Participating in in-person markets can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Whether you're a seasoned vendor or just starting out, having the right supplies is crucial for an enjoyable market. Let’s explore a range of essential supplies that will help you create an engaging and professional market setup. From tables and tablecloths to merchandise bags, to the most valuable tool of all, a smile, I've got you covered!
A pop-up tent is a valuable investment for outdoor markets. It offers shelter from the elements, creates a defined space for your booth, and enhances your brand visibility. When selecting a pop-up tent, consider factors such as size, durability, and ease of setup. Opt for a tent with a sturdy frame and a waterproof canopy to withstand various weather conditions.
A tent with a canopy that blocks UV rays is ideal. You’ll want to do everything in your power to keep cool in the dog days of summer. I recommend finding a tent that has a bag with wheels. Tents can be heavy and cumbersome, and you don’t want to be lugging a tent through a parking lot to your car after you’ve worked an all-day market!
You can customize your canopy in an array of ways. Your logo can be printed on the top or front facades. The color of your canopy can also make a huge difference and help you to stand out. However, be aware many large markets insist on a white canopy to participate in their event. I personally love the look of a black canopy, but I always remember I’d be baking under it in the summer sun. Consider the color carefully.
I chose my specific tent because I put the "big" in The Big Gay Collective at 6-and-a-half feet tall! The tent I have gets taller than most pop up tents on the market, so I don't have to slouch the whole time. Make sure you look for those kinds of details when you're searching for your own tent.
TABLES & TABLECLOTHS
Tables serve as the foundation of your market booth. They provide a platform to showcase your products and create an inviting display. When choosing a table, consider factors such as size, height, weight, and portability. Folding tables are popular due to their convenience.
There are LOTS of types of tablecloths that can add style and functionality to complement your set up. Some of my vendor friends prefer thinner tablecloths because they’re lighter to carry. That’s totally fine. I prefer something thicker so it lasts a little longer (because I’m a cheap ass and want things to last!) They are a bit heavier, but the length of time I can continue to use the cloth without damage and multiple washings outweighs the thinner fabrics for me.
There are also different materials and fits. I prefer a fitted polyester tablecloth. They’re easy to toss in the washing machine and don’t billow or blow around in the wind too much. Others are more inclined to buying fitted spandex cloths. I find the foot holes for these don’t stand up to rough pavement, and it’s not as easy to put boxes and other storage items under your tables once the spandex is stretched over the table. However, I do admit, they look very nice and never wrinkle. So, you do you!
Banquet-style cloths look great indoors, but do tend to blow around in the wind, which can be dangerous if your items aren’t heavy enough to hold the cloths down. If you do indoor-only markets, though, this might be the cheapest and best option for you. I absolutely do NOT recommend using paper or disposable plastic tablecloths. They won’t stand up to the elements or abuse that tablecloths take during markets.
Merchandise bags are great for packaging and delivering your products to customers. Different types of bags include plastic, paper, fabric, and tote bags. Consider the nature of your products and your brand image when selecting the right bag. Plastic bags are often affordable and practical, while paper bags offer a more eco-friendly option. Fabric and tote bags provide durability and can serve as reusable marketing tools. Personalize your merchandise bags with your logo and branding elements to enhance brand recognition.
When choosing my bags, I went with two sizes: little (5x8”) and big (8x10”). This ensures I’m not wasting paper if someone only buys one, small thing in a big bag. I also stamp my bags with my logo. You can get a rubber stamp here, and ink pad here.
I often have people say they don’t need a bag. If your logo is on the bag, gently insist they take one anyway. As they walk around the market they’re doing your marketing for you. You never know who will see it and be intrigued!
Finally, I suggest buying bags that fit the colors of your brand. My stamp is black and my bags are white, because all of my items are in black or white vessels, and labeled with black and white labels. It seems like a silly thing, but keeping the aesthetic of your booth as cohesive as possible gets noticed by customers.
Business cards are powerful networking tools that leave a lasting impression on potential customers. They provide essential contact information and serve as a tangible reminder of your brand. Design your business cards with simplicity and clarity in mind.
Include your name, business name, logo, contact details, and social media info. Make sure your cards are professional, visually appealing, and consistent with your overall brand identity. I prefer a thicker card, because – as I tell people – I’m a whore for good paper products. People do comment on how the cards feel, though. I also use a square shape. It’s something different, and the corners are sharp so might get noticed more in the bottom of a bag, pocket, or purse.
There are cheaper options for business cards. Don’t break the bank just because I say so! Get what’s best for your budget. A free option is to put up a QR code that leads people to your Linktree. No matter how you decide to provide the information, it’s the information that’s the most important part. So, find a way that works best for you.
Scissors are versatile tools that come in handy during market setups. From cutting packaging materials to trimming labels or removing price tags, a good pair of scissors is essential. Choose scissors with comfortable handles and sharp blades.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve needed scissors at a market. I use them a lot for cutting plastic zip ties and other various tasks around the booth. If you want to be the most popular among the other vendors, take a pair of good, sharp scissors!
A secure money box is great for handling cash transactions efficiently and safely. Look for a money box that is sturdy, lockable, and easily transportable. Some money boxes come with separate compartments for coins and bills, making it easier to stay organized. Keep the key or combination secure and establish a protocol for regular cash drops to minimize the risk of theft.
If you’re looking for something more lightweight, consider a money bag with thick sides and a lock. You can tuck it away in a backpack or bag so you aren’t leaving it out when you need to step away from your table. Another tip: don’t buy a brightly colored money box or bag. If the box or bag is too brightly colored, it might stand out on your table and encourage those with sticky fingers to swipe it.
THE POWER OF A SMILE
While not a tangible supply, a genuine smile is an invaluable tool for creating a positive and memorable market experience. A smile instantly conveys warmth, friendliness, and approachability, making customers feel welcome and comfortable. Engage with visitors, initiate conversations, and maintain a positive attitude throughout the market day. Don’t be afraid to give customers an appropriate compliment. Make them feel good! A friendly demeanor can attract customers, build relationships, and encourage repeat business. Remember, a smile is contagious and can create a positive ripple effect in the market community.
In-person markets offer a unique opportunity for vendors to showcase their products, get immediate product feedback from customers, and build a loyal following. Remember, as you prepare for your next in-person market, take the time to assess your specific needs and tailor your supplies accordingly. You are completely capable of creating a captivating and successful market experience that sets you apart from other vendors.
So, pack your tables, tablecloths, and scissors, and don't forget to wear your most welcoming smile. What are you market essentials? Let me know in the comments and have a Big Gay (Market) Day!
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