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TashaBird

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Hey y’all! I’ve scoped out my local farmer & mercantile market. I’ve never done a market before. It seems like a fairly chill event. They appear to be very accommodating to really small vendors. Concerns are:
1) Samples in times of covid. I’ve been making a ton of samples the last month to just give away a bunch.
2) Selling other things like lotion bars and balms.
3) Displays
4) Schlepping to and fro.
These are just a few areas I can think of that I’d love to hear your experienced tips and words of wisdom on. Of course, I also plan on perusing this section of the forum extensively.
 

Misschief

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I love my market! It's not a large one, 45 or so vendors; the organizers are amazing, very supportive and both fellow vendors and customers are amazing. A lot of them have become friends.

I do occasionally have samples but not of soap. I also do some bath & body and I have small samples of hand/body lotions that I seal in tiny (3 ml or so) foil pouches. If I were to provide soap samples, they would be in a small ziplock baggie with a card or a label.

As far as other products, check with the organizers. I let our organizers know right away that I make soaps and bath & body. I'm generally the only soap maker at our market but occasionally there will be another soap maker. They sell soap exclusively. They're also a larger (than me) company that has their own b&m shop in another town and sell in several local markets.

Displays are the fun part.... at least, I think so. You do want to have different levels, keep the eyes moving. If you search Pinterest for market displays, you'll get a lot of hits and a lot of ideas.

Schlepping to and fro? I store my soaps in the lids from paper boxes (I work in a print shop and have a nearly endless supply). They're somewhat stackable, depending on what's in them. I also use the wooden crates (see photo) to carry items. Others use plastic tubs that are stackable. My husband is my set up helper, carrying things from the vehicle (I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee) to the table (or tent). I've seen several vendors with fold up wagons to ferry things back and forth; I'm thinking of getting one but at this point, I can't quite justify it.

Is this market indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, you will want a tent. Some markets have specific requirements for tents (i.e. must be white), ours doesn't. Are you expected to provide your own table(s)? If so, you'll need to get one. If not, you'll want to know what size tables are provided so you can organize a table covering. Our market has 8' tables available but prefer that we provide our own. I have a 6' and a 4' table; I use the 6' table if I'm indoors and both tables if I'm outdoors.

Here are a couple of pictures of my set up as it was towards the end of last season. Non-food vendors are still not allowed at our markets here in BC (don't get me started).
 

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TashaBird

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I love my market! It's not a large one, 45 or so vendors; the organizers are amazing, very supportive and both fellow vendors and customers are amazing. A lot of them have become friends.

I do occasionally have samples but not of soap. I also do some bath & body and I have small samples of hand/body lotions that I seal in tiny (3 ml or so) foil pouches. If I were to provide soap samples, they would be in a small ziplock baggie with a card or a label.

As far as other products, check with the organizers. I let our organizers know right away that I make soaps and bath & body. I'm generally the only soap maker at our market but occasionally there will be another soap maker. They sell soap exclusively. They're also a larger (than me) company that has their own b&m shop in another town and sell in several local markets.

Displays are the fun part.... at least, I think so. You do want to have different levels, keep the eyes moving. If you search Pinterest for market displays, you'll get a lot of hits and a lot of ideas.

Schlepping to and fro? I store my soaps in the lids from paper boxes (I work in a print shop and have a nearly endless supply). They're somewhat stackable, depending on what's in them. I also use the wooden crates (see photo) to carry items. Others use plastic tubs that are stackable. My husband is my set up helper, carrying things from the vehicle (I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee) to the table (or tent). I've seen several vendors with fold up wagons to ferry things back and forth; I'm thinking of getting one but at this point, I can't quite justify it.

Is this market indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, you will want a tent. Some markets have specific requirements for tents (i.e. must be white), ours doesn't. Are you expected to provide your own table(s)? If so, you'll need to get one. If not, you'll want to know what size tables are provided so you can organize a table covering. Our market has 8' tables available but prefer that we provide our own. I have a 6' and a 4' table; I use the 6' table if I'm indoors and both tables if I'm outdoors.

