I am really excited about the beginning of summer and the opportunity to participate in farmers markets and bazaars outdoors. I enjoy indoor events in the winter as well, but I really like the outdoor ones, especially when the weather is beautiful. Today I thought I would share some tips for setting up at an outdoor market.
First, a shelter. Some markets and bazaars you can rent a tent, others you need to have your own. I would highly recommend getting your own tent as it is cheaper in the long run, and then you are completely familiar with exactly what you have as a setup space. You can do a trial run ahead of the market date, and if you want to try new displays and things you can do so any time and know you are working with exactly what you will have when you get there. It is not fun to show up to a market and think you know what you’re getting and that your displays will work, only to find out you were mistaken, and only some of what you have will work. There are many great companies to order from. I ordered my tent off Amazon, and they delivered to my door. The tent I ordered has 3 solid sides, one screened side, and one side that has a door opening. The sides are all Velcro installation and are easy to install and remove. The corners zip shut which I like because it reduces areas for wind and rain to penetrate. I never take the top off so it’s always ready to go.
The weather. I love being outside, even when it’s rainy. People love to stop at outdoor markets and wander around, whether they buy anything or not, it’s always fun to see all the different items. But one type of weather is not so fun and can ruin a market. Windy weather is the hardest to deal with in my opinion. Tents are great shelters, but they act like big kites, so you have to be able to secure the tent down with weight of some kind. Hanging displays from the bars of the tent really helps, but buckets filled with gravel or concrete I have found to work better than any other tie down method. The other problem with wind is keeping your items from blowing away, but that depends a lot on what you’re selling. Make sure you have a plan ahead of time or you may end up chasing your items across the market.
Sunny weather is awesome; however, tents can be extremely hot. They are a lot like a greenhouse. If you have the option to remove side panels, that can add a lot of airflow. The tent that I use has a screen as one of the panels and that works really great to allow for airflow while keeping everything contained inside my tent and rented area. I like having three sides on my tent at markets as that contains my booth and doesn’t confuse customers as to where my items end, and my neighbors starts. It also doesn’t allow for other vendors to infringe into my area. I usually have great neighbors, but once in a while you come across someone who will take their 10 foot by 10 foot area, and anything else they can get. I don’t mind rainy weather either. I had a friend tell me that people who show up on rainy days are there to buy. Not too many people go out of their way to stop if they aren’t interested in buying when the weather isn’t very nice. I have found this to be true.
The type of display units you use will depend on what you’re selling. Tables are great but remember, they take up a lot of room and you have a limited amount of space. I used to use a bifold structure like a room screen, however the wind can blow those over as I have unfortunately experienced. I have found for hanging items that wire grid or peg board works really great. I have never personally used wire grid as it is expensive, but I have friends who use it exclusively and they really like it. I use peg board and hang it off the top rails of my tent on three sides. This adds weight to the tent, and they are only secured at the top so they can move as the tent sides move with the wind, but everything stays on the peg boards pretty well. Peg boards are inexpensive and come in a couple of different sizes so you may not need to cut them at all to make them work. I screwed a 2×2 board to the top of the peg board and installed hooks in the 2×2. The hooks are then hooked to S hooks on the rails of my tent. They adjust easily that way so that they are level, and the S hooks allow them a little extra range of movement for the wind.
I have found that keeping the center of my booth clear for customers to walk around in is critical, or vice versa depending on your product, tables in the center with the outside totally open. But plenty of room for movement encourages people to come in rather than pass by because there is already someone inside looking. Keeping as much as possible at eye level is also important. If you have tables those work great, just don’t get them so full of variety that people miss things. If you have things hanging, keep it above about hip level and below the top of your tent bars by about a foot, as shorter people don’t appreciate having to ask for help reaching things and most people don’t want to kneel down in the dirt to see what’s on the bottom. Remember also, that you want to be able to see customers wherever they are in the tent, so keep things in the center low enough to see over and keep small items where you can keep an eye on them. Most people are honest, but once in a while things do disappear.
Lastly, mark everything with the price, or at least make an overall price really visible. If someone has to ask for a price, they often won’t purchase it. Make the prices very easy to read as well. Using neon-colored tags makes the tag very visible, but the writing is harder to read. I have found neutral colors with bold black writing is easy to read, or black background with silver or white boldly printed writing works great too. Handwritten is great as long as your writing is really legible, but if you can print it off in a bold, easy-to-read font, that works great too. Make sure if your item has any specific instruction, for example care or washing instructions, that they are included on the tag as well.
There is so much to making a great market display, these are just a few tips that I have learned over the last few years to get you started. I have learned so much just by doing, so remember these things, and just jump in and get started. As you go along you will learn what works best for you and your product. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll just keep adjusting and learning every time you set up.