How Markets Can Evolve in a Digital World – A Roundtable Discussion

Retail is an evolving space, and some have questioned if retail is going away. If it is, how can small businesses stay relevant and draw customers? Recently, BoothBooks participated in a roundtable discussion on retail with renown retail expert Carol Spieckerman hosted by Off-Price (a must for any retailer and merchandiser), an industry leading publication on the retail industry.

Off-Price posed a series of questions on the retail industry that we parsed through and looked at how they apply to Flea Markets and Farmers’ Markets. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: What should small business owners focus on in 2017?

Everyone provided some great answers. There was much talk on staying true to your brand, and optimizing your store experience, as said by IndependentRetailer. “Knowing their brand & 100% committing to it (sic). A clear message seen in store layout, interactions, online…everywhere.”

Markets in particular can easily focus on what makes them “unique” and how they can better stand out from other markets. Perhaps a theme, or just shopping experience. A sentiment echoed by Carol, “Don’t get caught up in every trend and news cycle. Do what’s best for your customers and you’ll do whats right for your business.”

BoothBooks was quick to mention a high focus on data. Data gives you insight into your market: It can let you know who are your most valuable vendors, what days and times are most popular, or which products (or product categories) sell the best. Off-Price agreed, saying “Data & Content and King & Queen. Without data, how will you know what’s working?” Carol Spieckerman even called it a “match made in heaven ; )”.

Q: What can retailers learn from online retailers?

Once again, Carol provided some excellent insight. “Distinctions blurring, tho (sic) digital-to-physical is easiest play. Digital data makes physical forays pop.”

Another consensus was on the user experience in the store. A large reason for shopping online is pure convenience. Physical retailers need to try to increase their level of usability and ease. A great way to do that is to incorporate more technology.

BoothBooks always took this point to heart and worked to make it one of our core competencies. We worked hard to streamline the once laborious process of the vendor checkout. Billing, reports, maps, and more have all been streamlined to focus on speed, reliability, and the user experience.

We’ve also been making more information available to visitors, so they are able to find your market, discover its vendors, and learn what sets you apart. Carol agreed that bringing technology once exclusive to online retailers into the physical space was a crucial task to undertake.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for retail stores in the digital age?

Megan believes that it is “making yourself as accessible and convenient as digital competitors “ That’s similar to Carol’s sentiment, though she believes challenges are more like opportunities. “Nail customer experience & close sale while shoppers in store. Treat stores as experiential assets +Retail-tainment (sic). Ensure digital discoverability even if no Ecommerce.”

This is hyper-relevant to flea markets and farmers’ markets. Both are inherently sharable. Not only because #ShopLocal and #FreshProduce are popular, but because of the great finds that people love to boast about on social media. It is key to ensure a web presence to gain visibility and attract new shoppers. The same goes for customer experience. If the market looks dirty and uninviting, shoppers won’t return. For markets though, it’s not just shoppers, but vendors as well. You need to focus on their experience, and how they interact with your market.

Q: Who do you follow, or where do you find great insight for market and the retail experience?

There are so many places to get great ideas for small businesses. For markets, we humbly recommend our own BoothBooks blog (LINK) (shameless plug alert!) We here at BoothBooks are huge fans of podcasts, of which there is no shortage.

Carol pointed out a host of different twitter accounts, all of which are hugely popular and insightful. “retailwire I like aggregated perspectives: @wwd @adage @NRF @retailwire For creative thinking: @interviewmag @newyorker”

While its been widely reported that “Retail is Dying”, they couldn’t be more wrong. As Carol says “B&M (brick and mortar) never more relevant+enables digital. Hence clix-to-bricks Warby, Casper, Amazon. Different not ‘dead.’” Let us know your best small business tips down below in the comments, and stay tuned for more tips on how to rock your market.

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

Market Success Stories: Utz

Did you know that Utz is the largest privately owned snack company in America? Yes, the company selling cheese balls by the barrel is held in independent hands, and is determined to stay that way. Utz is a classic, all-American success story that continues to this day. And it all started in a small home, in Hannover, Pennsylvania.

