Friday, September 2, 2011

Doing an interstate market

In July we participated in Brisbane Finders Keepers, our sixth interstate market. I realised this was the first time everything went smoothly and was really stress free but to get to that point I think I made every mistake possible. From staying in a dive hotel on Hindley Street in Adelaide and getting little sleep due to the party people 6 floors below to sending 10 boxes via Australia Post thinking it was the cheap option only to have all our stock mixed up and spending a stressful 2 hours hidden under the table trying to sort it out once the market started. However I think nothing will trump arriving at the airport after two days of Finders Keepers Sydney to discover I had booked our flights for the night before, a costly mistake that caused a mini meltdown.

This post is long and covers lots of different aspects of doing the market. Different people might have different ways of doing things and I got some advice from seasoned interstaters including Leeloo, Me and Amber and Record Attempts and included tips from them as well. If you have anything you want to add or a question you want to ask please feel free to comment on this post.


This is going to be one of the most important things to get right so make sure you read through the application and get an understanding of what is needed. Organisers are going to be going through a lot of applications so make sure you include everything and make it super easy for them read your application.The Finders Keepers Market has a great resourse with the top ten tips for applying on their website.

Suggestions for getting things right are:

1. Get some good product photos.

2. Know who your target market is (Everybody isn’t your target market, think about who buys the bulk of your product)

3. Know what products you are going to sell.

4. Have an idea on how you will display your products. This might be a diagram or photos of another stall you have made.

5. A good description of you and your product that is clear and easy to read. Get someone to read over it if you’re unsure.

Getting your stuff there

I think this has caused me the biggest stress and it has taken us a few markets to get right. If you plan on driving then it isn’t going to be a problem, but don’t drive because you don’t want the hassle of organising a courier as it isn’t that hard. A drive will be two days you could spend organising things beforehand and sitting drinking cocktails once the market is over.

If you sell small items you can probably get away with getting everything into your suitcase, but don’t go over your limit and not expect to pay for it at the airport. Weigh it beforehand to avoid the $364263266723 a kilo most airlines seem to charge.

If you’re organising a courier get everything ready that you want to take at least a week before the market is on so you have enough time to get it to your location with a day or so to spare in case something goes wrong. If a courier says it takes 2-4 days to arrive, send it 5-6 days beforehand. I like to know it is there before I leave. DO NOT let it arrive the day the market starts; I’ve been next to stalls with no stock because the driver couldn’t find the location of the market.

I like to send things to the place I am staying because you can check in, then get your boxes and get a taxi to the venue. Me and Amber suggest finding an obliging friend in the city of the market and having your stuff sent to them.

When packing your boxes make sure things are in some order and write the content of the box on the outside so it makes it easy to set up.

Angela from Leeloo suggests not using plastic boxes as they break. Removalists often have big boxes for sale that are perfect for loading with products. Pack things securely, couriers aren’t known for their treatment of fragile boxes.

When you get to the market Angela says you can save a lot of time by taking your scissors in your luggage and to label the ‘utilities’ box so that when you start unpacking you can get into the rest of the boxes.

The other important thing is getting your stuff home, obviously there will be less stuff to take, but make sure you have a plan on how you will do this. My suggestion would be to organise a courier to collect it from the place you’re staying. Make sure you organise all of this before you leave. You need to know who you will be using and that the place you’re staying are know what is going on.

Transdirect are a good service that isn’t expensive and you don’t need an account to use them. They do require you print off labels with weight and box dimensions and stick them to the box, so if you are using them to get your stuff home make sure you can access a printer, have a tape measure and scales (or have a good idea of what the weight of a box is).

Places to stay

I usually go to Wotif and have a look for hotels and try and find something within 2km of the venue. If you plan on sending stuff to them give them a call to make sure this is okay before you book, generally they are happy to do this but if it is going to be 6 large boxes you want them to know this beforehand. I also like to look on the website of the place to see if they have any special deals on.

If you have friends going you can sometimes find serviced apartments that would have a good group rate and you can pretend you're on school camp!

From my experience don’t always go for the cheap places, you’re on a business trip for your own business so you might as well stay somewhere nice.


Make sure when booking flights you give yourself enough time to set up, and pack up after it is over. You don’t want the stress of trying to get to the airport after a busy day of selling. If you can do it, try and stay an extra day or so after the market, it is a good way to relax after a busy time selling and good chance to do some sightseeing.


If you do markets regularly then you probably have your display sorted, but it might be bulky and heavy and not so good for shipping interstate. Finding something light isn’t always easy, but remember that paper and fabric can cover ugly light things and make them look okay.

Also get an idea on the size of your stall, what size the tables are and how you will display them with enough room for you to get in and out to fix up your display and replenish stock. Make sure your table cloths (if you need to provide them) are the right size for the tables.

With a lot of people coming to the markets make sure your product is easy to access. You want to minimum amount of work per item when you have lots of people wanting to buy at the same time. If you have to keep stocking up items allow to have more out so you have enough time to serve customers and pop items out and tidy up.

Mark from Record Attempts suggests keeping a list of things you forgot to bring while setting up rather than remembering for next time. It is best to write it down while it is fresh in your mind rather than remember six months later when you do it all again.

Must have items

  • A list of all the important information you need in the bag you carry at all times. This includes the following:
      All the info the market sent you.
      A google map with directions for all the places you will be travelling to.
      Contact details for the place you’re staying at.
      Contact details for the courier company you’re using.
      Contact details for a taxi in the city you’re staying in.
      The address of the market venue.
      Your flight details.
  • A big float. Think of all the prices you have and the change you will need to give. If you have something that is $18 you will need a lot of $2 coins. We usually take a really big float so we don’t get stuck, but even with big floats we have been stuck before. Also if you’re carrying a lot of coins and flying it is best to put them in your check in luggage or separate them a bit. Security have dug through a bag of coins before and been rather confused as to why I had so many.
  • Food and water
  • Bags (to put goods in when they sell)
  • Paper
  • Mailing list form
  • Lots of price signs
  • Calculator
  • Tape (including packing tape for packing up the boxes after it is over)
  • A banner with your name on it so people can easily identify you
  • Business cards (500+)


Remember to have fun and remind yourself you are going on an interstate business trip for your own business. This is an exciting thing but something you can often forget.

I’ve spoken to a few people who have worried they wont make enough money to justify the trip, but I think only good things can happen from participating. At the end of the day making money, although very important, isn’t the only factor in why you participate in an event like this.

Have a look at who else is going, email them to say hello and organise a dinner or drinks and make some friends. You can talk shop with them and get inspired by people who work in a similar field as you.