Tuesday, 6 July 2010

How-To Tuesday: Market Stalls Part 2

This is Ruth again from Nice Day Designs trying to pass on a few handy tips for trading on market stalls. This is second part is about interacting with your customers, if you missed the first part about display and presentation, just click here.
Doing your first stall can be daunting, and it's difficult to know what to expect, one thing I hadn't factored in was how to interact with my customers, I figured it was no problem since I had worked in the service industry for so long. But I discovered it's different when you're selling your own work, on my first day I didn't know what to say to people because there wasn't that buffer of the being at a checkout/bar/till. Suddenly it seemed far more personal and I got really tongue tied, it took me a little while but I learned tricks to get around this:

-Be friendly: Nobody wants to go to a stall where someone looks grumpy and unwelcoming, I know it sounds very basic but a smile makes all the difference.

-Give People a bit of space: Don't pounce on them as soon as they stop at your stall, telling them the price of everything. Usually if someone picks something up or inspects a price tag I tell them it's handmade, or a special offer price. It's a way of opening a dialogue with someone who looks interested rather than heckling every passerby. It can be a difficult balance and some shoppers are very shy, so try not to get offended.

-Offer Information: There is nothing worse than talking to a trader and you feel like you are pulling teeth trying to get information out of them. Be pleasant and not too pushy, but tell people it's handmade, what the material is, or that your materials are sourced locally. These are things that people want to know, that's why they are at a craft market instead of Pennies.
-Converse: once you open up a dialogue and you feel that it's going well, continue the conversation, people at markets love to chat, go with it, you never know where it will lead. They might end up telling their neighbour 'about the lovely girl down the market', as you all know Ireland works through word of mouth. Although be careful of those who want to chat for a half an hour but don't buy anything, those people might get in the way of other prospective customers, I know it sounds a bit cruel but you'll need to politely dismiss them.

-Business Cards: If someone seems interested but they don't end up buying it probably means they don't have the money on them at the time, but you have the opportunity for a future sale. Keep business cards on the table and also some close to hand. Hand them your card, tell them about your website, and also if you'll be trading at that market again. 99% of the time I get an encouraging 'oh really, that's great' in response. Recently I've starting giving out DL sized flyers with all my info on them, shop, facebook, and blog with info and images from my business. This seems to be more effective than business cards as it supplies more information. If you do custom orders this would be a good way of letting customers know.
Sometimes it can be a very long day if you are at a stall, especially if it's quiet and there aren't many customers to talk to. The temptation is to bring a book and read it, but I would highly recommend not doing this. It's like adding another barrier between you and the customer, lots of people won't interrupt you, and you will miss opportunities to talk to browsers. This one-on-one interaction is what massive companies would pay millions for, so use this opportunity to add a face and a personality to your business. One tactic I use to pass the time is to bring some sewing with me, it makes it obvious that the products that I'm selling are made by me, I get work done during quiet times, and it's a way for opening up a dialogue with customers. It has the opposite effect of a book, it makes people curious and I end up talking to lots of people about crafting. It also makes my stall more memorable, I've had customers see what I'm making and come back a half hour later to buy the finished product, it all adds to the individual experience of the market. To help with the logistics of working while out of my studio I prepare my brooches at home all precut in little bags, and I just sew them together at my stall.

Another handy tip is to wear your product if possible, it shows a pride in your work and it also illustrates how well your pieces look when they are worn. Sometimes it can be a little thing like this that make that last final decision in a sale. This is also something you can do in your everyday life too, I often wear my felt brooches, and if someone comments I tell them I made it and either give them a business card, or tell them that I sell at a local market. Moo keyring business card holders come in very handy at those times! I know it may seem pushy but you are marketing yourself and your business, and it does lead to sales.

Recently I've found my facebook fanpage to be a fantastic resource for the market. It's a great way to advertise locally for free, during the week I post pictures of the things I've made to build up an interest for my weekend market. Then the day before I post a reminder about the market, with opening times and a link to the website. Without fail every week I get a new customer at my stall saying that they were reading about my work on facebook and they came down because they read my update. I can't recommend it highly enough, it's not that time consuming and it's free!
For the past few years things have not always been rosey at the market, sometimes it can be tough. Here are a few things I learned the hard way

Sales: There have been days that I've sold nothing, it's really heartbreaking and I took it personally, but sometimes it's more to do with advertising, weather and the alignment of the stars (lol). Go home, have little cry, pick your self back up again and try again the next week. It won't happen that often, but try not to take it too hard if it does.

People: I know it sounds awful but some people are just rude, some people expect to buy everything at a market for 2 euro and get annoyed that you are overpricing. Either politely explain that it's handmade, if they persist ignore them. Some folks are just plain dotty!

Weather: If you are trading outdoors check the weather forecast the night before, there is nothing worse than being freezing with no jacket, or wearing uggs and a jumper in 30 degree heat.

