How to Sell at an Outdoor Farmers’ Market
It’s outdoor market time! As you can tell by our Edmonton & Area and Red Deer & Area Market maps, there are a lot of outdoor markets to choose from. As a vendor, these are a great opportunity to get out and sell your goods! What could be better than standing outside on a warm summer day, chatting with customers and making money?! The atmosphere and rules are a little different than your regular craft shows but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We asked 4 outdoor market organizers from around Alberta, what advice they would give to first time outdoor market vendors and man did they deliver. Lots of amazing knowledge and tidbits so have a read!
If you’re looking for more outdoor markets to participate in, check out our VENDOR CALL category on our Events page.
The following advice is shared by:
- 124 Grand Market & French Quarter Grand Market – www.124GrandMarket.com
- City Market Downtown – www.city-market.ca
- Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market – www.farmersmarket.hillhurstsunnyside.org
- Cochrane Farmers’ Market – www.cochranefarmersmarket.com
How does the vibe of an outdoor market differ from an indoor market/craft show and how can vendors prepare for it?
Grand Markets: As we are an outdoor, all weather market we encourage vendors to be prepared for anything! Sunscreen, water, layers layers layers! Hot bevys for cold days.
On a nice day we may get thousands of patrons through the market, especially over the dinner hour when the food trucks are busiest! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but remember people are generally in a good mood at the market. Bring your smile and be ready to talk to the patrons who want to know more about you and what you’re selling!
City Market: Being outdoors creates a unique and dynamic market atmosphere. The blend of vendors and local shops on 104th creates a lively ambience where people come to meet friends, hang out, listen to music, enjoy a local cup of coffee, and of course shop! Outdoor markets are often synonymous with crowds, but the open environment and larger space means that shoppers can enjoy the market comfortably and vendors have more space to sell their products.
There are a few things that vendors should bring along to an outdoor market that they might not necessarily need for an indoor market. The most apparent item is a tent with weights to protect their products from the elements. Less obvious items include ice packs to keep your product fresh (important for food and produce vendors), garbage bags for extra trash, and lots of water!
Quick Tip: Bring along an anti-fatigue standing mat to avoid having to stand on the hard concrete for 6+ hours.
Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market: Outdoor markets tend to have more bustle and a crowd with more diverse reasons for being there. There tends to be a more leisurely element at an outdoor market. It’s an activity, a social outing for more people. There are many more factors to consider at an outdoor market – weather, wind, access to electricity and water – which can make it more costly to participate when it comes time to equip yourself. Vendor fees may also be higher at an outdoor market. 1 thing to bring: signage (and a wind-proof way of securing it to your stall) large enough to be seen from greater distances, as most often you won’t be in as close proximity with market goers as you were indoors.
Cochrane Farmers’ Market: Outdoor markets often allow for creative displays, vendors are not limited to a standard table, however; when designing a product display new vendors often overlook the element of weather. It’s critical to consider what impact the wind, rain and sun will have on that beautiful display. The focus should be on customers and sales, not retrieving product blown off the tables or getting soggy in the rain. Even a beautiful day can be a problem if your product cannot withstand the heat of the sun. On the flip side, let the outdoor elements work to your advantage, the sunshine can make things sparkle!
Outdoor markets can have a lot of excitement with bigger groups, kids, sunshine, yummy food and sometimes pets. How can vendors grab shopper’s attention?
Grand Markets: Keep your vendor booth interesting! Keeping your merchandising fresh is always a good idea, using interesting things in your tent to display your items (for example, one of our jewelry vendors uses vintage trunks and ladders in her space!) Using the walls as well as different table heights keeps customers engaged and with lots to look at they will usually stop which will give you a chance to say hello!
If you’re an artisan, work on a piece during the market. People will stop to see what you’re doing!
Keep signage clear and bright, and engage with your customers. Standing in your tent is inviting–and if you can’t stand then bring your chair to the front of your tent. It’s more welcoming than if you just sit behind your table and read a book or stare at your phone!
City Market: The most essential way to grab a shopper’s attention is through your display. Make your set-up creative, inviting and eye-catching. Aim for variety when creating your display – colours, levels, textures, patterns. Just remember to maintain a strong cohesive visual presence. Ensure that you keep a clean space and package and label your product in an appealing way. It is also essential to be friendly and approachable. Greet your customers with a smile and “hello” and you’re halfway there!
Quick Tip: Having difficulty in attracting customers? Try sampling your product! Just remember to always ask the parents if it’s alright for their child to try the sample.
Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market: Display is very important. Keep your table full but tidy and organized. Make your products visible from afar by angling your goods toward shoppers and creating height on your table with a tiered display. Think about color. Red is very eye catching. Pair contrary colors. And, clearly mark your products and prices – people are more comfortable if they can easily gather all the information they need themselves.
Cochrane Farmers’ Market: Competing with the great outdoors can be challenging. A successful booth will have signage at several levels. Placing your logo or company name on your canopy allows customers to see the booth from a distance. Clusters of customers can hide booths from sight, utilize signs at higher levels to catch attention over the crowd. If your market allows sandwich boards they can offer another opportunity to direct the customers to your booth. Going to the farmers’ market is a social outing so expect to have impromptu gatherings in front of your booth and design your displays accordingly.
Weather is the one uncertainty of outdoor markets; how can vendors make the best of a rainy market day?
Grand Markets: A warm beverage (the Tea Girl will serve’em up hot on a cold day!) colourful rubber boots, and a big smile!
City Market: Of course not every market day will come with beautiful weather, but luckily most Alberta summers are filled with sunshine and warm weather. One of the key ways a vendor can make the best of a rainy market day is to take care of themselves since no one wants to buy from an unhappy vendor. This means dress warm (think layers), grab yourself a warm cup of coffee or tea and maintain a positive attitude. Near the end of the summer market season the mornings can be quite chilly, especially if it’s raining. You may want to consider getting a small portable heater for your tent.
