Friday, April 26, 2013

Get Ready for Vending 2013: The After

Welcome to the 3rd and final installment of my series on vending tips that I've learned from my own experiences.  Enjoy!


1. STAY UNTIL THE END: Packing up early is rude and sometimes against the market/fair rules.  The organizers don't want to have an empty event after all!  Unless arrangements have been made prior or your have some dire circumstances, do not pack up before the designated time.

2. STAY ORGANIZED AT PACK UP: It will make your life so much easier to keep your gear and product organized and neat as you pack up.  Don't just throw everything in the box in an attempt to get out of there quickly - trust me you'll be glad you did!  I keep all like perfume & lip balm together because if I mix it up it makes setting them out on the table next time take so much longer.  I also sell online so when I keep my inventory organized I can easily reach it in my work room when needed.

3. LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND: Do not leave anything, specifically trash, behind once you are all packed up.  I always keep a plastic bag on hand to dispose of trash throughout and at the end of vending.  Some people may choose to bring a broom too. 

4. PUT IT AWAY WHEN YOU RETURN HOME: It takes a short time and you'll be glad not to see boxes and such all over your living room for the next 3 days.  I keep my inventory in my work room and my tent, decor, tables, chairs and such in my garage.  If you do events back to back just keep things in your car, packed neatly.  I have a farmers market or craft fair Wed, Thur, and Sat every week so things tend to stay in my car from Wed - Sat.  After every market I unload my product so I can do inventory, make new product, etc. and after every Sat market I unload everything.

4. RECORD INVENTORY & SALES ASAP - I know, I know... vending can take a lot out of you, but the sooner you get the boring back-end financial & bookkeeping stuff out of the way the better.  Take out your sales book or other sales record that you used during vending and plug it in to your program or books right away.  Otherwise you may forget something that you didn't even know you had to remember that effects your records.  I've been there and it's frustrating when it happens.  Always to remember to take a physical inventory, that is count everything you have, compare it to your books/program, and reconcile as needed.  I posted about the programs I use in the past: Outright for Income/Expense records, and StitchLabs for inventory management.  My accountant has suggested I look into Quicken for an inexpensive all in one program, which I plan to do after the vending season.

Well, that's it folks!  I hope you have found this helpful and interesting.  Feel free to email me with questions/suggestions, or just comment below.  Good luck and lots of sales to you all this vending season!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Get Ready for Vending 2013: On Vending Day

Here is part 2 of my 3 part informational post about vending!  Again, these are tips about selling your wares that I have learned in my vending experiences.  I hope you find it useful - please feel free to comment below.


1. GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME TO SET UP - Know how long it takes you to set up your table and allow at least 15min more.  If you are going to vend somewhere for the first time allow maybe 30min extra to talk to the event organizers, find out where you are setting up, where to park, etc.  If you can try to find out if you will park by your space, and if not allow extra time for trips between your car & table.  It takes me about an hour to set up my tent, signage, & table.  Also, the more you vend the fast you will become!

2.CLEARLY DISPLAY PRICING - It just makes buying so much easier for your customers!  You can either put a price tag on every item, or do what I do and make signs for each different item with pricing and place it in front or beside them.

3. FILL YOUR TABLE - No matter the size, nothing looks worse than a table with empty spaces.  Make sure you have enough inventory, and you can always fill in spaces that look sparse with some nice decor to draw people in.  On the other hand, don't over fill your table to the point that customers are knocking things over to look at other things, or it just looks like a jumbled mess.  Keep your arrangement simple and user friendly, and don't forget to restock sold merchandise!

4. SAFETY FIRST - Always make sure that your tent is weighted down and your table is locked open and securely flat on the ground with no wiggling.  Vendors should have liability insurance where they are "in the field" but there's no point in taking chances of someone getting hurt or damage happening to your property or product. If you are vending outdoors be especially aware during windy or rainy weather.

5. SIGNAGE SIGNAGE SIGNAGE - I suggest getting a banner made that clearly states your company name, slogan, contact info/website, and what you sell.   I got mine from (Helpful Hint: Vistaprint offers a free subscription to a magazine of your choice with your purchase but you can waive that offer and get about a $20 rebate!  With my 6x2' banner costing me around $41 that cut my cost in half!  Just fill out the form and mail it in and they will send you a rebate check.)  Nice A-frame chalkboard or dry-erase signs are good to put out in front of your space too.  If you are vending with a lot of people in a large space, and you are allowed to do so, have signs printed up to hang on walls directing people to your location.

