In preparation for my return to the world of being a market stall holder in a few weeks time, I am going to publish a series of posts on preparing for a market, and attending a market. I have spent the last few years working on the other side of the fence, supporting designers to hold stalls themselves, and giving advice on how to maximize their sales, their business and their brand. Now that I am back on the designer side of the fence it is time to remember all my good advice and apply it to myself. By writing a series of posts I hope to help myself remember all that good advice, and share it with you at the same time!
- What is the purpose of you having a market stall?
This might sound silly but actually there are lots of different reasons for taking your products to market. These can include testing your products, marketing your products, taking orders for future delivery of custom products, attracting wholesaler buyers, and, of course, making money. Your purpose might be a combination of all of these reasons, but it is good to be clear with yourself why you are doing this, as it will help guide your decisions about which markets to apply for, what products to take with you, how to display your products and how to design your stall presentation.
2. Who is your target customer?
While it is easy to say ‘anyone who wants to buy my stuff’, actually knowing who your target customer is can help you with everything from which stalls to apply for, to how to display your products and how to market them. When I was holding market stalls selling my bags I had a description of my target customer that I wrote down – it included the sort of job my customer might have, the things she liked to do in her spare time, and where she lived. While my target customer never actually presented herself to me and said ‘Hi, what you have is perfect for me, let me buy it all’, having a clear idea of who I was aiming my products at helped a lot. It especially helped a lot when someone who didn’t fit my target market criticised my pricing, or when someone who didn’t fit my target market started a conversation with me that ended up with them learning more about my product and buying it after all!
My target customer is more than someone who likes tea. My target customer also includes people who are buying gifts, who like quirky ideas, quality materials, and unique, one of a kind items. This means that they probably aren’t going to be found in abundance at a garage sale set up in the carpark of a shopping centre, but will definitely be found at a market promoting handmade or local makers.
3. Do you know your brand and how you want to represent it?
Describing how you develop your brand is a whole separate post, but the question is, do you have a brand, and do you know how you want to use your brand to sell your products? Knowing your brand can help with things like how you want to display your products, what you will wear while working on your stall, what colours and styles you will use in your signage, and how you will ‘dress’ your stall. For example, if you are selling a product that is organic and earthy in nature, your brand is likely to be one based on nature, clean lines, and healthy. Having a market stall dressed with flashing coloured lights and blaring 80’s rock is not representing your brand or telling your story.
My brand is more than just a logo (although my logo reflects my brand). It is about handmade items made with care using quality materials to create unique, one of a kind, products, and products that are kind to the environment. My stall set up needs to convey this, so there will be no flashing Christmas lights, or hawker style inducements as they don’t reflect my brand. (There probably will be a few cups of tea happening though!)
4. Do you have a range of products that will appeal to different price points?
If your products are all handmade, unique or artisan items they are likely to have a higher price point. Not all customers can afford large purchases, but many are attracted to your stall by the promise of beautiful things, so having a range of items with differing prices can allow them to buy something that gives them that sense of being part of your story, without breaking their bank. At my first stall at the Handmade Markets, selling my bags, I also had a box of fat quarters for sale. My bag prices started at $40, but the fat quarters were $5 and $6 each. Part of my brand at that time was about sharing a love of beautiful fabrics in each piece that I made, so selling some of those fabrics stayed with the brand, but allowed for smaller purchases too. I also had smaller pouches and pencil rolls priced between $10 and $25, again providing a range of prices for those attracted to my brand.
5.Is there a cohesion between your products and how you are displaying them?
The ways in which you can display your products at a market are many and varied and range from the simple to the elaborate with everything in between. I will write a separate post about the options with displays but the question I am asking here is a little like the question about branding, but has a different emphasis. A designer who I know and respect changes her display props regularly, always looking for a point of difference between her stalls and her neighbours. However there is one key point that always remains, no matter what her props – they are always re-purposed objects that subtly highlight that her products are ethically made from recycled clothing. The cohesion between her products and her display means that the display doesn’t overpower the products but enhances them.
Knowing your brand helps here, but also knowing how your products will stand out helps with this question. Now that I am focused on quirky tea paraphernalia using large shelf displays where teacups will look lost in proportion to the shelves isn’t going to work. I need to have smaller displays that won’t dwarf the products, and will allow them to be clearly seen. A flat shelf full of teacups has much less impact than a tiered display where each cup and saucer can be seen fully. Tea and all it’s paraphernalia lends itself to a cosy indoors feel, so having an industrial style display shelf would be incongruous.
My next post will be all about the list of things you need to do prior to attending a market, and then I will follow it up with a list of things you need to take to the market. With all of this writing I am sure to be organised for my first stall! I would love to hear any advice you have about things to think about before you attend a market!