Here are a couple of pictures of my set up as it was towards the end of last season. Non-food vendors are still not allowed at our markets here in BC (don't get me started).
I was hoping you’d have some tips, but WOW!! Thank you so much for so many great ideas. I’ll be lost on Pinterest for the rest of the day now. 😆
Thank you!!

I love my market! It's not a large one, 45 or so vendors; the organizers are amazing, very supportive and both fellow vendors and customers are amazing. A lot of them have become friends.

I do occasionally have samples but not of soap. I also do some bath & body and I have small samples of hand/body lotions that I seal in tiny (3 ml or so) foil pouches. If I were to provide soap samples, they would be in a small ziplock baggie with a card or a label.

As far as other products, check with the organizers. I let our organizers know right away that I make soaps and bath & body. I'm generally the only soap maker at our market but occasionally there will be another soap maker. They sell soap exclusively. They're also a larger (than me) company that has their own b&m shop in another town and sell in several local markets.

Displays are the fun part.... at least, I think so. You do want to have different levels, keep the eyes moving. If you search Pinterest for market displays, you'll get a lot of hits and a lot of ideas.

Schlepping to and fro? I store my soaps in the lids from paper boxes (I work in a print shop and have a nearly endless supply). They're somewhat stackable, depending on what's in them. I also use the wooden crates (see photo) to carry items. Others use plastic tubs that are stackable. My husband is my set up helper, carrying things from the vehicle (I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee) to the table (or tent). I've seen several vendors with fold up wagons to ferry things back and forth; I'm thinking of getting one but at this point, I can't quite justify it.

Is this market indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, you will want a tent. Some markets have specific requirements for tents (i.e. must be white), ours doesn't. Are you expected to provide your own table(s)? If so, you'll need to get one. If not, you'll want to know what size tables are provided so you can organize a table covering. Our market has 8' tables available but prefer that we provide our own. I have a 6' and a 4' table; I use the 6' table if I'm indoors and both tables if I'm outdoors.

Here are a couple of pictures of my set up as it was towards the end of last season. Non-food vendors are still not allowed at our markets here in BC (don't get me started).
I love your wooden crates!!! And selling soap dishes is a great idea! Is that what those sponges are?
 

KiwiMoose

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The jury is still out on samples. Some people have stated on this forum that you'll get a bunch a sample takers, but no buyers. I agree this would happen, so I keep samples ( if i have any) out of view and only offer them to people who I think would benefit (and purchase eventually). Or I will give a sample of a particular soap (as a gift-with-purchase) to someone who has bought other soaps.
Agree with the different levels - don't have it all flat. Put some shelves or stands ( three layered cake stands can be good) up onto your table tops to create height and visual interest.
I share a stand with my sister who does mosaics, so we create a nice display with our items, using props such as old wooden crates, and old suitcases, baskets, hanging items etc, with hessian matting.
IMG_0955.JPGIMG_0956.JPGIMG_0957.JPGIMG_0958.JPG
 

amd

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1) Samples in times of covid. I’ve been making a ton of samples the last month to just give away a bunch.
I used to do this to, but I've downsized as it really doesn't bring repeat customers. I do package my endcuts as samples and sell them either at the peddlers market for $1 each (this pretty much just covers packaging and label, as I've already accounted their cost into the full bar size). I do keep some handy to add to bags when customers buy, they can try a different fragrance than what they bought, and I add one to every online order that ships. I just don't go out of my way to make and handout samples. When I did do it, I packaged in a simple 2"x3" ziploc bag and used an address label with the soap name and my website.

2) Selling other things like lotion bars and balms.
If this is something your target market is interested in, then I would do them. However if you want your focus to be soap, and selling to customers who want soap, then I wouldn't worry about it. Also be aware of what sells in your area. In my area, balms and lotion bars have very little interest so they aren't worth my time. They're also not what my customers are interested in.

