall into that category exactly and will have to keep that in mind as I prepare for my market. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with all of us. Love and Hugs, Tamara

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      Thanks Tamara, but remember that the markets I do are monthly, whereas your Barn one is once a year, right? You actually NEED to get across as many ideas as possible, because of the relative infrequency. :-)

      1. tgonzales

        No, I think it’s a great idea to make maybe 3-4 things and leaving it at that. Only have a few one-of-a-kind things but not go overboard on them until I know that they will sell. I do well with hats, scarves, ear warmers, and owl pillows. I think I will stick with those 4 things. But I also am in love with making the Oma slippers right now, so I may add 5 things. Oh my gosh here we go again! I can’t stop myself, you really need to remind me about this periodically, so I don’t go overboard. ;) Love and Hugs, Tamara

  3. yarnchick40

    I concur, this was great advice. With my upcoming endeavor to have a small display, I need all the help I can get. I got very discourage when I tried 2 markets in the past. I too, would love a 2nd post.

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      It’s easy to get discouraged. I’ve been so discouraged sometimes I have come home and kicked things. It can be a harder and riskier thing to do than many people realise. Keep going. Trust me. You have got what it takes, and more :-)

  4. cuteasabutton82

    Great tips! I’m not in a position to be running market stalls at this point in time, but would love to again someday! I’ll store this information away and have the best market stall ever :D

  5. Winter Owls

    Wonderful market advice. I have one thing to add: don’t get a stall next to the ladies who have brought their five young children with them who like to lean over your stall with melting icecreams….

  6. Pingback: some thoughts on being a market trader #2 | Nice piece of work

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