Notes from our first trip to the public market

Today John and I took the upcycling biz to the Rochester Public Market for the first time. Here's what we learned.

Consider the effect of weather

It was 11 degrees today (February 13th in Upstate New York). After standing in that for six hours, I could barely move my fingers. Turns out, very few people wanted to be out in that kind of weather, and the traffic at the market was very slow. We only made one sale. But we learned tons.

Consider the type of market

Why do people go there? Are they looking for bargains on food staples? Are they coming with a pocketful of money, determined to spend it on crafts?

The market we went to is mostly local food, so we were out of place. In the summer, the place is packed with bargain hunters and hobby shoppers alike, meaning there's enough traffic for it to be worth it for arts and crafts vendors. In the winter, mostly the hardcore food bargain hunters showed up. Not our crowd.

Presentation matters

Take the time to build a good booth. Even if that's as simple as a folding table with a nice tablecloth. DON'T FORGET A HIGHLY VISIBLE SIGN that says what you do. Don't make people ask.

Make sure your whole set up easily fits in your vehicle

Otherwise... yeah.

Create a shopping experience

How can we make the market "stall" more like a pop-up shop, an inviting and intriguing destination in itself, rather than two shivering dudes manning a table?

What interactive elements can we add next time? How we can we make our booth just a ton of fun to be at?

Find something productive to do while you're standing (or sitting) there

And ideally, something interesting to passersby. Our friend Michelle takes custom orders when she sells at conventions and sells them right at her booth. People see her, stop and ask questions.

We should add a custom candle-making lab, complete with bottle cutter, wax melter, and a small sampling of fragrance oils.

More people will pass you by than will stop, always.

Don't take it personally. Do think critically about what gets people to stop, and why more people aren't stopping.

Take cues from other vendors' presentations, but be different

If possible, scope out the market the week before you go as a vendor. If everyone has heaters and a walled pop-up tent, it may be a good sign, that you not having one is unpleasant for the shopkeeper and less inviting for the shopper, so you should have one too.

But also notice the shops that stand out in some way. There was a cheese shop that was the only vendor with an overhead sign in the whole place. Instantly caught my eye.

Make friends with other vendors

You'll all have more fun that way. And you'll learn a ton. People were so helpful to us.

Make friends with the market organizers

If they're not happy.... you're gone. Plus, they're probably fun people.

Bring lots of change

Don't lose a sale because you don't have change.

Bring bags

We didn't. Our one and only customer asked for one.

The more people are stopped at your booth, the more interesting it will appear to other shoppers

Find a way to entice people to linger around your booth (as long as they are not obstructing vision or traffic). This will instantly make your presentation more attractive to other passersby.

Bring along a partner who is a great conversationalist

One of you can be schmoozing while the other is selling. Also it's great to have somebody to watch the booth if you need a break.

Signs and prices are a must

Don't make people ask who you are or what things cost. People are often cautious of engaging vendors for fear of discovering an aggressive or chatty salesperson. Remove any and all social friction to increase the chances of getting someone to stop.

Be friendly but not aggressive.

Some markets prohibit hawking wares (Rochester public market does). Nobody will stop you from smiling and saying hello!

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