Today, I have a great post about how to make money selling at flea markets. Shannon Rooney is a reader of Making Sense of Cents and has paid off more than $60,000 in debt through hard work and budgeting. She runs a booth at a local flea market with her mom. Today, she is going to tell you why selling at flea markets is a good (and fairly easy) source of extra income; offer advice on getting set up and selling at flea markets; and offer tips on what to sell and how to source inventory to make the most out of your booth. Below is her blog post:
A yard sale is a quick way to make some cash.
I’ve definitely hosted my share. But, when you live in a northern climate like I do, yard sale season is short. Thanks to a shared hobby with my mom and some elbow grease, I’ve stumbled upon a side hustle that takes “yard sale” to the next level.
Selling at flea markets.
A flea market booth stays open all year round, which means you have the opportunity to make money on used or vintage items whatever the weather.
About a year ago, my mom and I were shopping at a local flea market. There is a long strip of them in my area, one right after the other, mixed in with a few thrift stores and antique shops. My mom and I would spend hours at these places, checking out all the cool vintage items, and sometimes critiquing the booths.
“I’d group those vases together on a tall display.” “They need to put those Pez dispensers in a basket.”
We certainly weren’t experts, but we enjoyed thinking about how to put a booth together. As we spent more time together perusing local flea markets, we started to throw around the idea of opening up our own booth. After all, we both had houses full of items we could sell, including vintage furniture, home decor, some new appliances or dish-ware still in the box, gently used clothes and shoes, and our own handmade crafts.
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Opening up a flea market booth sounded like a great way to clean out our houses while earning some extra cash.
It turns out we were right!
Flea market booths, if done right, are a great source of side income. They are relatively low maintenance since most are staffed by the owners, meaning, as a vendor, you don’t have to stay at your booth when it’s open. The rent is fairly cheap when selling at flea markets, depending on your local market.
And merchandise is fun and easy to source.
I will offer one caveat: flea market booths are not a get rich quick scheme.
Their success tends to ebb and flow with the retail market. But follow some basic guidelines for setting up your booth and you’ll have a low-maintenance side hustle that brings in some steady cash.
Here is how to make money selling at flea markets:
How Flea Market Booths Work
Most local flea markets charge vendors booth rental fees for selling at flea markets.
They will vary depending on location and on the size of the booth. Rental fees are usually charged monthly, though some flea markets will offer a discount if a vendor pays annually. Vendors are then supplied with a certain amount of space to sell their wares. Flea markets may or may not provide guidelines to vendors on what kinds of items they are allowed to sell.
Some allow used or vintage items only. Be sure to ask about this up front. You don’t want to set up a booth and find out your items are restricted.
The majority of flea markets are staffed by the owners or the people they hire. Some require vendors to help out at the front desk/cashier station a certain amount of time per month. The one I sell at does not. It provides hourly employees who man the cashier station, answer the phone, and answer questions. This allows vendors to be as hands-on or hands-off as they want to be.
How to Start Your Own Flea Market Booth And Start Selling At Flea Markets
Starting your own booth and selling at flea markets does require a little homework, but once you find a spot, things move pretty quickly.
Step 1: Scout Out Your Location
Every flea market is different. It’s best to visit several in your area. They will all charge different rent amounts for booth space. And they will all offer different booth sizes.
Here are some things to consider:
- Location Location Location – See if you can find a flea market situated in the same area as a few others, or with a group of antique or second hand shops. Shoppers tend to visit these kinds of places all in one go. Antique malls and flea markets are also popular stops for senior bus trips. So, if you can get in with a group of shops, do it. Rather than competing with one another, these adjacent shops tend to boost each other’s sales.
- Booth Placement and Security – When scouting for booth space inside the flea market, look for openings near the front. Shoppers tend to do more thorough looking there. This is basic retail merchandising. Talk to other vendors. They will be able to give you the skinny on all aspects of booth set-up: placement, rental fees, what items sell or don’t sell, and even their sales numbers. Ask if the flea market has security cameras or provides locked cases for small or valuable items. The market may even provide display cases for a small rental fee.
- Start Small – Every flea market offers different booth sizes and some booths will be bigger than others in the same market. If the market you’ve chosen offers different booth sizes, think about the items you intend to sell. Will you be starting with mostly knick knacks? Or do you need space for large pieces of furniture. If you’re like most vendors, you’ll have a mix of large and small items. I recommend starting with a smaller to medium-sized space. You can always size up later as your business gets going.
Step 2: Decide What You Will Sell
If you haven’t already, it’s time to start sourcing merchandise and for items to sell at flea markets! This is an ongoing process. It’s something you’ll want to be doing year round if you want to start successfully selling at flea markets.
Here are some possible places to find items to sell in your flea market booth:
- Your house. Scour the attic and basement. Do a real purge and de-clutter. Take your gently used items to your booth.
