According to the National Flea Market Association, there are more than 1,100 flea markets across the country doing more than $30 billion in sales each year. Flea market customers tend to be loyal and community-driven, forming a bond with their market and creating a sense of family.
If you’re interested in joining America’s booming flea market scene, now’s a great time to start. Flea market sellers across the country are seeing their businesses take off, focusing on budget-minded shoppers who still want quality goods. Selling at a flea market can be a great side hustle, and it might be easier than you think.
What to Know About Flea Markets
Why become a flea market vendor in the first place? It’s a great way to make extra money, particularly for sellers who make their own goods or like to take control of their sales without a lot of overhead.
But, before you start gathering your unwanted vintage items to sell, there are a few things you should know:
- A flea market is distinct from a swap meet, which focuses on the exchange of used merchandise. Although flea markets are commonly associated with used goods, times have changed; new and quality products are a common sight at modern markets.
- A flea market is not a vintage or antique show, although vintage and antique items might show up at a flea market. Vintage shows refer to markets where goods are old and trendy, but not quite antique; antique shows are specifically for goods that are more than 100 years old. Both vintage and antique shows tend to demand (and cost) more than flea markets.
The best time of year for both flea market shoppers and vendors is usually spring. Most flea markets are just opening after the winter, with visitors ready to peruse the wide array of new goods. But, there are also plenty of locations across the country that offer year-long and seasonal markets. A quick search for flea markets near you will show you a comprehensive list of indoor and outdoor flea markets and auctions in and around your city.
Flea market selling isn’t without its challenges. It takes more than just savvy inventory management and good booth placement to make great sales. You’ll also need some people skills. Haggling is a natural component of the flea market environment, and sellers must learn to negotiate without being pushy.
Getting started in the flea market game is relatively easy. You can become a seller in just a few steps:
- Register for a sales certificate with your state. This process will vary by location, but will involve getting a resale certificate from your state’s tax department.
- Take a look at the local markets. Finding a niche or a specialization is key to your success as a vendor. Many existing vendors cite competition from other vendors selling similar goods as a major concern, so if you can’t compete on price, find a product no one else is selling.
- Find out about booth rental. Flea markets charge vendors to rent space in the market. Some markets charge by the month, while others require you to sign up months in advance. This will be part of your overhead, and it varies by market, so do some comparison shopping before you fully commit.
- Consider your costs. Fortunately, flea market selling does not require a lot of overhead. You’ll need a folding table, some chairs, a working vehicle, and some storage tubs to get your inventory to and from the market. As an added bonus, a pop-up canopy or tent can be a welcome shelter from rain and heat, which could also set you apart from the crowd.
- Get ready to take payment. Although cash is common at flea markets, you’ll nab more customers if you can take credit cards via your smartphone. You’ll also need some small bills to make change.
Next, you’ll need to consider your inventory. Many vendors start by simply selling garage sale items, but if you want your business to grow, you’ll need a steady source of products. Common items sold include:
- Clothing and fashion (including vintage and original work)
- Baked goods
- Prints and paintings
- Housewares and home goods
- Books, DVDs, and other entertainment items
Online wholesaling from places like BULQ can be a great way to source items- it’s convenient, reliable, and makes it easy to calculate your selling price and profit.
Building Your Business
How much can you make at a flea market? That depends on the market. Vendors who stick with it tend to do better over time. Newer vendors report making anywhere from $200 to $500 in daily revenue, while others may make $1,000 or more. A typical vendor may do earn anything from $25,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on their skill level and time invested.
Smart vendors also take time to build relationships with their customers. Advertising on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram is a great way to start, as well as building an email list to alert customers of announcements and fresh deals.
Flea market sales aren’t for everyone, but it can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. Who knows? With the right inventory and some ambition, your side hustle could become a major source of income.