Becoming a flea market vendor can be both fun and profitable. You could have enough junk around the garage or in the basement to get started. Everything and anything legal can be found at a flea market: hardware, antiques, dolls, sunglasses, farm tools, animals, books, videos, DVDs, games, toys, jewelry; the list is endless. College students, retirees and working people looking for a little extra weekend income sell at flea markets. Vendors in large, well-known markets might really "clean up" financially while cleaning up that garage or basement.
Things You'll Need
- Items to sell
- Money to pay for a space
- Change for transactions
- Price stickers or tags
- Sales tax ID and proper licenses
- Proper food handling license (if applicable)
Figure out what you want to sell and what you have to sell. What are your interests and what are you knowledgeable about? Traveling to flea markets and looking at prices and types of merchandise might help.
Start out with what you have on hand. Don't assume anything in decent shape is off limits: old baseball cards, boxes of Christmas cards, buttons and ribbon, old romance novels, magazines, mom's old dresses, baby clothes. You can even buy items wholesale, online and resale. Check out garage sales, estate sales, discounted store items, remnants and rummage sale items.
Find a flea market near you. Check in the Yellow Pages, online, in the newspaper or ask friends. There are few locations that don't have a flea market within driving distance.
Once you find one, contact the manager. Ask when the market is open. It may be weekends only, every weekend or just particular weekends or even weekdays. Ask what the charge is for a spot and if it's for the day or the weekend. Find out the sizes of spots, whether the market is indoors or outdoors, covered or in the open, if you need to reserve a spot in advance. Ask whether the market rents tables or if you need to bring your own. Most of all, find out where you go to pay.
Become a legal seller. Apply for a state sales tax ID number and any state or local business or food licenses you need. Flea market owners should be able to tell you how to go about this. Otherwise, your state's department of revenue will be happy to give you this information.
Prepare to set up your stall. Get stickers and tags at your local box store or stationery store. Identify what you are going to sell and price it before you leave home. Pack everything in boxes and label them. This makes it easier to unpack and repack when the flea market is over. Have change, a box to keep it in, table(s), folding chairs to sit in and plastic shopping bags (even used bags from the grocery store). Pack a cooler with food if you like, although food is generally available at most flea markets.
If possible, pack the day before so you can leave early to set up before customers show up. Also, early morning is when other vendors may buy off you before the customers show up.
Arrive early, find the manager and pay for your spot.
Set up and sell your seasonal items, toys, antiques, sporting goods or tools. Try selling cheap bulk sale boxes of good too. Group similar things together to help them sell. You might even sell all those things in one group. Boxes with cheap miscellaneous things in them draw attention. Make with a sign saying everything in a box is $1 or $2 and let people search.
If food is your specialty, sell hot dogs, popcorn, corn on the cob, sodas, chili, sandwiches, cotton candy, snow cones, hamburgers, pizza, anything people can grab to go. If you're a gardener, offer your fruits and vegetables and especially in-season produce from your orchard or garden.
Keep track of what sells. You may find a niche for sales that no one else at the flea market has.
Tips & Warnings
- Set your prices low enough to sell and high enough to give you room to haggle. Be ready to bargain, especially if a customer buys a lot of things.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. If you are too impatient you will drive off sales, let people look, be helpful but don't hover.
- Keep your tables and displays neat.
- Bring some blankets or tarps to cover your items for the night so you do not have to repack them, unless you have highly valuable items or items, like coins.
- Taxes: In all the states what you sell or profit you make is taxable. It is your responsibility to pay your taxes. If you are setting up at a flea market most states require that you to collect and pay sales tax to the state. Most transactions at flea markets are cash. Customers do not expect to pay sales tax there. Most vendors just pay the sales tax after sales totals for the day. However, you must check with your state tax office (they are online) for your state's requirements. Getting a sales license usually costs nothing.
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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