Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Farmers' Market Experience

Olde Towne Farmers' Market

Mother's Day weekend of this year I officially set up my first retail space at the Olde Towne Farmers' Market in Portsmouth, VA.  I wasn't expecting to sell much, just enough to give me a little extra cash and some money to purchase new supplies and equipment for the workshop.  I stuck to a pretty basic layout and implemented a few ideas on ambiance from an artist friend of mine, Chad, who sells his blown glass.

Considering I did fairly well the first time out, I packed up my truck again this past weekend, and ventured out for Round 2 of the Farmers' Market experience. Between what Chad taught me, my formal education in business, and first-hand experience, the following are a few things I implemented.

Folding Tables Are Your Greatest Nemesis

It is really easy to pack up your boxes, grab a couple of table cloths, and pop open a couple of folding tables to display your wares.  That was my initial plan until Chad stepped in.  After many years as an artist and getting "Best In Show" at the Gosport Arts Festival, I figure Chad probably knows his stuff better than I do.  He was the one who taught me "Folding tables are your greatest nemesis."  The logic makes sense - while it may be easy for me to set up this way, it does not lend itself to the unique nature of my product.  Chad suggested I make pedestals and find other appealing ways to display my art.  One suggestion I really liked was to find a unique way to display my wine stoppers using wine bottles set at different heights.

Showcase Items With Varying Price Points

Many people may love your work, but either do not want to spend big bucks on your work or may not have enough to buy your really nice items.  The coming weeks before my first farmers' market, I spent a little extra time making small items.  Refrigerator magnets and small tins of cutting board conditioner were available right alongside my cutting boards and wine stoppers.  I will try to think of more ideas of items to showcase in the $5-20 range in subsequent shows.

Everyone Loves a Sale

A simple rule of economics is you can temporarily increase demand for a product by reducing its price for a short period of time - also known as a sale.  In order for your sale to have a chance to be successful, you have to give a very intriguing discount, advertise it, and make it a limited time off.  To try this experiment, I marked my cutting boards 30% off and advertised it on Facebook and with a bright yellow and black sign at the Farmers Market, so it could not be missed.  While at the Olde Towne Farmers' Market this past weekend, the organizers told me I would be permitted to post any sales on their Facebook page prior to the event.  

As a result of the sale, I sold most of my stock of cutting boards, had an online request to buy one, and even took order to make a few in the coming weeks and honor the sale price.  While I slightly reduced my profit margins per product, I almost quadrupled my sales from the previous month.  Find me a business person who would turn that down.

About Portsmouth, VA

For anyone looking to head to the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area, consider spending some time in Portsmouth.  It is a very nice city with a small town feel.  History buffs will love the many museums and ties to major events all the way back to the Early Colonial Era, as told by Colonel William Crawford and his friends.  For more information on visiting Portsmouth, go to