Utz started in 1921 as the “Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips” with nothing more than a $300 investment and some hard work. Each batch of potatoes chips was cooked by hand by Salie Utz. Salie could only produce about 50 pounds of chips per hour, using hand operated equipment. Her husband William would then take those chips, and sell them locally at farmers markets and “mom and pop shops” in the Hanover/Baltimore area.

Utz girl next to the company name.

Word of mouth helped them expand, and just a few years later in 1930, they built the first section of the first Utz plant, an extension on the rear of their home. By 1938, a new plant was built on the very same spot with professional equipment, churning out 300 lbs per hour of their widely popular chips.

1948 held a post-war boom that allowed them to build a new production facility, on 10 acres of land. They never looked back and have been growing ever since. To this day, it is still a privately owned company, currently in the hands of Michael Rice, the grandson of Salie and William Utz.

Utz is popular nationwide, and manufactures1,000,000 lbs of chips and 900,000 lbs of pretzels, each and every week.  It employs over 2,500 people across the country. Even renown businessman Warren Buffet is a fan, but unlike See’s Candies and Dairy Queen, Utz is assuredly not for sale.

Utz is another great example of how hard work and perseverance can pay off. $300 dollars, a home kitchen, and local markets took this couple from obscurity, to the founders of a multi-million dollar operation.

Check out past market success stories! Like Pipcorn and Vegetabowls!

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

Market Success Stories: Vegetabowls

In past Market Success Stories, we’ve looked at well known figures like Pipcorn which reached national fame on Shark Tank. This time we will look a less well known artist, Melanie Mckenney. The creator of Vegetabowls.

Vegetabowls are gorgeous handmade bowls and plates that resemble fruits and veggies. What is now a full time business for her and her husband, started with simple trips to the farmers market.

She got the idea originally while teaching pottery in Boston when she used a cantaloupe to demo plaster mold making and slip casting. She then glazed it like a cantaloupe and when her husband saw it, he told her she should sell them, and call it Vegetabowls!

She soon sought out the best place to discover new fruits and vegetables to cast and found that location at the farmers market. In an interview with Etsy, Melanie described visiting the market. “It’s my favorite place to be inspired and get my creative gears going.” She goes on to talk about meeting all the local producers. “Being able to connect with the person who made a fruit or vegetable, and then taking it home and making something new from it—it just extends the creative process.”

Eventually, the market would also become where she would start selling her handmade creations – and the response was phenomenal. The support and customers from the market would allow her to start working on Vegetabowls full time, and eventually, her husband left grad school to put his time and effort into the business as well.

Now located in Buffalo, New York, Justin and Melanie operate a 2,000 square foot facility. Half of which is used for production and order fulfillment of their online store, the other half acting as a storefront for locals to come and create their own pottery.

In case you were wondering, the best selling piece, it’s a tie. Between the cantaloupe and watermelon. You can learn more about Vegetabowls and their business over at their online storefront.

Be sure to keep coming back for more market success stories, and if you have one of your own, be sure to share it below in the comments.

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

Why Your Market Should Use Social Media

Lets chat about social media. There are endless articles focusing on why small-medium businesses should use social media, but does all of that apply to markets? Whether you run a farmers market, craft show, flea market, or swap meet, lets take a look at the top reasons YOU should be using social media to improve your business.

Vendors Support

Vendors are what drive customers to your market. You want outstanding vendors selling original artwork, the freshest produce, or the largest collection of vintage toys your shoppers have seen. We focus a lot of time on getting customers to come, but equal time should be spent on vendors. They are the ones who are paying to be there.
Using social media, you can drum up vendor support. You can get your market out there, for more vendors to see. If they see you are actively engaged in reaching new customers, they will be more likely to want to exhibit at your market.
On top of that, once you have a audience, you can use that audience to feature different vendors. Get vendors to agree to longer rentals in turn for promoting them on your social accounts. It doesn’t really cost you anything, but can be a benefit to them, and in turn, you. A little good will can go a long way.

More Customers

You already have an existing user base of shoppers who regularly visit your market. You don’t need to advertise at all to those people, as they should already be coming back. Using social media you can reach a new audience. If you are a farmers market and someone near you searches for fresh produce, your Facebook should come up. If you are a flea market and someone searches for vintage records, they should see you posting about that related content on Twitter.
Use content marketing across all these platforms to bring those keywords frequently into your feeds. Then when people search for those words and they are near your market, your content will start to rise to the top. Hashtags away!
Bonus tip! You can leverage your existing shopper and vendor customer base to help post on social. Ask them to post their finds which lets them have a sense of accomplishment, and advertises cool or delicious things real people were able to purchase at your market. Instagram is a great place to feature some of this stuff!

