NOTE: Revised morning of 4/7/13.
Not unlike Upper Darby High School, several different organizations run flea markets at Delaware County Community College (DCCC). However, a warning to prospective vendors and shoppers: unlike Upper Darby High School, do not assume that all DCCC flea markets are created equal. They are not. This review is only for Town Talk’s Delaware County Community College Flea Markets.
Town Talk’s DCCC Flea Market’s Specs
I always say and I believe I have written here before that, as a vendor, all I ask of any flea market organizer is to deliver the crowds and I will take it from there. Then, whether I prosper or falter becomes totally my responsibility. Well, Town Talk knows how to deliver crowds. Being that they are, first and foremost, a consortium of five or six newspapers, they certainly have the forum to get the word out to a large potential customer base. In addition, they’ve been running flea markets for many years so experience is also on their side.
Town Talk normally holds four flea markets at the Delaware County Community College campus each year. Two in the spring and two in the late summer and fall. Spaces are huge, the largest I’ve ever seen at a flea market, with each one comprised of three whole parking spaces. I always tend to bring a lot of merchandise and the last time I was there, I was able to split a space with a friend. She also has a lot of merchandise and we both had plenty of room. (Vendors can park their vehicles in their spaces or unload and park in another lot on the campus.)
One other important thing worth mentioning is that Town Talk has no restrictions on what vendors can sell so there is always a diverse mix of all types of merchandise. Anything from new pots and pans to antiques can be found there.
What Type of Flea Market?
Normally, I try to designate flea markets as either seller’s or buyer’s markets. I explain in my glossary that these are admittedly loose classifications since no flea market is overwhelmingly one or the other. However, I believe, most of the time, I can accurately gauge any flea market’s overall tendencies. Some are more difficult to call and a rare few are exceptional in that they seem nearly impossible to categorize.
Town Talk’s Delaware County Community College is one of those exceptions. Therefore, rather than try, I will simply explain what I witnessed on my last trip there as a vendor and let you decide for yourselves.
A Tale of Three Flea Market Vendors
The date was Sunday, August 26, 2012. It was hot but not exceedingly so. As I mentioned earlier, I reserved one space that I shared with a friend of mine and her daughter. My space was at the end of our row and my friend chose to set up on its right half (if you were facing the space).
She and her daughter sell a mixed-bag of merchandise. Mother is a generalist who has been selling online and at flea markets for many years. Though she has carried several different genres of merchandise over the years, she has always focused on old stuff, both vintage and antique. In the past five years, she has been (sort of) specializing in vintage costume jewelry but still buys anything that is old and she feels she can sell for a profit. Her daughter specializes in newer costume jewelry and designer clothing and handbags.
I also sell online but do not buy as much merchandise as my friend and her daughter so my inventory on that day was not very impressive. A little more than half my stock was obscure books that I was trying to “blowout” for a dollar each. These books either didn’t sell online or were not worth listing in the first place. I also had a few vintage items and collectibles including quite a bit of vintage restaurant ware and some new items I had experimented with last year. Belt buckles, perfumes, etc. Basically, I was in culling mode.
On my other side, to the left, was another mother and daughter team who rented two spaces. These ladies struck me as savvy and experienced flea marketers but not necessarily professionals or even semi-professionals. They seemed very familiar with the Delaware County Community College Flea Markets and others in the area. They had a pickup truck with a farm trailer attached and both were filled with an enormous amount of merchandise. Everything from soup to nuts but with lots of books (especially children’s books), household and kitchen items, some old and vintage stuff, and much more. All of their merchandise was used, and, they were selling it dirt cheap.
(At one point, I overheard the daughter say to her mother that she was putting the expensive books in such-and-such a place. A few of these books caught my eye so I asked the the prices. The daughter, almost apologetically, informed me that their “expensive” books were two dollars each. I immediately stopped what I was doing and practically ran to where these books were displayed. I purchased a few and at least one I sold online for a decent profit. The rest I eventually sold at other flea markets for substantially more than two dollars.)