- Thrift stores. Find out when your local thrift store is having its 50% off day and get there at opening time. After you’ve been selling for a while, you’ll be able to spot deals on the kinds of items that sell well for you.
- Garage sales and estate sales. Here’s where you’ll find rock-bottom pricing because people are just trying to get rid of stuff. It’s also where you’ll have room to do the most negotiating.
- Facebook yard sale groups. I bet your area has one. Just search Facebook for “yard sale” and you’ll find local groups swapping and selling all kinds of stuff, from baby clothes to Blu-Rays to handbags.
- Curbside. See something interesting on the side of the road? Don’t be afraid to slow down and check it out. I have friends who’ve found furniture and other useful items on the curb. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.
Related: How To Sell Your Stuff
What Sells Best At Flea Markets For Me Include:
- ”Smalls”: That’s vendor speak for small items like knick knacks. The most surprising “smalls” sell well in our booth. We’ve sold ceramic bunnies and clowns, a treasure chest jewelry box, a miniature tea pot, wall plaques with cute sayings, and a little wooden doll chair.
- Jewelry: Jewelry is a serendipitous find for most people. Put out a variety of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, and watches. “Lots” of broken jewelry get snapped up by jewelry-makers and fixers. Pro tip: Aliexpress.com is a great source for new jewelry. We’ve had lots of success re-selling pieces from this site.
- Holiday decor: We all love something unique during the holidays. Decorate your displays seasonally with purchasable items—for example, autumn leaf decor in the fall, eggs at Easter time, and lights and ornaments at Christmas.
- Vintage items: The rustic farmhouse look is going strong and anything nostalgic is a hot commodity. Think egg baskets, rusty saws, window screens, tin toys, and old typewriters.
- Small furniture: Stools, ottomans, end tables, and slim corner shelving units—these all sell well in our booth. Some are refinished vintage and some are nearly new. If the pieces are useful and can fit in a trunk, they go.
- Toys: Vintage and new, place these around the edge of your booth at kid height. They are easy impulse buys. Dolls, teddy bears, and little playsets sell well for us.
Items That Don’t Sell Well At Flea Markets For Me Include:
- Crafts: My mom and I both love crafting. We’ve tried to sell our creations, from fabric garlands to button necklaces to embroidery, in our booth but they just don’t sell as well as our other items.
- Big ticket items: If you’ve got a crystal punch bowl with ladle for $40, expect it to sit there for a while. Flea market shoppers are usually looking for a deal.
- Board games and puzzles: These don’t sell well for us unless they’re vintage.
Step 3: Set Up Your Booth
You’ll learn the best set-up for your booth as you go along. But some general retail techniques can help.
First, check out how other vendors have set up their booths. Then consider the kinds of items you’ll be selling and set up your space accordingly.
In my booth, we have a long folding table with a nice tablecloth over it along one wall. The back of the booth is covered in pegboard for hanging items. The left side is a wall of bookshelves that house all manner of objects, from a basket of playing cards sets to Pfaltzgraff dishware.
My mom has strung twinkly lights around the booth to brighten things up and we’ve plugged in a lamp that’s for sale to show that it works.
At the end of the day, the flea market staff come around and turn off our surge protector, then turn it on again in the morning. Little touches like these make the shopping experience more pleasant for your potential buyers.
Here are a few other rules of thumb for selling at flea markets:
- Group like items. Place several vases on the same shelf. Hang vintage baking tins on hooks in a line. Place small toys in a colorful bin ready to be rifled through. Grouping similar things together helps your customers take visual stock of your inventory.
- Banish clutter. You may want every one of your items in your booth at once in an effort show how many things you have. But this makes it difficult for shoppers as they see clutter as “one thing.” Spread things out. You can always switch items out for others if they don’t sell.
- Label and price everything. What is it? How much is it? This is what bargain shoppers want to know. Make the information easy to find by labeling and pricing everything. Your flea market will let you know of their own guidelines for marking things as well.
Once you’re set-up and prepared to make money by selling at flea markets, do some guerrilla marketing. Tell your family and friends about your booth and invite them to check it out in person. Post photos of unique items on your social media feeds. Talk to the flea market owners about doing some grassroots marketing.
My mom simply asked if she could help run our flea market’s neglected Facebook page and the owners were only too happy to hand it over. She now posts at least once a day, showing pictures of items from all the booths. The social media activity lets people know who we are and what we have available. The owners may even give you a rental discount in return for this kind of work too.
Do your part to get people in the door, maintain an interesting inventory, and your flea market booth will be set up for success.
Author bio: Shannon Rooney is a freelance writer, content specialist, and avid side hustler. She’s working to pay down debt and when not laser focused on that, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family. Learn more at ShannonRooney.com.
Are you interested in learning how to make money selling at flea markets?
Nate Matherson says
I always love going to flea markets… but always as a buyer.
I thought that your Aliexpress reselling tip was interesting. What sort of markup works well on Aliexpress items at your Flea Market?