Quick Tip: Take along a clear shower curtain to cover your product to protect it from the wind and rain. If you have connecting tents, bring along a bull-dog clip to pin them together to create a make-shift gutter.
Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market: Many markets are rain or shine, so you’ll probably be expected to be there regardless of the weather. Make sure you’re always ready for it with clothing, a water-proof setup, and positivity. Your values-based customers (meaning the ones who shop at FMs in a conscious effort to support you, the local economy, sustainable production practices etc.) will be there in the rain, so be friendly and express some gratitude for the intent behind their steadfast choices.
Cochrane Farmers’ Market: While it’s a common believe that outdoor markets run on “solar power” a rainy day can be an opportunity to build customer relationships and sales. Minimize your display or extend your “dry zone” to allow customers to step out of the rain, while they’re taking refuge from the wet weather they’re more likely to take a moment to get to know you and your products. Rainy weather brings out the dedicated market goers so this is the best time to make them your newest follower!
What is the #1 key component you feel makes a successful outdoor booth?
Grand Markets: Sampling for food vendors, interesting signage and merchandising ideas. Most importantly a good attitude! Smiling is contagious!
Check out Product of Science & Art’s creative booth set up:
City Market: When it comes to creating the perfect outdoor market booth there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. For instance, what works for produce vendors may not work for handicraft vendors. That being said there are some common elements between successful market booths: usage of signs, nicely packaged products, neat and tidy arrangement, use of different levels and colours, and an overall engaging display of the product.
Quick Tip: Put your own style and flare into your booth and let your personality shine through! Don’t be afraid to play around with the layout of your stall until you find what works.
Check out Reclaim Urban Farm’s colourful, tidy and attractive display:
Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market: Orderly abundance!
Check out Solstice Berry Farm’s booth set up (photo credit: Infokus Design)
Cochrane Farmers’ Market: It’s not always true that good products sell themselves. Most often the difference between an empty table and packing everything back into the vehicle at the end of the day is one thing – ATTITUDE – pure and simple. Friendly, welcoming, open, informative vendors can make the difference between a customer that walks away and one that makes a purchase and returns next week as a repeat customer. Customers will return to the vendors that make their market outing a pleasant experience, it’s all about building relationships.
Check out Baba’s Breads & Backing & Buffalo Horn Ranch’s set up:
How might outdoor market etiquette differ from indoor craft shows? For vendors & shoppers?
Grand Markets: Vendors: We do not allow vendors to pack up if they have sold out. All vendors must remain set up until our market is closed at 8 PM. If vendors sell out, we encourage them to put up a sign that says “sold out” and they are welcome to go and stroll the market as a patron. It’s good advertising if their booth is set up still, and it might encourage patrons to show up earlier next time 🙂
We are a rain or shine market, so unless there is a severe weather warning and it is unsafe, all vendors are required to remain set up for the duration of the market. In the event of an emergency situation, the Market Directors would safely direct vendors to pack up and evacuate the street in a safe manner.
Shoppers: We encourage strollers and dogs at our market! We just remind patrons to be mindful when walking the market. Be respectful of each other and share the space!
While we would never discourage friendly bartering, it’s usually a good idea to let the vendor take the lead if they are going to offer you a discount. This is someone’s livelihood and to ask them to give you a discount would be disrespectful. You wouldn’t walk into an Art Gallery and ask for a discount on a painting, or a grocery store and tell the cashier that you’re only taking the tomatoes if they throw in the lettuce? Be respectful and know when to draw the line 🙂
City Market: Vendors: While there are many similarities between outdoor market and indoor craft show etiquette, there may be some differences depending on the market. Typically, it is generally not courteous for vendors to pack up and leave before the end of the day. If you have sold out you can choose to tidy your stall and put up a “sold out” sign and wander the market, but you should leave your tent up until the market is over regardless of the weather (unless the market manager decides the weather makes it too dangerous to continue the market day).
Shoppers: Since outdoor markets tend to be much more spacious shoppers can feel free to bring along strollers (and in the case of City Market Downtown – even their dogs!). Just be mindful that you are in a shared community space and be a courteous of other shoppers. Like indoor crafts shows, it is considered impolite to ask a vendor for a discount unless there is a flaw in the product – just as you would in a brick and motor store.
Quick Tip: Be mindful of your market and considerate of your neighbours. If you aren’t sure about rules or norms ask the market staff.
Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market: Vendors: Not kosher to pack up early, and in fact often against market policy – whether you’ve sold out or not. Market goers will feel rushed or bothersome and hesitate if they see vendors around them itching to leave and packing up. It hurts overall atmosphere to have holes in the market. Punctuality is key at an outdoor market, as once the market has opened to the public you won’t be able to drive in and unload at your stall.
Shoppers: Most vendors are passionate about their products and the methods and ingredients they use to produce them. Ask them questions about these things to understand your food and its value (especially if you don’t understand the prices you’re being asked to pay.)
Cochrane Farmers’ Market: Vendors: For new vendors, navigating the requirements of an outdoor market can be tricky. Show up on time! Set up for outdoor markets can often be very restrictive, vehicle access is often limited to certain times or locations.
Do a ‘dry run’ with the booth setup prior to the first market. Not knowing how to put up the new canopy or realizing that setup takes twice the expected time should not be realized at the first market.
Shoppers: Seasoned farmers’ market customers know two important things: 1) vendors are happy to answer your questions about their products, If you want to know how it’s grown? How is it made, with what?? Just ask.
2) Vendors are pleased to be asked about custom orders. If you like the item but need a custom size or prefer a different colour – most often they can do that for you.