One of the most annoying phrases I hear from my vendors is, “Where is everyone”? What they are asking me is why there aren’t more customers at the market on that day at that particular time. My response to them is always the same. I tell them that if I could predict where the largest concentrations of people were going to be on that day, I would be rich. Unfortunately, it is always hard to predict how busy a market is going to be from one day and one location to the next.
Ironically, I am writing this as I am working at a market and one of my vendors just asked me where all the people are. I hope she didn’t get too insulted when I just laughed.
This season, we are running five markets per week in four different locations. I would say that four of them have been very successful this year which is why we will probably close the poorly performing market next year. The one that isn’t doing well is baffling to me. On paper, that market should do incredibly well but, for some reason, it isn’t. It is located in a beautiful park in a mostly middle to upper middle class neighborhood with no other competing markets nearby, there are weekly concerts in the park, and tons of commuter traffic that passes by our sign, showing the dates and hours of the market, every day. This is also the third year for the market in this location and even with all of that, for some reason, that market just cannot seem to find its audience. It makes absolutely no sense to me.
Whether the market is in a park, a mall, or a parking lot, it is never guaranteed that it will find the shoppers it needs to survive. Our rule of thumb is that it generally takes a market three to five years to really establish itself. I would never complain about having a successful business, however that being said, when you do have successful markets, everyone always expects a new market that you open to be a huge success on the first day. So when it takes time to become a draw, everyone always bitches about it. The vendors complain that they aren’t making any money and the property owner always asks why there aren’t as many people shopping as at a market that has been around for twenty years. We always have to remind vendors and property owners that we told them at the beginning it would take time to establish the new market. It’s also why we don’t charge nearly as much for booth fees as we would for a big, well established market.
Another factor that hits us in this area is that we are an event driven region. By that I mean that we are a tourism driven town and we have big special events almost every weekend during the summer tourist season. Sometimes these events cause the customer base to decline for a week or two. Weather can also be a factor. When it climbs up to near 100 degrees, people tend to stay in their homes and enjoy the air conditioning. We’ve also been plagued by smoke from forest fires for the past few years which really hasn’t helped much.
Overall though, we have a very steady customer base at our markets and most of our vendors do pretty well which is why they keep coming back to participate in our markets year after year.
So if you are a vendor at a market or craft fair, please know that most of the people who organize these events, are doing their best and truly believe that the time, dates, and location are going to be profitable for you. If they operate like we do, they have really put some thought into this. We scout locations, look at whether there is a competing event, spend money on advertising, and try to get the word out as best we can using social media and word of mouth. If you are a customer, take a look at some of the local websites, Facebook pages, or local advertising and give one of the newer or smaller markets a shot. It could just turn out to be a hidden jewel that becomes a favorite place for you to go and shop.