Promote Events

Events are a great way to bring an upswell of guests in a business that operates regularly. People may take breaks in coming to visit, but if you have regular events going on like live music, themes, or pet days, it gives them new reasons to get back in there, and hopefully buying from your vendors. If you just post on your website, you’d be taking a passive approach. People wouldn’t know unless they check out your site. If you try to take a more active approach by sending emails, it now requires you to get as many shoppers emails as possible to put onto an email list, then you need a campaign manger to send out all these emails.
Instead, try social media. Facebook has great tools for promoting events. You can even run ads with them! The idea here is that it is way cheaper to post to social media than send out an email campaign. It is also much easier to get people to follow you on social media than it is to get them to hand over a personal email address. This way you are still taking an active approach, but you are doing it for less, and getting a better response.

Affordable

Social media is really cheap and easy to get started with. There will be inevitable down time for employees, so have them update frequently throughout business days. They can even do it from their phone while they are walking the market. While they are out and about, it gives the great opportunities to see what is happening and capture some great pictures for twitter, Facebook, or instragram. The more stuff you share form your market, the more people may respond to it.
You can also sign up for things like Buffer, Hootsuite, and others for free to help manage social media channels. You shouldn’t have to pick and choose just Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You should be able to hit them all! Plus they have roles which allow you to see which employee is posting what.
Ads are also much more affordable and targetable on social than on larger platforms like google+. Share a post about an upcoming event for just a few dollars a day and you can get many new impressions.

Updates

If you want to update your customers on specific hours, those aforementioned events, or other applications to your business, you need an easy way to do so. If you try to do it through your website, you will a) need a website, and b) have one that is quickly and easily able to update.
Instead of investing all that time, money, and effort into a website, you can start our by using your social channel for these things. They are dead easy to update, even from your phone! Plus, people will check them more regularly than your website. Once your market grows, you can add a website too!

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

5 Ways to Make Money at a Farmers Market

Spring is here! That means farmers markets are popping up all across the country, and with them, the chance to make some extra money. There are many different ways to capitalize on farmers and other outdoor markets so we will just take a look at the top 4 ways.

Sell Great Produce

Ok so this is probably an easy one. I mean… that is the main thing people go to a farmers market for. Fruits and veggies! It does pay however, to differentiate yourself and offer up different ones people don’t always see, as well as making sure to pick the ones that can most lucrative. Since everyone sells lettuce, tomatoes, and potatoes, why not sell a specialty variety? Think fingerling potatoes or cherry tomatoes. Here is a list of great alternative crops that might be useful. That aside, we’ve already covered the best produce to sell, so we will leave you to check out that post for more details.

Bees!

Honey is a great produce to sell at farmers markets. Everyone loves fresh honey and there is some serious change to be made here. While it is a LOT of work, beekeepers can make $40-60k a year depending on their location.

Plus, you don’t have to sell just fresh honey. There are so many honey based products out there. You could have fresh baked goods (honey banana bread!), honey cough syrup, lip balm, or herbal honey mix-ins for tea. Now you really set yourself apart!

Jams & Jellies

You can sell fruit, but people will only pay so much for fresh fruit. With a little bit of extra effort, you can take that fruit and turn it into jam, jelly, marmalades, or spreads. These can garner a much higher price tag, plus if you do a “recycling program” where you have customers return your jars for a discount, you can save some additional money!

IMG_9508

Baked Goods

Why stop at jams and jellies? Or maybe to accompany them! If you like to bake or cook, why not actually make things to sell? Some fresh loaves of bread! Scrumptious desserts! Whatever you are great at, make it! Again it is just a little bit of extra effort that can increase your margins quickly!

Crafts or Used Goods

Now this can depend on the market, but why stop at food or food products? You could sell vintage cookware like cookie cutters, aprons, trays, etc that you can source from flea markets or online.

