8 tips for surviving the outdoor handmade marketplace and flea market shopping experience

Outdoor market shopping? 8 survival tipsIf you’re like me, one of the best parts of summer for you is attending outdoor handmade markets and junking at a good flea market.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of survival strategies (and observed a lot of poor behavior by my fellow shoppers). To help you be prepared for the upcoming season (come out and see us at the Hudson Flea in Hudson, Ohio!), I thought I’d share some of my tips.

  1. Set a budget & pay with cash. Before you head out, figure out how much you’re prepared to spend at the event. Then, go to the bank and withdraw that amount. If you leave your credit cards at home, you’ll curb impulse buying (and you’ll save the vendors, who are cost-conscious small business  owners, credit card vendor fees).
  2. Scope out vendors before you go. Many handmade marketplaces and flea markets promote the heck out of their events and the products the vendors will bring with them. This will help you prioritize your “must buy” items and help you stick to your budget. If you’re lucky, the event host will provide a map of where each vendor will be located prior to the event date. If so, take some time to take a look at it; doing so will help you plan your trip and make the best use of your time (which is super important when the event is large or your time is limited).
  3. Bring a notebook and pen. (And get a printed vendor location map, if one is available.) If you want to think about an item before buying it, you’ll think you’ll remember where the vendor is located. You won’t. After seeing your fifth Steampunk jewelry artist, fourteenth typography booth and your twelfth upcycler, you just won’t. Trust me, you won’t regret having a method for note taking.
  4. Social media sharing is fun… but make sure the vendor is okay with it. Most vendors welcome social media sharing so others can learn about their products (as long as you tag their business in your posts). However, a lot of vendors at handmade marketplaces are artists who carefully control how their work and ideas are shared with the world, so ask before taking pictures or sharing on social media. If they are okay with it, help promote them effectively by asking how they prefer to be tagged in social media.
  5. Apply (and reapply) sunscreen. Sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer suck. Do what you can to avoid these conditions.
  6. Pack a lunch and a water bottle. This is good advice for many reasons. You want to save your cash for buying new lovelies. Market food and drink is pricey ($5 bottles of tap water, I’m looking at you) and if there is a super-hip food truck at the event, the lines will be looooong. Avoid the risk of hassle and getting hangry; bring your own provisions.
  7. Bring your own bags. Once you start acquiring your loot, you’ll want something more comfortable to carry around than a plastic grocery bag (I recommend a sturdy canvas tote). If you’re planning to bring home a lot of stuff, bring a granny cart along, too.
  8. Do NOT bring a wagon. Your (well-behaved) kids are welcome but if they can’t handle walking around for a long period of time, please find a sitter. Handmade marketplaces and flea markets are crowded. Wagons take up a lot of room and are difficult to move around, to the annoyance of many. Don’t be that annoying person.

What about you? Do have any other tips to share with your fellow outdoor shopping aficionados?


2 thoughts on “8 tips for surviving the outdoor handmade marketplace and flea market shopping experience

  1. Great Post. Do you have a post about Being the Vendor. I know you sell soap at markets, any advice from you two girls? Thanks, have a great day.

  2. I am working on a couple of future posts about surviving markets as a vendor. I’m still new to the process and I learn something new with every show. But from the start checklists have been my best tool when prepping. I’m a shy introvert so I get very nervous before each market. Having checklists for things like preparation tasks, things I need to take and items I’m planning to sell keeps me focused and grounded. Let me know if there is something specific you would like to know about the process and I’ll try to address it in one of my future posts. Thanks so much for reading!

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