How to Start a Small Flea Market Business

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Flea Market Booth
Flea Market Booth (Image: Monica Hill)

Starting a small flea market business can be tedious and challenging. There are many pertinent steps that must take place before the store can open for business. An owner of a successful flea market booth will conduct market research, develop an idea for the most marketable product or service in an open market environment and strategize on advertising opportunities, all before opening.

Things You'll Need

  • Business plan
  • Marketable products or services
  • Cash register (optional)
  • Credit card equipment (optional)
  • Showcase equipment: mannequins, industrial hangers, clothes racks and floor or wall glass showcase
  • Gate and lock (if needed)
  • Notebook for record keeping
  • Promotional grand-opening fliers

Get the proper licenses for your business. You can check with your Secretary of State's Office, which often has a branch located in a municipal building, such as a city hall or county courthouse. Also, check to see if there is a Small Business Administration (SBA) locally, where you can take free business related classes and learn more on where to register your business. If not, go to the SBA's website (see Resources).

Mannequins, Industrial Hangers, Clothes Racks
Mannequins, Industrial Hangers, Clothes Racks

Prepare a business budget plan to set spending limits. When considering your budget, be sure to include possible expenses and any available resources for the business. For instance, an expense would be the cost of the goods or preparation of services, equipment and rental space. An available resource should help support the distribution of those goods or services. It could be a local business or store owner that can provide used equipment in exchange for a percentage of the store's profits and the promotion of the sponsoring business.

Shop for rental space. Local flea markets usually operate daily and provide utilities and affordable pre-sectioned space, in varies sizes, in a market style fashion. The rental amounts will vary according to the size of the booth. While shopping for a booth, observe potential competitors within the flea market as well as the potential flow of foot traffic in the marketplace. Ask the management about how a flea market tenants can participate in promoting his business inside the flea market. See if the management office offers help with advertising for the collective businesses there.

Consider is the types of consumers the business will serve. Survey the typical flea market customer. After picking your perfect location, go to the stores with the best sales performance and talk with some of their customers. This will help you discover the most marketable products or services and determine the optimal strategy for promoting your business to a similar market.

Typical Gate for Flea Market Booths
Typical Gate for Flea Market Booths

Choose the goods or services you may want to provide. You may want to invest in a computer with Internet service, a small cash register, credit card machine and showcases for your goods to properly maintain inventory. You may also be required to secure your own property after the flea market's hours of operation. You will need to build or install a gate or door with lock and key entry. Another approach is providing consumer services typically offered in flea markets, such as a photography studio or tattoo shop. These businesses have no marketable inventory to secure or maintain. Though you will still have to secure your equipment, it isn't necessary to have a computer, cash register or credit card machine to process sales. Service businesses usually offer flat fees for the services offered to their customers, thus, patrons are prepared to pay their balances, upon the completion of the service, with cash or check. If you don't choose to use a cash register, buy a locked portable cash box. For record keeping you can keep a simple notebook to record customers names and keep track of sales on all service transactions.

Prepare for opening day by designing some grand opening fliers to distribute both locally and within the flea market. Highlight sales and discounts for your new customers, and throw in a small gift to entice them to return.

Floor Glass Showcase
Floor Glass Showcase

Tips & Warnings

  • In determining what goods or services you will provide, it can be helpful to keep things simple in a flea market environment, but be sure to be well stocked.
  • Accepting credit cards can be costly for a business, though it is a convenience for your consumers; the merchant is required to pay monthly service fees as well as transaction charges.

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