If you’re a small business with products to sell, the best way to reach the audience to showcase your products is through weekend bazaars. Weekend bazaars are usually organized in neighbourhood malls, commercial buildings and even shopping malls. You’re reaching out to the same crowds as the retail stores in the areas but without the commitment to all the time and costs involved with owning or leasing a retail store or kiosk.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started.
Finding the Right Location or Venue
It can be exciting to begin selling your products. Before you book any events or venues, you need to do a little bit of research. You can do so by surveying the location and find out what is the crowd like. Walk around and don’t be shy to engage the vendors in conversation to find out more. I’ve came across some who were not very willing to divulge the information such as the organizer’s contact details or how to go about booking the venue. However, there are some really awesome vendors out there who are more than happy to share with you. Here’s one! Me! I am, after all, writing this post to share with you all that I know. Haha
Although the costs involved in running a weekend bazaar can be significantly low, you’ll need to take into accounts that your costs extend beyond the fees you pay for your booth. Some other costs to consider include travel expenses, parking fees, décor for the booth, printed banners/ flyers or business cards.
Sometimes, it costs you a little bit more than expect but don’t let this stop you. The right event might just generate a lot of sales for you. If not, just think of it as an advertisement fee for your products. Take the opportunity to talk to any passers-by about your products.
Booking a Venue
Once you have identified a few desired locations, you need to plan your schedule to ensure that the events you’re attending are not overlapping with one another.
Find out the following from the organizer of the event:
- The setup time. It’s usually an hour or two before the actual event. Depending on how complex your booth design will be, you need to allocate enough time for this. You want your booth setup to be completed before the opening.
- Parking. Do you park your vehicle just like any patrons or do you need to unload your items first at the loading bay? Do vendors get complimentary parking or discounted parking rate? The organizer should know the mall/ venue policy.
- Booth/ Kiosk Setup. Most organizers provide tables, chairs and parasols (for an outdoor event.) Find out what they’re providing so you can prepare to bring along what you need but they might not provide. I’ll provide a checklist later in this post.
- The size of the space. You need to determine how much inventory you’ll be bringing. It’s generally better to bring more than less. You don’t want to set up your table only to have it look empty.
- Possible Competing Products. Smaller events tend to accept only one vendor per item category. For example, if you’re selling cakes and have already booked the event, chances are, they will not accept another vendor selling cakes. However, for bigger events, they might take in another one or two vendors selling similar items. You’ll need to find out more on the layout and request that the organizer not to place you and your competitor too near to each other. I had one experience where the opposite booth is selling similar products to mine but I have a wider range of products. Although I was relieved that my sales weren’t affected (thanks to our aggressive promoters), it would be much better to avoid such awkward situation. I was sure the competing vendor could have gotten more sales if they’re placed on the other end.
How much time you need to prepare for the bazaars depend on the types of products you’re selling.
Inventory: Are your products from factories or wholesalers and come ready in their packaging or are they handmade products? Can you prepare your products way ahead of time or are they food that you can only prepare a few days prior to the bazaars?
If it’s your first time selling at certain locations, you may not be able to gauge your sales just yet but it’s always better to bring a little bit more inventory. You don’t want to risk selling out in a matter of hours and having nothing to show for the rest of the day. You can tell customers how good your products are but having nothing to show can be quite a bummer. Excessive inventory, on the other hand, can be quite a hassle to transport from vehicles to the booth and it’ll cost you quite a huge shipping bill if you hire a transport.
Prior to the event, if you know of any other vendors, you can always contact them to get some ideas of the usual crowd. You can also check on the event website available on Facebook, for example. Depending on the location of the bazaar, it’s good if you could find out the type of crowds. Are they casual shoppers mostly or high-end shoppers? At times from the shopper’s perspective, they might be hesitant in purchasing high-value products in particular if you’re relatively new. So, stock up more of your affordable products and bring fewer high-value items.
Booth design: There’s all sort of setup available. Some organizers standardize the booth design based on the theme of the event and some allow you to decorate the way you want it. Be mindful though on the venue. You don’t want your booth to look like a farmer’s market when the venue is in a luxurious mall or vice versa. Have 2-3 different looks that cater to the crowd and venue but stay true to the style and design that accommodate your branding and products. Always check with the organizers the space available and guidelines they may have for you.
While you don’t need to be instant best buddies with your fellow vendors, it pays to be friendly and helpful to them especially if you’re running the booth alone. By having someone to talk to will make the whole experience more fun. Moreover, at least there’s someone who could keep a lookout at your booth when you need to take a bathroom break. If you’re lucky like my partner and I, we gained ourselves a really good friend whom we met in early 2017 at a community bazaar. Since then, we’ve been tagging along with her at different bazaar locations.
Pay attention to your booth’s surrounding for shoppers that walk pass or stop by your booth. Make eye contact, smile, say hello and invite them to browse your products. If you have samples to give out, here’s a chance! Don’t spend all your time looking down on your phone or chatting away with other fellow vendors when you have shoppers. Any vendors who care about their business would understand the importance of customer service so they wouldn’t feel offended if you interrupt the conversation to pay attention to customers.
Here’s a list of things you should consider during the preparation stage:
- Business cards, flyers, or coupon cards for shoppers to find you later or to encourage repeat purchase
- Carrier bags for your products (You can get the Ikea Frakta Bag)
- Extension cords
- Phone charger
- Repair items and stationery (duct tape, masking tape, cellophane tape, paper clips, bulldog clips, scissors, paper, pen.)
- Small notes to make change
- Lockbox, chest bag or waist bag to keep your loose cash
- Credit card machine (if any)
- Shopping bags
- Tablecloths (I personally like plaid tablecloths)
- Table lightings (Ikea Tertial Work Lamp works best as you can attach it to the tables or racks)
- Water and fresh mints (you’ll need this if you’re constantly talking to your customers. Alternatively, you can stay away from food cooked with garlic, onions or anything that make your breath smells.)
On November 12th, 2019 I conducted a mini workshop on this very topic. I had some slides prepared if you wish to download it as reference.