Despite preparing for a month of travel in America (starting tomorrow!), a lot of my time over the past couple weeks had been spent getting my ducks in a row for The Rocks Markets last weekend. Yes, yours truly has been approved for trade at Sydney’s premier markets, and my first weekend of Aroamas market stalling there was last Saturday and Sunday.
Up until this point, I had occasionally done the Saturday stall at Glebe Markets – a market that has a pretty much Boho vibe. It’s also a place where girls go to offload their eclectic designer wardrobes and where many people go to hunt for that “diamond in the rough”. Think flower headbands, fun jewelry, and hippies importing Thai clothing. Luckily for me, this means that lots of the younger crowd and a good number of tourists stop by and make it worth my while.
But even though I’ve had good fortune overall, it’s been one big learning process. Every stall ends with the question, “What could we do better next time?” We’ve come a long way since that first public appearance at the Rozelle Markets a year ago where I had a tablecloth that didn’t even cover the entire table, and tester sticks just laying near the edge. Rozelle was not the markets for me… but with all that I’ve learned in the past year, I think it *could* be if I approach it correctly.
Here are some of the pointers I’ve learned in my market stalling adventures that you can apply to your own, or just use as guidelines for any business – even blogging!
Know Your Market Demographic
Even though almost any woman loves a perfume, everything from the fragrance to the packaging and presentation can appeal to different females. Younger women tend to favor the sweet or fruity Aroamas fragrances while older women love those musky and powdery scents. It helps being able to recommend alternatives on the spot – instead of letting them try one or two and walking away – but I do plan on also taking alternate choices to keep behind the table for the women looking for that something specific. I highly recommend any market stall holder to bring a variety of merchandise even if it doesn’t hit the table, or fit the exact theme. You never know who might be ready to buy.
In addition, you need to know why people are shopping at that particular market. When it comes to Glebe Markets, for example, people shop there for a bargain – for that one special item they found while rummaging through piles and piles of someone’s old wardrobe. So, at the last stall I had there, I started the Bargain Bin. It consisted of unlabeled or imperfect perfume sticks that I had made up but didn’t feel fit the Aroamas line. I placed them all in a jar with the fragrance notes listed on them and let people buy them for just $2.
And buy them they did. I sold 27 sticks from that jar, which both helped me get a better return from my day at the stall, and to clear out some items I had sitting in my closet feeling unloved. People really enjoyed the act of rummaging through the jar, too.
Make Your Signage CLEAR
Having a product that comes in a lip balm tube is difficult to handle at markets where people walk by and glance quickly from stall to stall. Despite having printed dozens of signs in the past, everything from a sign that says, “This is NOT a Lip Balm,” to a front of table banner that says, “Travel Perfume,” the majority of people associate my tubes with a lip product unless I holler that it’s otherwise. (Yes, the number of times people back up and say, “Oh, I thought it was lip balm!” was mind blowing.)
The changing point for me was when I moved to chalk board signs that boldly say Solid Perfumes on them. The strong contrasting letters on a black background can be read from a distance, and I heard many people this past weekend reading my signage from across the street before heading over for a sniff. Finally!
Don’t Make Your Table Overwhelming
We’re coming up on about 20 fragrances in the Aroamas shop right now, but anything over 10 presented on the table to sample is just too overwhelming for most. Not only that, but it leads to scent overload for the nose. I’ve decided to cull the fragrances to a solid 10 at any one table.
Also, table organization and layout is key. I used to just put all the tester sticks in a row at the edge of the table starting at one end, leaving room at the other end for random products like eye masks and travel inspired jewelry. This wasn’t as visually appealing as it could have been, and it also caused a bit of chaos at the one side. Now, I place 5 tester sticks on each side of the table so one group can try five without getting in the way of another group trying the rest.
Draw the Eye to the Prize
While the cost of a single Aroamas stick is just $8 AUD, I keep it in mind that I’m selling a $20 product instead. Our 3-stick premade packs are our most popular options online given their variety and discounted rate. However, past market stalls didn’t see many 3 stick pack sales and instead have been the accumulation of many individual sticks and choose-any combos.
I’m thinking now it has been the placement of the packs at the market stalls that have caused them to be lacking in sales. I used to put them in a little cardboard suitcase kind of off to the side of the table, but over the past weekend in The Rocks, I put a board with the premade stick packs right in the center of the table, right where the eye is driven by the angled placement of tester tubes and product. We sold dozens.
*When I say “we”, I’m referring to Patrick and I. He’s a huge help at the markets!
Build Your (Potential) Customer List
I try to see every market stall as an open door for future sales, even if they aren’t happening as gangbuster-y at that exact moment. With that in mind, we try to collect emails to grow the mailing list in any way possible.
We have people enter giveaways for free sticks, or sign up to the mailing list to get some free samples to take home with them. After the market, we then send a thank you email with a discount code just for stopping by to see us. I always tell people that they will get one email from me and are free to unsubscribe at that time, but rarely do people unsubscribe.
If time is short, people are in a hurry, or people are not receptive to giving out their email, we at least try to get a business card in their hands with our shop address!
Go Out to the Front of the Table
People are curious by nature and therefore are drawn to crowds. If no one is at the stall and it’s been quiet for a while, I tend to go out front to straighten things up, get any debris off the tester tubes, and occasionally I’ll go through and pretend like I’m “shopping”. More often than not, someone will soon come up behind and start doing the same.
Sign up forms for the giveaways also keep people at the stall for longer, helping to draw more of a crowd.
Bring More Product Than You Think
When I first started, I had really really high expectations for Aroamas at the markets. Surely these are going to sell like hot cakes at any market! And I worried about not having enough. After a few goes, I had a pretty good idea of a range of product I would sell at each stall, at least over at Glebe. However, this past weekend at The Rocks Markets reinforced my previous mantra of bringing more than you think because I actually ended up selling out of Parisian on Sunday, and came close with several others!
Have Your Boyfriend Sell
Pat is awesome at talking (he kind of talks a lot) and he’s super personable, which makes him a huge asset at the markets. He sold so much perfume this weekend!
A Gazebo is Worth It
I put off buying a gazebo at the beginning because I didn’t want the hassle of putting it up and taking it down. Plus, I didn’t want to invest. Instead, I got a cheap parasol from Ikea that helps a bit and looks cool – but after being at The Rocks Markets where gazebos are provided, I’m totally sold on the benefits of investing. It helps make the stall feel like a real space, it protects the entire table from the sun and weather, and it gives you a place to hang things (like signs) to help keep your table from being over cluttered. Yes, worth it.
While not a travel adventure, market stalling has been a whirlwind of experiences, along with a great way to meet people from far and wide. I guess in a way, trying to start a business and putting myself out there at markets is a lot like travel – throwing yourself into new places and being forced to get out of your comfort zone. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m sure it’s been helping to keep my travel bug from causing a stronger itch.