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    Behind the scenes: our first market stall

    grattonBy Emma Clark Gratton

    As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I run a furniture-making workshop and have recently released a range of kid’s furniture. We are big fans of visiting craft and design markets so took the opportunity to launch the new range at a market. While furniture isn’t commonly sold at markets (besides old bearded men making coffee tables out of stumps at your local hippie market), we thought it would be a great way to increase awareness of our brand, meet our customers and make some new connections.

    Which market?

    There are heaps of markets to choose from, depending on the type of product you have, the amount of stock you are prepared to make and who your customer is. Markets range from smaller specialty markets, such as Boutique Markets and Rose St Artists Market, to local community markets, right up to design markets such as The Finders Keepers and trade fairs such as Life Instyle. We decided to apply to The Finders Keepers in Melbourne, as the ethos and clientele suited our products.

    The countdown

    Once we had confirmation that we were officially accepted into the markets, the real work began. We used it as an opportunity to freshen up our business, so we had a new logo designed, overhauled our website and designed a few new products. I arranged for new business cards, postcards, stickers and stocksheets to be printed, and made a huge masterlist of everything we would need on the day, from props to snacks to packing materials and payment facilities.

    On the day

    We had the afternoon to set up our stand before the markets opened at 6pm. We had prepared a quick mock-up of the stand in the workshop beforehand, so I had an idea of where everything would go. Once we had the stand up and ready, we wandered around and were blown away (and slightly intimidated!) by how amazing everyone else’s stands looked. We met our lovely stall neighbours, had a quick bite to eat and then the crowds poured in.

    We quickly realized that it was up to us to engage the customers and be as approachable as possible. Start talking to people as soon as they approach your stand and keep smiling! It might feel artificial at first, but asking people how they are, how they are enjoying the market and letting them know something about your products can be a great way to make a connection and hopefully, a sale.

    That said, being ‘on’ all the time can be exhausting, so take regular breaks. Make sure you bring a friend or helper to cover the stand while you duck off to eat lunch or have a rest.

    IMG_8395 (1)

    What worked

    Getting customer feedback

    Getting to meet our customers and potential clients directly was invaluable. It was a great way to see which products people were interested in, what customizations were popular and who our customers were. For example, quite a few people asked if we made bunk beds. We didn’t, but are now adding bunk beds to our range in response to the customer feedback. We had always imagined mums being our biggest customers, but just as many dads purchased products too, which was interesting information.

    Lollies

    I grabbed a few bags of lollies at the last minute and put them in a bowl on one of our kid’s tables. It turned out to be perfect, as lollies attract kids and kids bring parents! We also provided chalk to draw on our Mini Chalky tables and crayons and colouring in pages for our Mini tables, which were a hit with the kids. While the kids drew, we chatted to the parents and made a few sales and contacts.

    Trolleys

    Beg, borrow or steal at least one trolley to carry your gear. Using a trolley will literally cut your bumping in and out time in half. We ended up lending ours to our neighbouring stallholders once we were unpacked, as it was a bit of a walk to the carpark and lugging boxes of stock and trestle tables is not fun.

    What didn’t

    Fancy shoes

    I made the mistake of favouring fashion over function on the first night and my feet were not happy. Make sure you wear shoes and clothes that you will be comfortable standing in all day, in hot or cold weather.

    Not spending all our profits

    As tempting as it is, try to resist spending all your cash! As much as we love to support other handmade businesses, we did want to take home some profits and so I set myself a budget for a few special things that I was eyeing off over the weekend. Chatting to other stallholders is an excellent way to get advice, suss out how other small businesses do it and make new connections.

    Not being prepared for the post-market rush

    We expected to be busy the weekend of the market, but were not expecting the amount of orders in the weeks following. Our site received more traffic than ever before and we got a lot of requests for custom orders and different projects. In retrospect, this should have made sense as people don’t really go to a craft market to buy a large piece of furniture and would rather purchase it later on. We managed to adjust our workflow to accommodate the influx, but it would have been better if I had planned for the orders.

    Emma Clark Gratton is an interior designer, writer and podcaster who, alongside her husband Lee, runs GRATTON, a timber furniture and architectural joinery company. She blogs at Worst House Best Street and posts endless photos of her sons on Instagram at @emmamakesthings.

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