Okay, so there you have the background information, now for the results.
My gross for that day at Delaware County Community College Flea Market was $249.00. Certainly not great but not terrible and at least I made a profit. Although I was hoping to do much more, I was not surprised at my mediocre showing since, as I said, my merchandise was not very fresh, nor was it top-shelf. My book blowout was a failure for two reasons: 1) the books I had were, for the most part, old (not antiquarian, just outdated) and too obscure for the average flea market crowd; and 2) my next door neighbors had more mainstream and much more desirable, flea market books for twenty-five cents each–one quarter of my average price.
Some of my other merchandise, however, was a bit more desirable and I was able to make some money there. I sold some new belt buckles and several nice-quality, knockoff perfumes. I had a brand-new, authentic, men’s designer perfume sampler that sold to a young hipster-type for $15.00. (I paid five dollars for it at a flea market the week before.) I also sold a twelve-piece, demitasse/espresso set for $15.00. It consisted of six cups and six saucers with each set a different pastel color. I paid three dollars for it at a thrift shop a few weeks earlier and it sold to a neatly-dressed, sixty-something, grandmother type. As soon as I said the price, the women whipped out the money with no haggling. This is not surprising since it was later in the day when most dealers had moved on and the end-users were making their rounds.
As for the vendors on my left, at the end of the day I struck up a brief conversation with the daughter half of the team. During our talk, she excitedly announced that they “made” (grossed, I assume) $600. Considering their low prices, that is a very impressive number. They had to make an enormous amount of sales. This could only happen at a flea market that attracted large enough crowds to support that kind of sales volume.
Now for my friend. She and her daughter did extremely well and, as flea markets go, I would call their sales performance phenomenal. They never told me an exact final figure but a few hours into the flea market, my friend told me that they had already done a thousand dollars in gross sales. (It was still early in the morning and, by that time, most vendors had not even broken even.) And, they had many, many sales after that. Their jewelry, their vintage merchandise, and their UGG boots were the most popular items but mainly it was the jewelry. It was not displayed professionally or neatly; nor, was it individually priced. They just dumped it onto one of their tables and the feeding frenzy began.
Customers searched frantically and hoarded what they wanted. When they were finished, they would call my friend over and she would quickly inspect their pile and quote a price. For hours, all I heard was “I’ll take 80 for that. One of those pins is signed.” Or “just give me 45.” And “I gotta get 150 for that.You have some great stuff there.” The sales rang up at a fantastic rate. In fact, they were doing so well that halfway through the flea market they lost interest and were ready to go home. Basically, they became bored as sales trickled to normal pace.
My guess is that they grossed between $2,000 and $2,500 for the day.
Selling Outside the Box at DCCC
There are several reasons why my friend and her daughter did so well on that day at Delaware Community College Flea Market. I don’t have the time to fully explain it here and, in addition, properly explaining it would require getting more into their business than I am comfortable doing. They were certainly at the right flea market at the right time and with lots of the right kind of merchandise. Some might even say they got a little lucky. I, however, believe that the main reason they did so well is that, on that day, in the middle of a large, well-established, suburban flea market, not one other vendor had the type of merchandise that my friend and her daughter had. A customer of theirs, a tall, fairly young, stylishly-dressed woman, explained it best. After wandering around their space for several minutes, she smiled and practically yelled to my friend: “God, your stuff is so much fun!”
So there you have the Tale of Three Vendors at Town Talk’s DCCC Flea Market. One vendor did so-so (me, unfortunately), one vendor team did very well, and another did extremely well. I guess the lesson is that large, well-advertised flea markets, not only deliver large crowds but deliver diverse ones as well. As for my friend and her daughter, although they would have a very difficult time duplicating that day’s performance, they still proved that selling unpriced, funky, junky, jewelry dumped onto a table at a flea market in the seemingly conservative town of Media, Pennsylvania, can be a very good idea. And, what flea market vendor can’t use a good idea?
Stay funky, my friends!