Today is market day, however I am not at the market. I came down with a cold last Sunday and I am still a little congested. It is raining today, and I decided that staying home would probably be the better option for myself and for my customers. But I am grateful for this unexpected time to prepare for next week a little bit, as well as get a few other business things done since I’m home and in the house for the most part. But today’s post is about something I observed last week at the market and my thoughts on it as I have thought about it all week.
There was a young man selling a number of beautiful paper wreaths that he had made himself. His craftsmanship was beautiful, and his price was a good price. The market last week however was a little slow. Actually, there was probably about the same number of people, maybe a little more, but they trickled in all through the day. Usually, there is a rush the first hour or two, and then slow for a couple hours, and then picks up again about 2 hours before it closes for a while. But last week didn’t ever seem to have the crowds although it was steadier on the trickle of people all day. But despite his best efforts, he hadn’t sold any and decided to pack up and go home about 2 hours after we started. It’s hard when you put your heart into something, and it looks really nice, and no one wants to buy one at that moment. I wanted to run after him and say just wait, just give it a little bit more time! I should have been his first customer because I thought I would like one for my house anyway. But I waited too long and then he was gone, probably discouraged.
This week I thought back to all the markets that I have done the last few years. The very first one I did I sold a few things, maybe $100 worth of prints, it was a great to know that at least someone out there liked some of my stuff though. The next one I think I sold almost $200 in prints. But then I did 3 or 4 markets that cost me time and booth fees to attend where I only sold a single sticker, or a couple of cards, costing me money to stand there and not sell anything. It was very discouraging, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing so many times. Since then, I have done many markets in various locations, and I have learned a few things.
First, don’t get discouraged if no one buys your product the first time around. Sometimes it takes a little experience at the markets, and often people don’t buy the first time you’re there, they look and mull it over for a week and come back and buy things later, but only if you come back too! Some products are fairly people specific as well. Art doesn’t sell as easily as baked goods and fresh veggies, but there are people who come who are looking for things besides baked goods and veggies.
Second, if one thing doesn’t work try something different. I remember the first thing I ever tried selling was handmade doilies. I crocheted them and they took me hours to make even small ones. I tried to sell them for only $20 or $30 dollars for smaller ones and $50 or $60 for larger ones, but I only sold 2 doilies to a friend, who found out I was there and came and supported me. That’s a true friend. I would have given her any doily she had liked, but she paid me for them, and I am grateful for her support. Most of the people who came through didn’t believe that I had made them, and thought they were still too expensive even if I had. I decided that wasn’t the business for me. I have made many baked goods for fundraisers and knew that I didn’t want to spend days baking trying to make enough to sell, not even sure it would all sell anyway. When I learned to paint, I decided to try the markets with art. I learned that prints are not easy to sell, but some other items that I can make with my art people really like. I have been able to adjust my inventory as I have watched customers and their interests concerning art. I still sell prints, but it’s not my major selling point and I enjoy looking for new products.
Third, customer service. Customer service is so much more than taking people’s money and handing them a product. I have learned over the years that people are what it’s all about, and that building good relationships with people is more important than the product in my booth. Saying hi to everyone who walks past your booth is a great way to engage people and help them slow down and enjoy, even if they don’t buy something from you. A smile and a friendly attitude toward people make a huge difference. I remember being at several markets with a particular vendor who always complained. “This market wasn’t very good, this market cost too much, they should have done whatever.” But I started watching, and they never engaged their customers. They never talked to anyone unless someone was actively trying to buy something from them. Not only does it drag your own booth down, but it has an impact on the whole market when people don’t feel welcome and needed.
And lastly, persevere. You have to keep trying. Maybe it’s an adjustment in how things are displayed, maybe it’s switching products, who knows, just don’t give up. Be constantly on the lookout for new ideas. I like going to other markets and seeing how other artists display their art. I have gotten many ideas on how I want to display my art from them. Just be careful not to copy someone else’s product or designs. Talking to the other vendors makes a huge difference in how fun the markets are as well. When you know them, if someone asks about a product like theirs you can reference them that direction. Likewise, if the other vendors know you, they will be more likely to send people your way. Just don’t give up, show up and try.
I enjoy going to the markets, I love seeing what other people create, eating the great food, getting my own stock up on veggies and especially meeting new people and catching up with old friends while I’m there. The Farmer’s Markets are a great hub to socialize, network and stay connected. So, if you have something you’d like to sell, try it, but don’t get discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. Keep at it and success will follow as you persevere.