You could also make pot holders, bag holders, or other simple crafts that can be easy add-on items or gifts. You will find much less competition for these items as well. There are 10 people selling carrots but only one selling kiss the cook crocheted pot holders!

Good Luck!

Here is the last tip – get out there and sale! You can count that tip as a freebie, but it could be the most important! If you aren’t out there, you won’t be selling. So take our list of tips, put your best foot forward, and go make an impression at your local market.

 

Best Produce to Sell at Farmers Markets

If you exhibit (or are looking to exhibit) at a local outdoor or farmers market, you may be wondering what are the best picks to sell. We’ve sourced around to get vendors recomendations for not only what sells the most, but what yields the most profit. Granted, this is definitely going to be location-specific. Some places have specialty fruit or produce that does better in their area, but here are some good staples to get you going.

Tomatoes

Yes. Tomatoes still top as probably the most purchased piece of produce from farmers markets – and for good reason! Grocery store tomatoes often can be poor tasting and grainy. The ones from farmers markets are super fresh, and have so much more flavor. Plus, there are just so many things you can do with them between sauces, salads, pizzas, etc. There is also a huge variety that you can use to help differentiate yourself. If you aren’t sure, cherry tomatoes are a popular option to get started.

Herbs

Herbs are a great money maker. They are widely utilized and taste so much fresher than the dried brethren most people default to. Genovese Basil is a very popular topping that doesn’t have that negative perception of some herbs. (We are looking at you cilantro!) They also go for a bit higher of a price than most produce though they require similar amounts of work, and take up less space.

Potatoes

Who doesn’t love tomatose?! They are a cheap, bulk, utility ingredient. They come in many different varieties like russet, redskin, and fingerling (my favorite!) as well as different colors. You can go with plain potatoes, but picking one of the other variants may give you an edge that lets you stand out, and charge a bit more.

Carrots

Carrots are another popular item because they are one of the most popular vegetables. They are great for kids and adults alike. Plus, they can be eaten as is, chopped into sticks, or cooked with dinner.

Lettuce

Lettuce, like tomatoes, is much better fresh from a farmers market than the grocery store. With the current health trends, salads, and exotic lettucies are all the rage. Hop on the bandwagon with some different varieties to set your stand apart.

Flowers

Sure, they don’t really count as produce, but they are so similar! Grow alongside vegetables to give yourself a non-edible option to sell. They are always great to have aroud to make your booth look good, and are somethign people tend to buy on impulse when they see them in person. Offer more intricate arrangements for higher prices as well.

All of these are proven sellers that sell in quantity, and can earn you the most money. Try these with a mix of local favorites to make your stand the cream of the crop at your local market.

Market Success Stories: Pipcorn

Pipcorn, a name made popular from its appearance on the TV show Shark Tank, has taken the healthy food market by storm. Using a special husk-less piece of corn, when popped it makes a smaller, tasty version of popcorn. But did you know, this grocery store juggernaught started from a simple New York outdoor food market?

Welcome to Market Success Stories. An individual look at a successful company or entrepreneur that started from a simple market and made it big. 

Pipcorn market stand
Source: http://bit.ly/2pPsDRO

Pipcorn was started from the brother and sister team of Jen and Jeff Martin. A farmer gave Jen some special corn that he grew, and she asked Jeff to try and make popcorn out of it. He did and they tasted a great new type of popcorn that has a special super thin hull that won’t get stuck in your teeth, and is about half the size of regular popcorn pieces.

Soon after they started packaging and selling the first product of Pipsnacks, Pipcorn at a local outdoor food market in New York. This was a great place to get exposure for their produce and have many new people try it. Turns out that was a great choice and helped them get to where they are today.

Not long after launching, they appear on Shark Tank, seeking $200,000 for 20%. Barbara and Robert both gave them offers, but her close proximity to their office and her experience with food helped seal the deal as their ideal partner.

Since their early days appearing in farmers markets, they’ve been named one of Oprah’s favorite things twice, revisited on Shark Tank, gotten into numerous brick and mortar stores, as well as selling strongly online.

In fact, by embracing technology, they have been able to increase their operations nationally, and hugely increased their online sales both on their website, as well as Amazon.

Pipcorn is just another example of a company that got their start from a simple farmers or flea market. What started with some random corn kernels, took 2 years to be the Pipcorn people now know and love.