3) Displays
Keep it simple. When I first started doing shows my hubby (then boyfriend) made me a nice shelf that is easy to assemble/dissassemble and I used it for about 3 markets, then decided I needed to be fancy pants, spent a lot of money and time changing up my display for 4 years while that shelf collected dust... Remembered it in 2019, used it for one market and so many people commented on how nice it looked, that I realized how dumb I was being and had my hubby make me a second shelf. [I haven't yet gotten the nerve to ask him to make me a third shelf as he still gives me a bit of grief over my years of being "noncommittal" - and yes he's talking about shelving and not how long it took me to marry him...] When I get home I'll look for pics of my display, and pull the shelf out for some closeup pics of how it goes together. It needs to get dusted anyways for a market in 2 weeks... It's a fairly simple design and I think you and your hubby are handy, yes?

Table cloths - make sure they go all the way to the floor. Under table space is great for keeping inventory, but you don't want the customers to see it when they walk by. Make sure your tables are sturdy and don't wobble at the slightest glance. If your tables don't have adjustable height, use bed risers to raise the tables up. Especially if you have product sitting on the table and not on a shelf. The less a customer has to bend over or look down to see something, the more likely they are to notice and buy it.

While I do have business cards, I try not to hand them out at markets. At my checkout area I have a sign hanging that says "Need a biz card, take a pic" and then list out my contact info, social media, and even a quick list of additional products that I offer (Custom orders for special skin needs or group gifting, Wedding favors, gift baskets, things like that). Keep the words minimal and to the point. Business cards are great, but too often I find they end up in the trash once the customer gets home. If you can get customers to take a picture, you are in their phone and people are more likely to keep a picture and remember you later. I see a lot more people after the market who tell me they took the picture.

Don't get too crazy with the signs. Most people don't read them anyways. I have slimmed down my signage to: the biz card sign, price signs for products (I keep all my soaps the same price so that I only need one sign, and do that for all my product lineups), and my credit card sign w/ min purchase. Although I have been debating adding a small sign to each shelf to highlight "these soaps are coconut milk" or "these soaps are aloe", I haven't done it yet because it gives me a reason to interact with customers. Don't put up so many signs that people think you are a sign vendor! LOL

Leave yourself and the customers some space on the table - some customers may have a cup of coffee or something like that to set down while they are looking at your things. Especially important while you are checking them out. You do not need to cover every square inch of your table - in fact, you should build in blank spaces into your display so that the customer does not feel visually overwhelmed. Keep decorative items to a minimum for this reason as well. Let your products be the decoration!

4) Schlepping to and fro.
I had bought some low profile totes with locking lids/handles - I think they're called under the bed storage totes? I got them at WalMart, they run about $12-13 each - and I used to just pack all the soap I could into each tote. They got darn heavy especially when I was setting up by myself. This was also how I stored soaps at home. I changed my at home storage a few years ago when I discovered how much bleeding the scents were doing into one another and concern for allowing the soap to breathe. I ordered baseball card boxes (I think I got mine from BCW) that were the width of my totes, so now when I pack for a show, I just grab the box off the shelf and pack it into the tote. Each box is labeled on two sides so that I can see the soap name without opening the tote (saves time when restocking during market), and also when the tote is opened (saves time when packing up for a show). I don't get as much soap in a tote, but at least I can carry two totes by myself now... Oh, and I also pack my totes the same way I'm going to setup for a show. So every thing that goes on "Display 1 Shelf 1" is in the same tote, "Display 1 Shelf 2", etc. and the totes are also labeled that way (again, this helps too when restocking at markets). This is really handy if you have someone helping you setup or tear down, a quick explanation that "this is display 1, this is shelf 1, 2, 3" and they can just do it. Also really handy if you are running late to get setup at a show. [ahem, ask me how I know] There is no such thing as too organized as far as I'm concerned, especially if you have any anxiety about dealing with people...

If you can't park close to where you need to setup, and don't have to worry about stairs, a utility cart is a lifesaver! I picked one up at the home improvement store for $70 on sale, it was the best money I ever spent for market expenses.

Cash box. Debit cards are becoming more common at markets, so have a card reader. The last market I did I had $300 in debit sales. If you feel you need to set a minimum purchase amount for debit purchases, make sure you have a sign.