Spending: When you are trading at craft shows you are likely to fall in love with all the other traders work, and you'll want to spend all your money at their stalls. It's goo to support other traders, and that's where I do most on my birthday/xmas shopping. But try to restrain yourself, you are trying to make money. If you really want to buy something, set a target at the start of the day, if I sell X amount I can spend X. It might even be a good incentive to yourself to have a better sales pitch!

I hope this market series has helped answer a few questions, and that it encourages some of you to go out and give it a try. It's been the driving force behind my business, and on bad days I might moan and grumble, but I really do love it.


  1. More great tips, thanks for those. I was wondering if you have any practical tips on displaying things on the table, ideas on what to use to put things on etc.

  2. Thank you Ruth! Another great and helpful post! It is hard when the market is quiet so its important to build friendships with other stall holders to keep the spirits up. I find it's harder to feel upset about selling little or nothing if you can have some laughs packing up at the end of the day!

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  4. Really useful info, Ruth! Thanks so much:)

  5. Love reading your tips,I sometimes sell at markets and have felt just the same as yourself when I don't make a sale,thought I was the only one!
    I sell scarves and bags and was wondering how to display them that would create more interest,Thanks

  6. Jenny-Thanks, glad it was helpful. I talked more about display during my first post
    things like notice boards, baskets, and brightly coloured boxes are great, but it depends on what you are selling. I've uses perspex desk organisers from Easons, and shoes boxes covered in nice paper.

    Valerie- I've bought great fold down metal clothes rails in Argos, they are a much better investment then the cheap plastic ones as they hold together better, and carry more weight. I've seen people use clothes horses to display scarves, and also a table mannequin can look very effective too. Try to source some in shops that are closing down or try www.morplan.com if you can afford to pay for a new one, although they are pricey.

  7. Great article Ruth,I love chatting to people and do so in my shop everyday. The only trouble is that people seem to pour their heart out to me and I end up spending an hour talking (happens a lot,don't know why) Maybe I missed a calling to be some sort of therapist. Just today i had a convo with a customer about her husband recent diagnosis, her son who was killed on a motorbike and her recent bowel exploratory surgery. Never met her before today. I often think after they have gone out the door..How the heck did we get into that ???Sorry for the long winded post..

  8. Great article - loads of very solid tips

  9. I've never done a market. You make it sound so easy but I bet it's no where near that easy.

  10. Fantastic article Ruth. It's exactly what I needed to read before I do my second ever market this weekend. I've worked with the public all my life in various industries, but I found that being behind a market stall is a whole other ballgame altogether. Thanks a mil!

  11. Thanks for your 2 part articles Ruth, I find that even if sometimes you don't sell anything, you always end up spreading the word about your work with business cards or get maybe custom orders. So it's not all lost. Oh! And the thing about wearing your stuff, that works great, but you do need to carry cards with you. So many times I felt like 'Grrr if only I had brought my cards' LOL

  12. Lush Stuff- I know what you mean, it can be hard, people can feel like they can tell you all. When I worked in a shop I had a woman crying while telling me the woes of her life. I try to keep the topics only around either what I'm selling or generally about art and crafts. If it gets too lenghtly I say 'thanks for stopping by, and it was lovely to meet you' and then I busy myself sorting out bags or something behind the stall. It's awful but sometimes it has to be done.

    Vivi-so true, it's about spreading the word of your business and building up contacts, a market day is never a day wasted, that's why it's so important to talk to browsers.

    Anne-Marie-glad to help and best of luck this weekend :)

    Letizia- it's tough but very do-able, I've been doing this regularly for years so I've learned all this the hard way. It can be lots of fun, and the comradery between traders is lovely, I've made some great friends.

  13. Brilliant article, Ruth! I've only done a few markets so far, but I know the feeling of not having made one sale only too well. It is horrible, but talking to other traders, they all share their 'no sale' stories, so you realise you: are not the only one/ are not the worst seller in the whole of Ireland/ should not ditch your craft/ should not rush to get a 9 to 5/ should not seriously think about your life, etc.

  14. Thanks for that advice Ruth,had a look at morplan and its too pricey love a table mannequin if you ever hear of one going cheap lets know,or anyone else please,Valerie

  15. Thanks so much Ruth! We just did our first stall last weekend and your last article was full of practical advice that I just hadn't thought of so thanks a million for the help!!

  16. Hi, im wanting to open a stall but am wanting to purchase the stall, am looking for a cart design, so that i can sell at various places. Where would you purchase the "tables/stalls" themselves from?

  17. thank you for the cheer up notes, keep up the good work Ruth

  18. I would add to the tip about not reading. I'd also say "Don't sit down". You should be on your feet working not sitting down. If it's quiet go around to the front of your stall and see if you can improve or tidy up your display in some small way. Even just reposition things a little. This makes you seem busy and your stall seem more active.

    It can be terrible when a market is quite and the person standing behind a stall watching you as you approach. Being out the front of your stall can make your stall more approachable during quite times and when someone does approach you can say hello and move around to the other side or just move to the side.

    I also sometimes just stand a little to the side of my stall and not directly behind it as to not make people feel like I'm going to pounce on them and give them the hard sell.