I know that I personally had no idea what to expect, and these tips would have helped me – so I hope they help others! This post also comes as I prepare to sell at the next Fash and Treasure market in Canberra with some friends - if anyone has any tips or experiences related to those markets (noting that they're quite different and a lot more expensive to hold at stall at), please share!
The Scarborough Rotary Club Swapmart is held at the underground carpark at Karrinyup shopping centre on Sundays. My friend and I decided to hold a stall together. One car space was plenty of room for both of us. From memory, the cost of a bay was about $20.
We drove to the car park to line up at around 4 or 5am, after picking up some coffees from the McDonalds around the corner. There is a lot of politics around lining up – DO NOT leave gaps between cars, because someone will inevitably try to push in later in the morning and it will most probably end in an argument (as we saw happen).
While it’s still dark, you will be handed a numbered voucher to secure your spot and then wait a bit longer until the cars are let in. We had no idea which spots were “good”, so we just picked a reasonably central one. It was absolute chaos once they let the cars in – cars and people and goods everywhere.
While we were scrambling to get things out of the car and set up, other stallholders were already browsing our goods and throwing stuff around. It was quite overwhelming and exhausting, but the day was very successful overall.
- Take someone with you, but preferably more than one helper. You’ll need to set up as quickly as possible at the beginning, and also move the car away while someone guards your stock. During the morning, there were periods where my stall was frantically busy and even though I had myself, my friend and my Mum in attendance, we couldn’t keep tabs on everything. Unfortunately things do get stolen so you need people keeping an eye out. You also need to answer questions, give change (and take money!) and clean up as things fall off hangers or are moved around.
- Use clothing racks and tables; don’t put things in baskets/buckets or on the floor. It’s a lot quicker and easier for people to browse racks of clothing – I don’t think I would have had much business at all if I had left things on the floor- most of the stuff that I had laid out on blankets was untouched. Would you want to kneel down to look through things when you might get stepped on?
- Pre-price everything with labels that are tied (not stuck) to the goods. It is just way too chaotic to make up prices on the spot, especially if your stall is as busy as mine was. If you have sticker labels, you’ll have labels falling off or dodgy customers switching prices.
- Take paper, sticky tape and a black marker so that you can put signs up. When there was about an hour left, I put signs up advertising ‘50% off the marked price’ and this attracted quite a lot of people.
- Take some change to start the morning off with, and a bum bag or handbag to keep your money in. I found that most people, especially the very early customers, knew the market gig well and had small change on them to pay with. There was at least one early customer with a $50 note though.
- Don’t be afraid of hagglers and be assertive if you don’t think a discount is warranted. Sometimes I gave a discount, other times I’d say ‘Maybe later if it hasn’t sold’. I didn't purposely inflate prices to encourage people to haggle, and most buyers appreciated this. Other people will always try to haggle regardless. One lady was really annoying me - she wanted some shoes that I had marked at $3 for $1, and my $2 tops for 50c each.
- Take water and snacks. I didn't actually have time to eat or drink, but if I had started feeling sick or faint from not eating breakfast it would have been a lifesaver. I also took a chair to sit on but didn't have any time to sit down - hopefully if you're busy, you won't need a chair either.
I think the key to my success was that my prices were very low from the beginning. I didn’t sell any designer items, I kept those and listed them on Ebay separately. I had some vintage goods but mostly just high street labels and random bric a brac and household goods. I priced things from 50c to $20, and not more. Most items were $2-5. People loved the prices and because my stall was busy, it attracted more and more people. People were even shoving each other to get to my goods. I would have been even more successful if I'd had more clothes racks, sometimes my stall was too crowded and that put people off looking at the items I had laid out on blankets on the floor or in boxes.
I hardly had time to take a breath all day. By the end, I had sold 60-70% of my stock. Of what was left, I kept a few items that I wanted to try listing on Ebay, and the rest I dropped into a charity bin on the way home.
By about 11:30am, the swap mart had wound down and sellers start packing up their stalls. It was exhausting, but totally worthwhile because I made $350+ after expenses. I also really enjoyed the experience!