A variety of bag sizes for customer purchases. I've been caught several times with only small bags and have had to send people home with several bags. Make sure your bags are durable for your product. If they break from the weight of two or three soaps, probably not a good choice.

Depending on how large your setup is, maybe having shopping baskets for customers. Right now my setup is 3 tables, so customers tend to pick up things and then set them down on another table and forget where they set them down. I found that a couple dollar store baskets made it really easy for customers to shop across all three tables. If you only have one table, probably not necessary, but something to think about as you grow.

ummm.... I have a lot more stuff I wish I had known 6 years ago... but this is a good start! Good luck!
 

Misschief

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I was hoping you’d have some tips, but WOW!! Thank you so much for so many great ideas. I’ll be lost on Pinterest for the rest of the day now. 😆
Thank you!!


I love your wooden crates!!! And selling soap dishes is a great idea! Is that what those sponges are?
They're not soap dishes per se, they're soap lifts, meant to keep the soap from sitting in water. People love them! I buy them on Amazon, 20 at a time, and they fly off the table.
 

TashaBird

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@amd that was so incredibly helpful! WOW! Thank you so much! I’m probably at 1 table for now, but maybe one large one small. I will get some risers to get folks visually closer to the products. And, I’d love to see what your hubs built! My garage is seriously wall to wall shelves. This last year has been a shelf building extravaganza! Apparently my hubs shelf-builds when he’s stressed. I never knew! :lol: He would love an opportunity to build me displays!
Thanks again for such a thorough and useful response. You’re very generous!

The jury is still out on samples. Some people have stated on this forum that you'll get a bunch a sample takers, but no buyers. I agree this would happen, so I keep samples ( if i have any) out of view and only offer them to people who I think would benefit (and purchase eventually). Or I will give a sample of a particular soap (as a gift-with-purchase) to someone who has bought other soaps.
Agree with the different levels - don't have it all flat. Put some shelves or stands ( three layered cake stands can be good) up onto your table tops to create height and visual interest.
I share a stand with my sister who does mosaics, so we create a nice display with our items, using props such as old wooden crates, and old suitcases, baskets, hanging items etc, with hessian matting.
View attachment 54312View attachment 54313View attachment 54314View attachment 54315
WOW what a gorgeous and colorful stand! You and your sister are both so creative!!I love the idea of old suitcases and hanging things too! Brilliant! Thank you!!
 

Angie Gail

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Definitely get a wagon (Academy has foldable wagons) or put your stuff in a big storage tote with wheels (I get mine at Wal-Mart). Here's a couple pics from one of our shows last December. We're still working out our display too and I'm trying to add more height.
 

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KiwiMoose

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@amd Apparently my hubs shelf-builds when he’s stressed. I never knew! :lol: He would love an opportunity to build me displays!
Thanks again for such a thorough and useful response. You’re very generous!
We need to get hubs nice and stressed and put some wooden planks in front of him then! lol
 

TashaBird

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Definitely get a wagon (Academy has foldable wagons) or put your stuff in a big storage tote with wheels (I get mine at Wal-Mart). Here's a couple pics from one of our shows last December. We're still working out our display too and I'm trying to add more height.
That’s a beautiful booth! VERY inspiring!!
 

Misschief

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I was hoping you’d have some tips, but WOW!! Thank you so much for so many great ideas. I’ll be lost on Pinterest for the rest of the day now. 😆
Thank you!!


I love your wooden crates!!! And selling soap dishes is a great idea! Is that what those sponges are?
Wait.... what are you thinking are sponges???

The wooden crates were made by one of my print shop customers. He makes tons of them and when I asked him for three, he gave them to me. Normally, he glues apple/fruit labels on the ends and sells them like hotcakes.
 

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Relle

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The jury is still out on samples. Some people have stated on this forum that you'll get a bunch a sample takers, but no buyers. I agree this would happen, so I keep samples ( if i have any) out of view and only offer them to people who I think would benefit (and purchase eventually). Or I will give a sample of a particular soap (as a gift-with-purchase) to someone who has bought other soaps.
Agree with the different levels - don't have it all flat. Put some shelves or stands ( three layered cake stands can be good) up onto your table tops to create height and visual interest.
I share a stand with my sister who does mosaics, so we create a nice display with our items, using props such as old wooden crates, and old suitcases, baskets, hanging items etc, with hessian matting.
View attachment 54312View attachment 54313View attachment 54314View attachment 54315
Kiwi, noticed your soap isn't covered. How do you cope with wind, dust and people picking them up and putting them to their nose to smell all the time.
 

