Flea markets are evolving.  In many, the flare of brightly colored awnings, signs and displays attract hopeful shoppers.  Annual mega events allure thousands—vendors and shoppers.  Online malls have emerged.  Still standing strong, the local traditional flea market malls are filled with knowledgeable and motivated vendors who are sought out by savvy shoppers.

Vendors are entrepreneurs with ideas and plans.  Becoming a successful business person is based partly on a dab of knowledge and experience, and partly on talent and time invested.  One starts with time and ideas, learns from others and uses his experience to continually improve.  Here are seven basic requirements for making money with a successful flea market shop.

1.  Start with an idea and make it grow.  Fabric Shop

Instead of thinking of an area as a three-sided cubicle of shelves in which you can sell what you can accumulate, think of it as your shop or store.  Present yourself as a retail business entrepreneur.  You are the owner and manager.  It’s up to you to make sure shoppers see treasures and needful items (not dumpster fill).  With your identity, you will gain a personal word-of-mouth reputation and a share of the shopper dollars.  For example, will you have a new line of soaps, toiletries combined with unique linens, old embroideries and soap dishes?  Collectible and practical tools and sporting goods among many things, appeal to men.  Boutiques that include new and good used kitchen items make a good theme setting.   Will you have an ongoing line of reasonably priced antiques and collectibles?  Once your store makes its statement, just about everything can be fit into that.  One trip through any popular market demonstrates the creativity, resourcefulness and personality of today’s vendors.

2.  Secure sources for a continuing supply of inventory.

Tools & Fishing

Don’t fill up the space and allow the same items to sit month after month.  Shoppers do notice and move right on.  Rearrange your area regularly; it gives new perspective to overly comfortable items.  Try to add new items weekly.  Unless you have an endless supply in Grandma’s attic, you will need to purchase inventory.  Sources should be exclusive to some degree, not bulk that is imported in containers.   Garage sales are very inefficient when factoring the cost of gas and time and the minimal acceptable items.  Good sources sometimes take some detective work, but they are there.  Perhaps you create and make your own products such as a unique style of jewelry.  Keep your little shop full and well organized.  With your “trademark” line established, fill in with old or incidental items that make good quality bargains and which add variety and interest to your store.

3.  Turn-over

is a gauge that tells you what works, how to buy and what new ideas to use.  It’s also the way you take money to the bank.  Do you believe in the widget principle?  Having a rapid turnover of items that yield a narrow profit margin can net more total gain than an occasional sale of a couple big items.  Steve and Sonya Ragland, owners of The Good Stuff in Harrison, Arkansas, believe that, “A fast nickel is always better than a slow dime.”  That doesn’t necessarily mean cheap; it means your stuff sells!  Turn-over allows you to maintain a new and fresh-looking shop.

4.  Choose a flea market establishment

based on its location and physical appearance, an interview with the owner, and on the presentation of other associates in the establishment.  Your interview will involve terms and rules.  Also, learn as much as you can about their average sales. 


5.  Require a floor or case areaSpinning Wheel

that you will fully utilize and one that accommodates your types of goods.  Weigh the rent expense with the potential income.  Paying $300 per month for a space that will yield $1100 gross income is a better choice than a $75 area where you barely cleared that expense and became a non-profit hobbyist.


6.  “Point of Sale” is important. 

Prepare something eye-catching and appealing.  It may be a piece of furniture or stand that is deliberately priced high or labeled not-for-sale.  Set it up as a prop, use it to display items, and build around it.  When you’re ready for a new display, reduce the price and sell it.  Design a captivating entry.  Hang your sign—associate your great look with your business identity.

7.  Spend time in your store. 

Don’t expect the attendants to “sell” your items.  When you are working in your shop, make yourself available to shoppers and have casual conversation with them even if they’re looking at something outside your area.  Answer their questions.  Shoppers respond to friendliness and personal attention.  You benefit from all shoppers.  Many are significant buyers, such as decorators, gardeners, contractors, various artists and crafters.

Well-known, busy flea markets are still the favorite of collectors and bargain shoppers.  They love to walk away with a one-of-a-kind, rare or unusual souvenir.  With many, this is not only exciting, it’s an addiction.  Some do like going through bins or stacks that must be sorted through as though there may be an unnoticed item unique to their eyes only.  Most often, flea market shoppers have practical needs and they hope to find the solutions at the flea market.  Success is providing that solution and earning your reward.