6. ENGAGE YOUR CUSTOMERS - Say hello as they walk by, it gets their attention to you and your table and it may get them to stop and look.  Be friendly and helpful, but don't breathe down their throats.  Some people like to announce themselves carnival style (::loudly:: "Step right up!  Buy some lip balm! I got your lip balm right here!")  Use your judgement on this.  There is also a school of thought that you shouldn't stay seated the whole time as if you are just waiting for someone to come over.  You look more attentive and professional when standing behind your table, this is true, but don't kill yourself if your feet and back are hurting from a days vending.  Take short sitting breaks when you are slow.  Lastly, try not to eat when customers are going to come up to your table.  No one likes a vendor talking with their mouth full or getting caught mid-sandwich. It can also make customers not want to come over and disturb you during your "lunch". 

I hope this helps!  Part 3 about After Vending coming soon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Get Ready for Vending 2013: The Before

The first week of May is fast approaching, which means the start of Vending season!  By that I mean all flea markets, farmers markets, craft fairs, and summer festivals with vending opportunity.  I'm currently booked every Thursday at the Media Farmers Market, every 2nd & 4th Saturday at the Lansdowne Farmers Market and remaining Saturdays at The Creative Collective Craft & Fine Art Show or other festivals/events.

Last year was my first Vending season and I'd like to share some tips that I learned in the hopes to help others just starting out.  Since it is a lot of info, I'll divide it into 3 posts: Before vending, On Vending Day, and After Vending.  Keep in mind that I sell perfume and other bath & body items, so adjust this info for yourself as needed.  So here it is!

Akima Botanicals at Lansdowne Farmers Market


1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT VENUE FOR YOUR ITEMS -  I've made the mistake of vending at a flea market twice.  For my retail bath & body items, it is not the right venue.  People at flea markets tend to be looking for second hand garage sale type things and vintage goodies at inexpensive prices.  If you're not sure try out an event once (if it's not too expensive).  If it doesn't work, don't do it again.  In my experience retail items are best sold at farmer's markets, craft fairs, retail stores, and other events where the product fits in well.  If you need to book a hotel be sure to do so well in advance.

2. HAVE ENOUGH INVENTORY - Whether you make it yourself or buy to resell be sure that you have plenty to offer your customers.  If this is your first time vending it's always better to have too much than not enough.  Gauge what your customers will want too, though they will surprise you every time.  When I sell at an event 12hrs or less I make sure to have 6 of each perfume oil, 5 of each room spray, 10 of each lip balm... you get the idea.  The more you vend the more you will see what sells the best and worst, and will be able to estimate inventory needs for next time.  If you make products that can be made on the spot (knit wear, jewelry, etc.) bring supplies along to keep you busy during the slow times.  Customers will love to watch you creating the pieces too.

3. MAKE A CHECKLIST - I can't stress this enough!  It is a horrible feeling when you realize you've left something crucial at home - especially if you're too far away to go back.  Create a simple checklist of things you need to bring before your vending day.  And for goodness sake, if you have testers for your product don't forget them (I've been guilty of this!)  You can find a sample checklist I made here.

4. HAVE PLENTY OF CHANGE - Be sure to get plenty of ones, fives, and coin change in plenty of time before the day of your event.  Based on the prices of your product I recommend to have at least $150-200 in change for a one day event, more as needed for multiple day events.  (I'm embarrassed to say I have ran to the bank in the morning and waited for it to open to get change, making me late to an event.  Don't let this happen to you!!)

5. BE SURE YOUR EQUIPMENT IS IN GOOD WORKING ORDER - I arrived to vend and found out the backup tent I was using had a broken leg, so I had to vend in the hot sun all day.  This did not make my meltable lip balm happy!

6. PACK THE DAY BEFORE - If at all possible this is the way to go.  There's nothing worse than waking up at 6am and having to load the car before you go.  If you load up the day or night before its one less thing to do the day of vending.  Most importantly, if you forget anything when loading up the day before you are more likely to remember it the day of - you can also go over your checklist again to be sure you have it all packed up!  Don't forget to bring water/drinks and snacks for yourself, and pack sweaters, jackets, sunscreen, etc as needed.  Vending uncomfortably due to hunger, thirst, heat, or cold is just the pits!

7. KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING - You don't want to be late because you got lost.  Have directions or your GPS ready to go.  Make sure you have the address, phone number, and name of a contact person just in case.  Be courteous and call if you will be late so the organizers don't think you are ditching - this could determine if they want to have you vend with them in the future.  Know where you are supposed to park and set up if possible.

Good luck, and look for my next post "On Vending Day" in the next day or two!