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Here is another way to get elevation and table real estate. You can purchase telescoping tables that you can elevate behind your tables and use inexpensive boards elevated and different levels and make fitted covers for them. I just used a table cloth for making the covers. My pics are not necessarily current since I have had no markets in approx 1.5 yrs now. Sorry about some of the crates showing in the back I was still setting up.

Sorry, the last picture is blurry but you will see I also liked step acrylic stands for lotions and setting out samples. I used end slices of my soap loaves for smell samples and pump bottles for lotion samples. For solid lotions, I used small birch wood sample sticks with a small pail for trash.

Make sure you have a good selection to attract people to your booth. If your market manager will allow it Rubber ducks are a great seller and a great attraction. I used to have a full table of rubber ducks that I sold for $2 each or 3 for $5 and many nights I paid my $60 booth space selling my duckies. You cannot imagine how many adults buy ducks but they certainly attract the kidlets which bring mom and dad to your booth. I actually had some that would come every week to see if I had new ducks.

ETA: People tend to pick up free samples because people love freebies, but my experience was you very seldom got a sale from a sample. While banners are a great idea if money is short I would put it toward the bottom of the list. I sold for 10 yrs with no banner. My labels and display brought customers to my booth. Granted if your booth is sparse you need a banner. I had up to ten tables in my booth at most of my markets.
 

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KiwiMoose

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Kiwi, noticed your soap isn't covered. How do you cope with wind, dust and people picking them up and putting them to their nose to smell all the time.
I cope ;)
Most of mine are in a little organza bags, but I put some out on big platters at the front because it attracts people. It's high turnover so it's never been a problem. The other soap lady across the way from me has hers piled high (naked) in big bins. It just seems to be the Kiwi (NZ) way I guess.
 

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Not specific to soap, but I spent a few years doing markets with my glass work and a lot of the advice will translate. You've had some good tips already, I'll try not to repeat them.

Firstly, think about which qualities of your soap do you want to emphasize? This will be informed by your target customer, the type of people who shop at the market. For example, are your products natural, vegan, artisanal? Those will attract a different audience from handmade, fun and bubbly... Use these words to think about your stall. Piled high and selling them cheap? Go for bright colours, both in your table cover colours and clothing. Or are they more expensive and sophisticated? Dress your table and yourself appropriately.
The more luxurious your image, the more space you need between products. Dark colours, luxury fabrics on the table and a minimalist aesthetic mean you'll likely sell fewer items, but at a higher price.

Depending on your price points, put your most expensive, luxury items highest on the display in the middle, you want them at or close to eye level if possible. This holds true no matter what your general pricing levels are.

Lowest on the table, and right at the front, you may want some small, possibly brightly coloured, cheaper items to attract the kids. Could be something like a basket of lip balms, rubber ducks, small sample sizes /offcuts (if you don't have many small soaps you can cut a few full sized bars into small bits) and sell them at 3/5 for $x.

It's good to have a few items that are cheaper, even pocket money prices, either for kids or for folks who want to buy something but aren't sure about a full price item yet. This is especially true if your core product is a premium, fairly expensive item. Folks like to feel that they're getting a bargain!

A banner isn't very expensive and can be a good way to bring your branding to the stall. It can go behind you in a gazebo, or at the front of the table if the market is indoors. It's not essential for your first market, but if you'll continue then do consider it.

I like to include a photo of myself working somewhere on the table or banner, to emphasise the fact that they were made my hand, by the person standing behind the table... Perhaps one of you cutting a bar might be appropriate? Or pouring the soap batter?

I agree with the card machine suggestion, if possible. I lost a load of sales at first because folks carry less cash these days, and if they do bring cash to a market, once it's gone, it's gone.
 
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