How to Sell at a Flea Market

If you’re curious about how to sell at a flea market and join America’s booming flea market scene, now is a great time. Flea market sellers across the country are seeing their business take off, focusing on budget-minded shoppers who still want quality goods. Learning how to sell at a flea market can be a great side hustle — and it might be easier than you think to get started.

So how big are flea markets right now? According to the National Flea Market Association, there are over 1,100 flea markets across the country, attracting 150 million customers and doing over $30 billion in sales each year. Over half of the nation’s flea market vendors report having about a thousand shoppers daily. Flea market customers tend to be loyal and community-driven, forming a bond with their market and creating a sense of family.

With over a thousand flea markets nationwide, you’ll have plenty of venues to choose from. Some of the more famous flea markets in the country include:

  • The Newcastle Farmer’s Market in Delaware, which first opened in a parking lot in 1954
  • The Mile High Flea Market in Denver, which first opened next to the Commerce City dog track in 1976
  • The Galt Flea Market in California, which began as a farmer’s market at the Sacramento County Fairgrounds more than fifty years ago.

The best time of year for flea markets — for shoppers and vendors alike — is usually spring. Most flea markets are just opening after the winter, and visitors are ready to peruse the wide array of new goods. But that doesn’t mean all flea markets drop off when the temperature does. While peak flea market season is during Spring and Summer, there are 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.

As for time of day, the early bird truly gets the worm at the flea market. Some vendors start setting up in the wee hours of the morning, and may do business with an ambitious collector or two before dawn has broken.

Getting Started As a Flea Market Seller

Why become a flea market vendor in the first place? It’s a great way to make extra money on the side, particularly for sellers who make their own goods, or for those who like to take control of their sales without a lot of overhead.

But before you start gathering your unwanted vintage items to sell at the nearest market, 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 also 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 over a hundred years old. Both vintage and antique shows tend to demand (and cost) more than flea markets.

So what gets sold at flea markets? Clothing and fashion (including vintage and original work) is a common sight. You’ll also find baked goods, furniture, prints, paintings, housewares, books, and more. If you’d expect to find it at a high-end garage sale, you can expect to find it at a flea market, although flea markets tend to be much more diverse.

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

Getting started in the flea market game is relatively easy. You can become a flea market seller in just a few steps:

  • Register for a sales certificate with the state. This process will vary by state, 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 could be key to your success as a flea market 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. This will be part of your overhead, and it varies by market, so it pays to do some comparison shopping before you register for a booth and commit. Some markets charge by the month, while others require you to sign up months in advance, so do your research!
  • Consider your costs. Fortunately, flea market selling is not high on 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. That’s about it. A pop-up canopy or tent can be a welcome shelter in rain and heat, and can 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.

Which brings us to the subject of inventory. Unless you’re already making your own product, you’ll need something to sell. Many vendors start by just taking their own garage sales to the flea market instead, but if you want your business to grow, you’ll need a steady source of inventory. Many vendors turn to online wholesaling for goods to resell — it’s convenient, reliable, and makes it easy to calculate your selling price and profit.

Expanding Your Business

If you’re looking for a good source of online inventory, BULQ master packs are a great resource for flea market vendors. Master packs (or master cases) are packages of multiples of the same product — 100% brand new and highly salable.

Master packs come from major retailers in their original packaging, in categories ranging from apparel and accessories to toys, home and garden. In short, they’re everything flea market buyers are looking for.

How much can you make at a flea market? That depends, on the market, of course. Vendors who stick with it tend to do better over time. Some vendors report doing anywhere from $200 to $500 a day from their sales, while others may do $1000 or more. A typical vendor may do anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on their skill level and time invested.
Smart vendors also take the time to build relationships with their customers by advertising on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, or building email lists 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.

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