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How to sell at vintage fairs, markets & festivals

22 October 2017 No Comment

Taking the step from shopper to trader can seem a natural one for many vintage fashion fans – especially if your home is groaning under the weight of your magpie finds. And while eBay, Depop and Etsy let you set-up shop from the comfort of your sofa; vintage markets, fairs and events offer a different kind of lure. If you want to shift stock at volume, minus the hassle of P&P and plus the personal rewards that face-to-face trading can bring, market trading could add up for you. So where do you start and what do you need to consider before you book your first stall? Always best to ask the experts…

All About Aud Upper Gardner Street Brighton vintage market stall

Audrey Taylor (AT and above right), owns All About Aud vintage boutique in Brighton’s North Laine, selling boho-style vintage and handmade clothing and accessories every Saturday at Upper Gardner Street Market as well as seasonally at local vintage events and festivals including Love Supreme, Wilderness, Bestival, Glastonbury, Isle of White, Secret Garden Party and V Fest.

Gemma Cockshott (GC and below), founder of Just Vintage Clothing, sells vintage clothing and accessories regularly at fairs in Brighton and London, as well as at events such as Goodwood Revival and War and Peace Revival. Here they share their experiences:

How to sell at vintage markets, fairs and festivals

Which markets and festivals have been your favourite to sell at?

AT: I loved Festival No 6 as the crowd wasn’t too young and it had a great atmosphere. I also loved Love Supreme as it was close to home and I like the music there. I found Glastonbury too overwhelming – too many stalls and people so it’s hard to make money but Wilderness was a good one! Festivals are always best when they are just starting out before all the big crowds come and it gets too popular and mainstream!

GC: I always love Daisy Dog Vintage Fairs in Oxted, East Grinstead and Westerham because they’re all about a day out: there are musicians, a really nice tea room and exceptionally friendly sellers. But for the venue it has to be the Dome. And for lust value, Clerkenwell, other stall holders have some drool-worthy stock and the customers here really do know and understand vintage.

How to sell at vintage markets, fairs and festivals

Which have been your most successful and why?

AT: Bestival about 8 years ago we got allocated an amazing spot near the entrance and it was when pocket watches were just coming into fashion I hit on having the right product at the right time and it was literally nuts we did not stop selling from the moment we set up to when we packed down, everything was on our side, the weather, the location, the right stock!

GC: Fairs where the customers really know their stuff when it comes to vintage works best for me, so Brighton Vintage Fair, Clerkenwell and Pop-up are the ones that have been most successful. Not simply from the point of monetary return, but also as a chance to get to know customers and other traders. I learn a lot talking to the other stallholders.

How to sell at vintage markets, fairs and festivals
What items sell best and does this differ by event? If so, have you spotted any themes?

AT: It depends if there’s a theme or not then obviously anything with that theme will definitely sell! On great weather days parasols sold well and sunglasses but you have to be prepared for bad weather and then you need the basics like umbrellas and ponchos and then if chilly some form of keep warm clothing, there’s a lot to consider! But dressing up clothing always sells; the crazier the better! Also fads come and go so while the pocket watches were huge a few years ago then came the floral garlands that everyone wanted and then I started making bird hairclips that was big a few years ago – anything to get you noticed people want! Sequins always sell well.

GC: Different fairs often have very different customer bases. I tend to categorise them for myself as fairs that either are for bargain hunters, enthusiasts, fashionistas or theatre and film. It isn’t uncommon for there to be a mix of them at every event, but often it is dominated by one type.

How to sell at vintage markets, fairs and events

Why does market trading work for you and your business?

AT: I love the market stall as it’s a great way of clearing stock that hasn’t sold in the shop and of promoting it. Also you can do deals at a market and use a few Del Boy tactics, that you can’t really do in the shop!

GC: Market trading is hard work but can also be very rewarding. I find that renting a shop for such an eclectic and ever-changing stock would be too large a risk at the moment. So having a stand at a market or vintage fair allows customers to feel and touch my stock without the huge overheads. It’s also a great opportunity to see what’s happening on the scene and get out to meet new people.

How to sell at vintage markets, fairs and festivals

Where do you store your stick and how do transport it to events?

AT: I use hired vans and rent a garage.

GC: I travel around large parts of the country buying stock and also going to events so I wouldn’t be able to manage without my car. I have a room in the house that was going to be the office but it’s never seen a desk! We didn’t even get around to flooring it. When the opportunity to buy stock came up I jumped at it and simply had to put it all somewhere. I have three sets of 12ft rails, a wardrobe, and three sets of shelves. At some point in the future I will be looking for a lock-up space.

What advice would you give to people thinking about renting a stall?

AT: The weather can ruin everything! You need to take stock for all eventualities! And if doing festivals, you need to do them back-to-back to make it work as you have to buy all the stall and equipment and that can be expensive and not worth it if u were just doing the one.

How to sell at vintage markets, fairs and festivals

GC: It isn’t just about buying and selling for a mark-up. There’ s a great deal that you don’t see before the market, like mending items, ironing/steaming, loading and unloading, booking stands and accommodation. All of these are an expense and need to be considered when buying and pricing an item.

In the beginning I was so fixated on the stock I missed the details; I went to events missing flyers, tablecloths and bags for purchases. Display is also huge to ensure you get the sale on market day. I want to show everyone everything I have but sometimes less is more.  Finally, very few people carry cash now, so save yourself a lot of lost sales by getting a card reader. While they do charge it’s better than a missed opportunity!

Also, remember that fairs are not consistent and there is no hard and fast rule as to why a fair can be amazing one month then mediocre the next; it can be something as simple as the weather being too hot or people being on a budget. While it’s hard if the day isn’t amazing the next one will be better.

Find out about Brighton and South East vintage fairs and markets on our events page. 

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