Insider tips and tricks for first-time festival and market vendors

Rock your booth

When you’re an attendee at a festival or market, your job is simple: Have fun, eat good food, and shop. When you’re a market vendor, your job is infinitely more complex. Figuring out what you need to prepare in advance to have a successful booth at a market can be excruciatingly overwhelming. To help you out, here are our essential tips for first-time market vendors.

Must-know tips for first-time market vendors

Getting reading to sell your wares at a market or festival for the first time? Use these tips to set the stage for a successful event:

Have a plan of attack

The best tip we can dish out for first-time market vendors is to have a plan of attack. Preparation for a market is more work than most people think. While it can be intimidating, the best thing you can do for yourself is sit down and figure out everything you need to do. Make a list of decoration ideas, current inventory and inventory you need to create, possible helpers the day of the event, payment systems, a checklist for the day of, and so on.

The more you plan, the more thorough and confident you’ll be on the actual day of your event.

Do your research

I attended my first market as a retail vendor a few months ago and for some reason, I had a difficult time finding booth design ideas specifically for retail businesses on the web. There were tons of jewelry booth displays on Pinterest, but finding booth design ideas for clothing were few and far between. What I did find were bigger trade show booth designs, which is not what I was looking for.

I found that the best way to discover booth design ideas is to go to other markets and visually “research” other vendors’ booths. When you’re conducting research, focus on two things:

  1. The arrangement of tables, clothing racks, chairs, and other fixtures inside the tent.
  2. The technical tools they use to secure their displays.

I found that most people arranged their tables into a “U” shape, which invites people into the booth and allows customers to browse their products. In terms of how people hung up their signs and displays, I saw a variety of zip ties, wire grids, clamps and carabiners that held up banners, signs, small product displays, and of course, clothing.

Find a seasoned market veteran

If you’re a first-time market vendor, it could significantly benefit you to find a seasoned market veteran and ask them for advice. While not everyone is willing to share their knowledge, if you can find someone willing to share their experience and tricks of the trade, you can save yourself from rookie mistakes.

If you’re lucky enough to find a market vendor mentor, set up a meeting, and have a list of questions prepared. Cover everything from how much cash they have on hand, to the lights they use, how they secure displays, where they get their display equipment, and anything else you can think of.

Figure out your payment system

Market Vendors Square
Photo: Square

Figuring out how you’ll be accepting payments is an absolute must for a first-time market vendor. Square makes it easy for first-time users with tutorials that allow you to go through the actions of taking payments, refunding payments, and setting up your inventory. While learning how to use Square (or PayPal) is relatively simple, don’t wait until the last minute to organize your payment system.

Adding photos of your inventory, stock quantity, and pricing takes time, and you’ll want to ensure you didn’t forget an important component.

For my market event, I used Square. You can either sign up for an account online and Square will send you one of their magstripe readers, or you can purchase one of their card readers in stores like Walmart or Best Buy. Square offers a variety of card readers, so make sure to do your research on what will work best for you. If you’re using a newer model iPhone, remember to purchase an adapter. The standard magstripe Square reader requires a headphone jack, but because the newer iPhones no longer have headphone jacks, you’ll need an extra adapter in order to use an iPhone.

Super market tip: Ask your market managers if they will have WiFi at the event. If they do, you can easily use Square on an iPad to accept transactions. If not, you might need to use your phone’s data, utilize a hot spot, or accept payments offline.

While Square assures that accepting payments offline is safe, your transactions won’t be 100-percent processed until you connect to WiFi. They also clarify that if you accept payments offline, you are solely responsible for any payments that didn’t go through or were rejected at the time of the transaction. In my personal opinion, I would avoid this option if possible, simply because of the risk involved.

What first-time vendors can expect the day of the market

Now that you’ve done your homework, what can you expect on market day?

Prepare to be ‘on’

As a first-time market vendor, you will feel loads better once your booth is fully set up. But when the market or festival opens, the real work begins. Decide what you’re going to do when customers walk in. Are you going to actively try and promote your products? Are you going to let them browse on their own?

Your booth should not only look great, but make people feel great, too.

 

Smile warmly and welcome people when they walk in. Answer any questions they have, and when you can, compliment and connect with them!

Have a 10-second spiel ready to explain about your business. Because I was so focused on the design and display of my booth, I didn’t have time to think about what I would say to people when they asked questions. Here are some of the questions I ended up getting multiple times throughout the market:

  • What is the meaning behind your name?
  • Why did you pick this ____ design?
  • How did you get started?
  • Do these shrink?

Keep an eye on the weather

Market Vendors Umbrella

As a first-time market vendor, the weather might be the last thing on your mind, but it is something to consider. If you live in the scorching desert like me, you’ll want to bring a portable fan and a cooler filled with water. If the weather is expected to be windy, pack extra zip ties or tape to secure any signs or displays you have.

Make the environment comfortable for you

If it’s your first time at a market as a vendor, nerves can get to you. For your own sake, do what you can to make the environment comfortable for you.

Have a solid team. Surround yourself with people who will calm your nerves. I ended up having a few people come and help me, allowing me to feel more at ease. Because I had multiple people, they were able to have fun together if things got a little slow. And when someone got hungry, I could easily send people out to get food and still have people manning my station.

Sip on some bubbly. If you’re allowed to, consider having a drink to help you relax. Obviously getting hammered while trying to talk to people at your booth is a big no-no. But sipping on a cocktail or beer throughout the duration of the market can give you some liquid courage if making small talk isn’t your forte.

Listen to music. If your festival or market isn’t playing music, see if you’re able to bring your own. Create a special “market playlist” prior to the market date and make sure you have non-explicit versions of your music selections.

Expect mini-setbacks

On the day of your event, prepare yourself for mini-setbacks and decide\ what you’ll do as a backup. On the day of my first event, the graffiti sign I created for the front of my tent was too large. When I tried to hang my sign, there was about four feet of space from the ground to the sign. That meant that the only way people could enter my tent was to duck or limbo under the sign. Not ideal. Instead, I placed it on the ground in front of my tent and surprisingly, people stopped to look at the sign since it was big and clearly stated my company’s name.

While you can’t plan for setbacks, if things don’t go according to plan, be open enough to know that it will be just fine.

Be willing to negotiate

While you will have decided all of your pricing before the event and you might have signs stating your prices, know that you can negotiate or alter your prices during the market. If you notice that no one is buying, you might want to adjust your prices to see if you’ll have better luck. It’s also common for market vendors to decrease their prices in order to sell more product toward the end of a market.

First-time market vendors can find the preparation and on-site activities overwhelming and exciting at the same time. Do your best to prepare for success before the event, and on the day of the festival, adopt a fluid mentality so you can handle anything that may come your way. Best of luck!

Image by: Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Shanna Fujii
Shanna Fujii is a colorful wordsmith published on GoDaddy, Bloguettes, Creative Market and more. When she’s not busy writing blog posts, she’s on the hunt for food that’s not good for her, knocking things off her bucket list and upcycling unique finds from the thrift shop for her clothing brand, Honey & Misfits. She’s a scary movie junkie and will never be caught without a pair of worn-in Converse. Connect with her on Linkedin.