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Selling at non-vintage markets: 6 ways to appeal to new customers
Selling vintage at a non-vintage market may require a few adjustments. Photo: Ksenia Chernaya/Pexels

Selling at non-vintage markets: 6 ways to appeal to new customers


Not every market you attend as a reseller will be vintage- or secondhand-focused, especially if you are in a rural area. Here’s how to engage new customer demographics — and make the most of your vendor experience

For vintage sellers, there are few events that can top a dedicated vintage or antique market.

Filled with enthusiastic shoppers who are primed for the treasure hunt, have an appreciation for items of the past, and are happy to chat about all things vintage, this type of venue can offer huge success, both in terms of sales, and in building community with other sellers and repeat customers.

In rural and remote communities, or even smaller towns, opportunities to attend such markets might be few and far between.

In these cases, participating in community craft fairs, farmer’s markets or seasonal markets can still offer benefits — and be lucrative — with a few small adjustments to the typical booth setup or selling style that you might be used to from vintage shows.

Ultimately, the goal is to make it easy for shoppers to understand why you’re there and how you fit.

1. Try a strategic set-up.

Use magnets — figuratively, of course (but also literally if you’ve got them). Small but attractive items with a low price point communicate “come and get me” to anyone passing by, regardless of what types of items they’re actually hunting for. They catch the eye and draw people in.  

For shoppers who were not expecting to find racks of complete vintage dishware or large antique furniture, but for whom the vintage aesthetic still calls, these items are an effective way to entice them to take a closer look or to establish a rapport for future markets.

Think: quirky buttons, old postcards, small brass pieces, tiny collectibles.

2. Offer complementary products.

Consider the types of items that will be popular and found at neighbouring booths. Market organizers want success for all their vendors and many are happy to give you a heads up about the types of potential sellers on-site to help you plan effectively.

If you’re next to a flower farm stand, it’s time to highlight your collection of swung glass vases. Next to a butcher stand? Definitely bring the bakelite carving set.

You can also coordinate with the other vendors to pair your items and display in each other’s booths.

Alternatively, a small sign offering suggested pairings can also work.

For example, tie a tag to your antique tea set that reads “find delicious loose leaf tea blends in the booth across the aisle.” This dynamic can be mutually beneficial and adds to the charm of the event as a whole.

3. Stay in season.

It is an unspoken truth, by nature and by design, that the season dictates the findings at a community craft or farmer’s market.

Expect holiday-specific items like Easter treats in the spring, pumpkin themed goodies in September and October, and winter and Christmas holiday decor from early autumn to the end of December.

Ensuring that your collections follow the same trends will lend itself to a sense of cohesion in your presence. This is particularly the case with hard-to-find seasonal dress or decor that is not or could not be produced by the makers in attendance.

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4. Be aware of pricing perimeters.

Expect education to play a larger role in non-vintage markets.

While you might still receive the excited passerby who exclaims “my nanny had that!” (a personal favourite), they might experience sticker shock to see that the sentimental item in question is valued much higher than they expected — and much higher than other items for sale in the market.

It can be helpful to explain that some items are now rare, collectible, etc.

At the same time, be cautious to avoid bringing too many items beyond the prices of what the homemade and homegrown items are selling for elsewhere in the market.

5. Be a chameleon.

Whenever possible, curate your collection for a particular market with the demographic in mind — even if it means leaning a little outside your era of expertise or preferred aesthetic.

While there is inarguably a benefit to having a strong brand identity as a seller, your curated aesthetic that might work well on social media, will not necessarily translate to an in-person market (nor does it need to).

Depending on the demographic of your region, community markets might garner a completely different audience, including those who spend zero time online.

Put the pop art, post-modern, and vibrant mod items front-and-centre for a funky, youthful night market. Haul out the cream-coloured crockery and antique linen tablecloths for the modern organic harvest market.

6. Build community with other vendors.

Take the time to chat with other vendors as well as the individuals perusing your wares.

Share what you know about your products, including their provenance, potential uses, and care suggestions, and throw in personal anecdotes about how your grandparents owned something similar.

Nostalgia is a powerful unifier. Do not underestimate the potential to build lasting connections through sharing stories.

Eventually, you will find enough of a groove at your local markets to tide you over until you can get yourself to a dedicated vintage or antique show or, potentially, establish enough of a presence to remove the need to travel for sales altogether (and maybe just attend vintage fairs for the fun of it!).

Just remember to stand out as a seller because of your unique style, your customer service, and your quality items — not because you don’t belong.

Krista Montelpare is a freelance writer based in Nova Scotia and the founder of vintage shop Cellary.

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