Shannon Rooney says
Hi Nate! Prices on AliExpress vary quite widely. You’ll often find the same item sold by several different companies at different prices. And the mark-up we use depends on the size and type of item. For necklaces, we can usually charge $4-7. I’d suggest trying out a few different prices and mark-up percentages to see what your market will bear.
Jay Karp says
I’ve been going to flea markets in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern NJ for three or four years.
With the Covid 19 pandemic & the typical buyer it’s harder to make any money. Many shoppers offer just a dollar for every item on the
table. When I dont accept their offers they get upset.
Items I will sell are: hand/ power tools, lawn equipment (lawn mowers, weed wackers, leaf blowers, riding mowers, roto tillers.
Sports cards, sports collectables,
Pro team sportswear.
Everything else is penny ante worthless.
Daniel Palmer says
Fascinating idea! I can imagine it either bringing in a real nice income, or being really hard to eke out a living, depending on a lot of variables.
Shannon Rooney says
Yes, it definitely depends on how the retail market in your area is doing in general. We use the flea market as side income, so our livelihood doesn’t depend on it.
that was the most retoricale comment ever
I learned my earliest childhood money lessons by going to flea markets with my grandpa. With his help, I talked a seller down on an old vintage baseball bat. It was the first time I ever threatened the use of walk-away power, and it was an awesome experience.
Being on the other side of the flea market experience would sure be interesting. If you have the right personality and eye for selling items of high value, this could be a great side hustle or even a great full-time gig. Thanks for sharing your experience, Shannon!
Shannon Rooney says
That’s so great. I also have great memories of going to flea markets with my grandma.
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
This sounds like a great plan! I once had a yard sale and was extremely disappointed when it didn’t go as well as I expected. I made $12 over all. Summer is here, so it’s time to test out this new plan. Thanks for sharing!
Shannon Rooney says
I hear you! Yard sales are super hit and miss. On the right day, you can make good money, but it’s hard to know.
Beth @ The Money Pixie says
This is great information. I’ve always enjoyed flea markets myself. I’ve even thought about doing this in the past, but never took action to do so. I read a story about a man in Florida that would go dumpster diving and then sell what he found at a flea market. It was 100% free inventory. At the time, and this was about 15 years ago, he was making around $50K a year!
Shannon Rooney says
It’s amazing how one person’s trash is another’s treasure! That’s what the flea market is all about. What a great story!
It would have been nice if they showed/shared images of their booth too.
Any tip how to find spot to sell in a flea market? I wan to do it but I’m struggling to begin. Thank you
I use to sell at Flea Markets while working 8-5 M-F sold on the weekend and travel my local area around 75 miles. Pick out the towns you want to sell in and do some recon meaning go to the places you thinking of selling at. Look at what is selling, write items down or ask if you can take pictures of items to remember booth to booth.what is being sold.
I use to buy wholesale or find stores that are closing and ask if I could look around to make some offers. Online companies sell to FLEA MARKET sellers or JOBBERS it’s a good way to find items for sale that you don’t normally see.
I’m looking to see items all households need, such as paper towels, toilet paper etc. My friend in NH does quite well doing this and has become her full time job, clipping coupons and using double coupon deals and triple and of course asks small amounts but enough to make money. Where in Orlando can I do this at a flea market
My partner and I are talking about making t shirts and selling at a flea market. Do you have any advice on how successful of a sell that is at a flea market?
Cøpywriter Fabio says
I think you can give it a go and start small. But there will always be a moment when you like a print that does not sell well, while others will be gone after just a few minutes. So always have a sales inventory to keep track of what works well in which regions. That way you will make fewer mistakes. / Making something limited edition could boost sales.
You can go big with your designs (prints), but just do what feels best and never forget about the locals:”Welcome to Belgium. We have waffles, chocolate and the crappiest roads in the world.” / It is not really a local example, but I wanted to show you what I meant. Look at the world and try to find those ‘haha, that is so true’ moments.
Also look for your usp (unique selling proposition – what makes your product different from the rest?). If you cannot find one, create one. Hand-made or even hand-written price tags, for example. Just find one aspect of you/your product and put in the spotlights.
Live your brand. ~ Wear the stuff you make. If you don’t, why would others?
Very useful article that keeps helping people even years later. Thanks!
Hello, i am thinking about selling Avon the same way. I am looking to open up a booth and sell Avon in that way. I always enjoy flea markets. They always make me happy every time i go there
Robert Welch says
Hi, Shannon Rooney. On January 17th, 2019 my wife and I opened a indoor flea market in Southern Maine. We started with 60 spaces and then in June we added 60 more spaces. We have a total of 120 vendors in our building. Your article on flea markets is awesome, I will be sending all my vendors the web link to read it. thank you so much.
Ryan Fanning says
We are a chicago area distributor of health, medical and fitness products. We always have customer returns or closeouts. Where or who can we contact to sell to folks looking for inventory to sell at flea markets, ebay or Amazon?