Flea Markets to Score Big Traffic for the Holidays

BY Kathy Crosett
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While some shoppers favor traditional stores, others continue to make flea markets and swap meets their favorite places to pick up unusual items. With consumers feeling the pinch from inflationary pressures, they are likely to keep shopping at discount locations. RetailWire reports that consumers are setting strict spending limits. 

One specific characteristic that consumers display during tight economic times is price-​consciousness. Of those looking to set budgets for their holiday shopping, nearly 80% of shoppers want to spend under $5,000 and 49% want to spend less than $1,000.

Flea Markets to Score Big Traffic 

To gauge the outlook for this industry, Sumner Communications surveyed both market managers and vendors. Managers often also manage booths in their markets so they have the unique perspective of understa

With over 1,100 flea markets in operation across the U.S., these locations attract 2.25 million vendors. These vendors should advertise, in conjunction with market operators, to score their piece of the $30 billion in consumer spending that this industry amounts to. 

Flea markets are recognized by the federal government as a regulated form of retail business. These businesses are composed of small entrepreneurs, known for their ability to provide a variety of low-​cost merchandise to consumers. 

The tax money from flea markets go back towards the local, state and federal economy. Furthermore, these operations challenge popular big box industries.

How to Attract Shoppers 

One way to generate interest is to advertise, a practice used by 93% of managers. The favorite formats for flea markets are newspapers (79%), flyers (76%) and TV (18%These advertising practices are especially important to vendors who set up booths in the markets and want:

  • Traffic 97%
  • Low-​cost rental 64%
  • Convenient locations 52%

The surveyed revealed that about 25% of flea markets report average traffic of between 1,000 and 5,000 daily visitors. They are not all about used goods, either. Consumers are purchasing new gifts/​novelties, fashion accessories and apparel/​footwear at these locations. To generate more interest and excitement, flea markets are also considering the promotion of more flash sales and to do that, they’ll be increasing their advertising.

Both vendors and flea market consumers report that advertising, especially in weekly shopper newspapers can drive traffic. In considering the advertising range, one survey shows that most customers traveled less than 20 miles to shop at the flea market. 

In addition, vendors should promote their specialties such as antiques, apparel or tools – all items of great interest to shoppers. Shoppers also expect to haggle at a flea market and generally spend less than $30 during these excursions. Keep in mind that this number varies, and during an average visit, one-​third of shoppers will spend between $30 and $50 on flea market goods.

While can advertising what they’re selling, flea market owners can do their part to attract traffic. This means advertising what shoppers can expect at the market. They want to know there are clean restroom facilities available and they love to look for bargains early in the day. 

Shoppers also want to know what admission fee, if any, will be charged. And some operators may also charge an additional fee to allow for early access. 

Cash is still king in this industry, although vendors may accept app payments, checks or credit cards.

Some flea markets operate year-​round, while others are open only on specific times of the year or days of the week. 

How to Attract Vendors 

While flea market operators must promote themselves to shoppers, they also need to attract vendors. They can compete for vendors by charging reasonable booth fees. In exchange for these fees, the must decide whether the market will be held inside or outside. Maintaining an orderly and attractive marketplace will draw both vendors and shoppers. 

Flea Market Shoppers and Advertising Response 

Vendors and flea market operators will find it worthwhile to target flea market shoppers. AudienceSCAN data, from SalesFuel, reveals that over 20% of U.S. adults will visit a flea market this year. They are more likely than average U.S. adults to have taken action in the past 30 days as a result of receiving ads or coupons in their mailboxes. They also respond to traditional TV ads and social media advertising. These shoppers are also more like to be female and over age 45. 

As every good flea market shopper knows, these shopping experiences can be thrilling. The origin of the name, flea market, dates back to 1860s Paris, when they were labelled “marche aux puces” which can be roughly translated to market of fleas. More accurately, the Parisians called them outdoor bazaars. 

Before e‑commerce and big box stores, flea markets provided consumers with local places to sell and bargain on unique items and can do so again, especially during times of economic uncertainty.