A market is not a market is not a market.
There are the huge design markets (Finders Keepers, Big Design Market, Bowerbird, Handmade) and then there’s the medium-sized markets (Makers and Shakers, Olive Tree, BrisStyle, Perth Makers Market) and then there are local smaller, more regular markets (usually run by local councils or NFPs).
They all come with different costs and a range of stall sizes to invest in. With those stall sizes, the design of the stall needs to be taken into consideration, and of course, how your stock will look within that allocated space.
The shopping audiences arrive in different numbers at these markets too. The small to medium markets may attract hundreds, the larger to huge markets in the high thousands and the biggest in the tens of thousands.
As a stallholder you may have to travel to those markets too. Sometimes interstate!
So the question “how much stock do I take to a market” has no straightforward answer but instead prompts a range of questions.
Answer those ‘sub questions’ and you’ll have more of an idea of how much stock to take.
How much space do you have? What’s the footprint of your stall setup?
Whether it’s a 1.5m squared or a 4m by 6m this is the first step.
Practice your layout at home. Use some masking tape on the floor to measure out your chosen stall size then fill it with your merchandising and stall set up as though you were going to do a market.
Get some pics with you standing at your ‘stall’ to use in future market applications
Put your products in the mockup display or if you don’t have any made yet, use placeholders or measure out what will fit.
Do you have ‘under the table’ space for additional stock? Make sure it’s safe to leave it there overnight if you have to do so. Ensure the extra goods are contained safely, securely and so that they’re protected, especially if they’re breakable items like ceramics.
After watching our video “Pricing for Makers” our members confidently raised their prices to ensure they are running a business (not just an expensive hobby!)
How long does the market go for?
This will factor into your calculation substantially. Is it a 6 hour local market where you drive your car to bump in or is it a three day extravaganza happening interstate? Will you have the option to go home at the end of each day to “restock” if needed?
How many people go to that market usually?
Event organisers will often provide you with some statistics during the application stage. If they don’t, ask for them. If you’re able, go to the market yourself before you participate and get a feel for the types of customers there. What products are they looking at? Do more people pick up pinch pots at ceramics stalls? Are dangly earrings more popular than studs?
Is the audience a strong match to your target customer or is this something new to you?
Matching the target audience for your particular product is important for event participation. The longer the market, the more likely you are to encounter people interested in what you do. The shorter the market the more closely the audience will need to be matched to yours in order to have an effect on your sales.
How far do you have to travel? How are you traveling?
If you’re driving down the road to a local neighbourhood market that’s one thing. If you’re relying on taking extra luggage on a flight that’s another thing. Are you able to ship additional items somewhere nearby to the market? Give great consideration to bump in, whether you need a trolley, if you have tiny items take heaps but if you’re making bigger things you have to be a Tetris wizard.
How much can you fit in your car? Can you do trips to the car? Will you have a helper to mind your stall while you do that?
How much do you want to sell?
OBVIOUSLY this is “as much as possible”. However, don’t make the common mistake of thinking “this is plenty”. Always overestimate. You can sell items later online if you have surplus after the event. Missing out on sales during a market sucks. Too many times I’ve seen debut stalls run out early on in a multi-day market which causes distress.
IF that DOES happen however, make sure you’re set up for pre-orders. That way you don’t miss the sales. Think about keeping some products aside as “samples” if you have a lot of time remaining for the event, but not much stock left.
Is there a special offer you’re making based around an upcoming holiday or event?
If you’re launching a new product and you’ve done some social media hype in the lead up, expect sales. If you make Christmas decorations and it’s November, expect sales.
If it’s late April and you sell Mother’s Day appropriate gifts, expect sales.
Additionally, have you been featured in the lead up to the market on the events Instagram feed or audience newsletters? This kind of marketing can have an ear-worm effect on shoppers, where they are attracted to the imagery of products they’ve seen online when they see it again at the event in person.
These factors will add to the requirement of stock for those specific items.
Do you do custom orders?
This can be one of the places you can alleviate the requirements for taking a lot, or potentially too much stock.
Pre-orders, custom orders and tailoring items to individual purchaser needs means you just need a sample or two. You can then perform the transaction on the spot with the idea being you will send the item once it’s created and ready for shipping.
This is a much harder sell, because there’s none of that immediate shopper gratification, but if you’re selling larger items like furniture, it’s almost a necessity at events such as markets.
Ask other stallholders within the community (or via the MGTH members only Facebook group) if they’ve done that specific market before. What kind of demographic attends? When are the busy times? How much do people seem to spend per transaction?
Do you have a range of items in a variety of price points?
If you can’t take all of your most expensive products (large originals on canvas or wooden pieces of furniture), can you sell something smaller, and perhaps less expensive once the customer has been lured to your stall? Smaller items mean you can potentially take more stock.
Consider the “rummage” factor. There is a psychological benefit to customers “searching for treasure” at your stall. Sparse and hyper-minimalist stalls don’t tend to encourage large numbers of customers. Instead people tend to feel either intimidated or that they can see it all from a distance and therefore often walk straight past the stall, creating a missed opportunity for conversation and therefore sales.
Soooo how much stock do I take to a market?
While I have no definitive answer, it really comes down to:
- The size of your products
- The variety of products you have
- Your stall space
- Your stall set up
- The length of time for the market
- How you are traveling there
- How much you can take in transit
- How much you can store during the market
- How many people attend the market
- How close the market customers are to your target audience
- Whether you can do custom orders on the spot
- Any additional PR you might have received
- The time of year and where you products sit within the customers’ purchasing cycle
- Whether competitors will be at the same market
And last but not least, your experience.
The more markets you do, in a wider variety of sizes and formats, the better feel you’ll have for how much stock to take. Starting out you’ll make mistakes, it’s inevitable, but if you give a little attention to those influencing factors you’ll have something as close to a formula as there is.
Do you need some expert help answering the above questions as they pertain to your unique business?
Any additional tips from experienced marketeers?
Please pop them in the comments below.