To Market, To Market.......
Must be one of the most disliked words in all known languages today!
Previously, it was rarely if ever used by most of us, but now, from the youngest of the young to the oldest of the old, it trips from our lips with ease, with stories of what we did or didn’t do in Lockdowns 1, 2 or 3, of how it affected us and how it made us feel.
The only time that I had ever really encountered it before this last year was about 17 years ago, when I was living in Dorset and teaching in a prison - HMP YOI PORTLAND - where ‘Lock - ups’ and ‘Lock - downs’ happened on a regular basis 🙄
It‘s a grim place 😬
But I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about market trading which, now that Lockdown is lifting and ‘non-essential’ little businesses like mine are allowed again, I am slowly getting back to.
Markets in general seem to have a bit of a mixed reputation.
Some people love them, some people wouldn’t dream of going anywhere near. Some people just expect everything sold on them to be mass produced, cheap and of inferior quality. Some markets are indeed like this, but if you do your research, you’ll find those fantastic gems where you can find the freshest, most original, unique, hand crafted range of quality goods and products anywhere!
Think less Eastenders, more Borough Market, Camden Market or Petticoat Lane - where Lord Alan Sugar started his business journey - everyone has to start somewhere!
But I can only write from and share my own experiences and I have found that indoor and outdoor markets are two quite different beasts, both with their own plus and minus points.
Indoor markets have the obvious advantage of not being subjected to the whims of the weather, but because they are indoors, they don’t always benefit from people just happening to be passing by as outdoor markets can. The majority of customers at indoor events have had to plan their visit and, more so than ever in these current times, have had to get a ticket to get in, so one could argue that they have come with the intention and purpose to buy, which can only be good news! 😃
One such that I can highly recommend as both a trader and a customer is @craft and flea Sheffield.
It is held inside the Cathedral, which is such a beautiful venue - my stall there on my last visit was situated almost directly under this stunning ceiling light!
Now, I am going to paint you another picture so, imagine if you will, the scene.....
It’s a lovely sunny day, not too hot or sticky though. Maybe just a little breeze.
The location is a quaint old market square, with cobbles worn smooth with the passage of time and tubs of flowers here and there.
You‘ve set up your stall under a gaily striped awning, strung with bunting and it looks perfect, appealing, dressed to perfection.
Around you are other lovely stalls.
You are surrounded by colour, enticing aromas and pleasant music.
The customers come. They ooh and aah over your lovingly handmade items.
They smile and chat.
And - they buy!
Sometimes it is like that. 😊
And when it is, the hours of making and preparing beforehand, followed by the hours of standing there being happy and chatty and smiley and positive and helpful and thankful are all worth it.
But, sometimes it isn’t like that at all......
Writing this has made me think about what it is that makes a Market successful. Like most any other event it’s that alchemy of the right place at the right time with the right people and making the magic happen is down to the planning, preparation and promotional skills of the organisers.
Market organisers who ask for your website or social media links so that they can check you out before offering you a stall is a good sign in my book.
It signifies that they are not only looking for the right quality, but for a good range of products that will fit in with their ethos and will appeal to their demographic.
This takes me back to where I started, at markets where you have to be careful not to trip over the tumbleweed when you walk in! I can only say that I am grateful for the valuable lessons these early market trading experiences have afforded me.
There are so many things to learn about trading on a market.
There’s the legal side of things, like getting the right Public Liability insurance for example. I have mine with Hayes Parsons, for anyone who’s interested.
There’s obviously the financial implications to consider. How much are you willing to pay to rent your space - £25? £35? £55? More? Because, of course, you need to make enough sales to cover this initial outlay before you can even begin to think about making any actual money, let alone profit!
You tell yourself that even if it’s not been a ’good’ day, at least it’s been ‘exposure’
Think about all the people who have picked up your business card! 🤔
Then there’s the practicalities, like remembering all the myriad of things you need to take with you - clean table coverings, your signs and display props, your flask, sandwiches and snacks, your phone, money and card payment machine, your business cards, pens, paper, scissors, your mask, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, cuddly toy .............😂
Market trading is tough and I’m happy to admit that going back to it this year, after so many months away, was just that for me - tough.
My general feelings of apprehension were compounded by the fact that my first market back was at a completely new venue, that I knew very little about and also meant I had to drive down the motorway, 😱 listening to ’Mrs Google Maps’, only thankful that it was early on a Sunday morning so the traffic was light!
Then, if you’re like me, with a tendency to massively overthink things, you torment yourself with: Will they like my things? Will they like me? Will they buy? What do I say? How do I do this.......
That market @the garageChilwell, in Nottingham got me back into the swing of things.
Before the public arrived I had a little time to browse the other stalls and chat with some other traders, which is always a good opportunity to make new friends, new contacts and learn about other markets.
Much as I love a good old chin wag, I’m naturally quite a shy person, so initiating conversations with complete strangers is quite a challenge for me!
But, as we know, people buy from people, so if customers can get to know the maker and the maker can get to know the customer, and can build a rapport, then that can surely only be a good thing!
One thing that always surprises me though, is that my customers are always surprised that I actually make the items that I am selling!
Maybe my Handmade Children’s Clothing sign isn’t clear enough?!
These are my next market dates:
Saturday June 5th Wirksworth Farmers Market
Sunday June 6th The Garage at Chilwell
Saturday July 3rd Wirksworth Farmers Market
Sunday July 4th The Derbyshire Makers Summer Artisan Fair at Darley Dale
Saturday July 31st Plastic Free Chesterfield Market at Central Methodist Church
Saturday August 7th Wirksworth Farmers Market.
All of these markets are fabulous places where you’re bound to find something new and lovely and to meet lots of friendly, hardworking people, all hoping to have a successful day so that they can continue building their dream and doing what they love!
So, come along, come and talk to me, ask me about the clothes I’ve made. I can tell you which of my fabrics are exclusive to me, which are Organic or Oekotex standard and how to best care for the items I’ve made.
I can point out which styles are best for cloth bum bebes, or help you decide which size might be best - and you can tell me what you are looking for and what you’d really like to find!
It can be a lonely time, standing there on my own so the opportunity to chat would be great!
I’m easy to spot, I’m the one with rails of Rompers and Leggings and Dresses, probably cradling a mug of tea and most likely munching on some delicious goodie purchased from another stall!
Then, at the end of the day, I’ll pack it all up again into my boxes and bags and into my little car....
.......Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig. 😊❤️