You’ve nailed the application and you’re getting ready for your first ever market stall – congratulations! The butterflies have probably set up permanent residence in your stomach as you think about the upcoming day, but we’re here to help.
We spoke to two members of the Etsy Australia community with a wealth of market experience, and they shared their top tips on getting prepared, and the low-down on what to expect from your first market stall.
Hear from the experts
Nisa Stone (pictured in the header image) is the creative mind behind Mud and Sugar, a “shop for fairy tale creatures”. From her home in the Blue Mountains, Nisa designs and makes kids’ costumes inspired by her childhood love of the dress up box. She has been a part of more markets than we have space to list – from artisan-only, to warehouse markets, to events with her local Etsy Team.
“I’ve made so many great friends from this experience and feel very passionate about supporting our community,” Nisa says.
On the other side of Australia, Kate Stevens makes one-of-a-kind clay creations for her Etsy Shop Ceramic Snippets and has been captaining the WA Etsy Team since 2014. As well as organising the Perth Etsy Local Made Markets for the last four years, she has experience as a seller and an organiser.
From prep to pack up, here are their top tips on what to expect.
Preparing for the day
Do a mock set up
“Doing a mock set up is a great way to see how your stall will look and work on the day,” says Nisa. “Can customers move around? Do you have space to stand? Can my products be seen clearly? Does it represent my brand? Is it tidy and safe?”
Kate suggests snapping photos of the “dress rehearsal” set up for your reference, and practicing with payment methods. “If you’re using new technology, make sure everything is registered online and that you know how to operate the device. If you fumble around or are unsure, you run the risk of losing a sale, and if a customer is popping something on their credit card, chances are it’s a bigger transaction!”
Lists are you new besties
“Have a written checklist of everything you need on the day,” suggests Kate. “Run through it when you’re packing and preparing and it will alleviate the stress of having to remember too many things!”
Nisa suggests writing a list for your stock as well. “If you can, ask previous stall holders how much stock they like to take, this will give you a better idea of what to expect.”
“It’s so important to help advertise the market,” says Nisa. Your social media, real life networks, and Etsy shop are all powerful tools to get the word out.
“Promote the event in the month leading up to the market. If the organisers post that they have a social media challenge, get involved; you get brownie points, and hopefully more customers. Ask friends and family to also come along and see your stall. Tie it in with your Etsy or online store, and advertise that new products you’re taking to market will also be available online, I get many Etsy sales from customers who came to my stall.”
Add a range of price points
“If all your products start at say $50, you might struggle to make regular sales,” says Nisa. “Have bread and butter items that are priced lower so people who may not be able to make that bigger purchase can still buy something.
“Just having a product is a reminder of your shop and word will spread, so maybe next time they’ll buy that bigger item. Label everything as and if items are too small, remember your business card. Sometimes these items will alone make up the stall fee.”
Do your research
“It helps to attend a market as a customer,” says Kate. “Check out the vibe, make sure your target audience is attending, and that the market isn’t already oversubscribed when it comes to the kind of products you make.”
“Attending in advance can also help you visualise your stall set-up, and get you excited about the prospect of selling at future events.”
Pack the night before
“I load the car, run through my checklist, and make sure I’ve packed everything the night before,” says Kate. “Then if I’m sleepy or having a slow start, I can just jump in the car and head off straight away on market day!”
On market day
Bump in: “On the day of the market you have a bump-in to get your stock out and get everything ready,” says Kate. “You want to have everything within arms reach so you’re not rummaging for bags, change, or your payment machine. It pays to be ready in advance of the market opening, because once the flow of customers starts you want to be ready to sell them your goodies!”
Nisa says that set up can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. “I try to be set up at least half an hour before the official opening time because I guarantee there are always early birds!”
Get your stall organised
While each stall is different, Nisa suggests a few ideas to keep organised on the day.
“I like to take a stock list so I can tick what sells rather than write things down. All my products are easily accessible and stands are weighted, so if it’s windy they don’t fly away. I like to use the whole space efficiently; I have lots of things within reach and at eye level. It’s also important to have extra stock under the tables and to pack things away neatly, tubs are perfect for this.”
Rep your brand
“My stall set up represents my brand, creating children’s costumes, so I try to make it look magical, and I love seeing their reaction when they enter the stall, it’s priceless!” says Nisa. She also dresses for the occasion. “I represent my brand with colourful and fun clothing, my earrings are usually unicorns or dinosaurs.”
Being present and engaged is key, Kate adds. “If you’re chatty, friendly and open to questions and discussion you’re far more likely to make sales than if you’re slumped behind your stall reading a book and avoiding eye contact!
The nitty gritty
“Stay hydrated, bring snacks and reapply sunscreen,” says Kate. “If you can have a friend give you a break that’s nice, but if you can’t you can always ask a neighbour to watch your stall briefly to give you a toilet break and offer to return the favour. A typical day at a market is long – you’ve got to be prepared to be standing, be engaged, and sometimes smile until your face hurts!”
Take a friend (if you can)
“I usually ask someone to help on the day,” says Nisa. “It’s also fun to have someone there and helps so I can take breaks when needed. But whoever goes with you, they’re also representing your shop. Odd uncle Jim in trackie dacks being cold to customers ain’t going to cut it!”
How to sell
“Then it’s sale time! Big smile and action! The first sale of the day is always exciting, I like to be friendly say hello. I’m not pushy with customers but encouraging,” says Nisa.
“I never end the sale, I let them decide when it’s finished and don’t put things in a bag till they’re done because that can prompt them to stop shopping.
I have business cards ready in at least two places and some behind the counter, and I tell them I sell on Etsy and talk about our team a lot. I tidy the stall and restock when it’s not too busy. I have a mirror on the table and encourage people to try things on.”
“You might feel inclined to just bundle everything up, but try and take some care with packing up so that you can lay your hands on things you’ll need to find in the next few days, and everything won’t be a distressing jumble when you unpack at home,” says Kate. “Most market days end with a wine (or three) for me!”
“Never pack up early unless organisers have given the OK to do so,” adds Nisa. “It can mean you don’t get invited back and can stop last minutes sales for yourself and others. “
Most of all… have fun
“Market days can be long, especially if it’s a full weekend outdoor market with multiple set up and pack downs and horrid weather,” says Nisa. “I always take something like a bit of hand sewing or drawing to do if it’s quiet. Snacks and a thermos are also great, oh and chocolate!”
“Nothing beats chatting with customers, telling them the story behind your products in person for inspiring business confidence and self-belief!” says Kate. “They can take a bit of work, but getting out and mixing with other creative people and meeting fans of handmade can be a really rewarding experience… it’s why I keep coming back!”