Improve Cash Flow: Sell Books at a Market or Antique Fair

Retrorocket is primarily an online business selling second-hand books and collectables.

My fair ladyThe business plan contained the idea of a market stall to improve cash flow and in October I implemented this part of the plan. If you are setting up a market stall for the same reasons I am: to get some fresh air, network, promote business, improve cash flow and freshen the stock then I highly recommend it.
Bearing in mind every market and business is different: here is a how-to on setting up a market stall according to Retrorocket!

Pre-setup / Strategy

  • Reconnoitre the market you plan to attend (look at competition, compare prices, stall displays)
  • Get organizers’ contact details and book a table
  • Decide whether to have market and online stock or lump it all in together (I separate them)
  • Have shade (especially in Australian summer) – buy an umbrella or other portable shade
  • As many tables as is logical (if not limited by cost / market rules)
  • Cashbox / bum-bag / apron pocket for sales
  • Start with a float and pay for table upfront where possible
  • Buy labels that don’t damage the stock (I use Esselte)
  • Cash up at end of day (somewhere private)
  • Trial it for at least a month so you can gauge patterns of spending / what sells, best days for your stall etc.

Day / night before and on the day of market

  • Clean and clearly price all items beforehand, on-the-fly or at least price the boxes they are displayed in
  • If you want to move the stock asap and make money: be prepared to negotiate final selling price (be aware of cost of goods sold so you don’t make an unintentional loss)
  • Choose your books and items for the market you are selling to: as on the internet specialised books are harder to sell but you get a ‘better’ price e.g. Craft books and household bric-a-brac and modern kitchenalia also sell well. Furthermore, Manchester is popular with women, gadgets popular with (most) men and most books sell surprisingly well.
  • Research books and other items you are unsure of before market day – I now price / separate as I go (Online/Offline).

Ethics / Selling guidelines

  • This is a mainstream market: down-to-earth people, everyday items, reasonable prices not a specialist fair
  • Give people the opportunity to look without pouncing (I assume most shop owners know this – I don’t have a shop yet and consider this my mini shop)
  • Offer people the chance to bring goods back the next week / fortnight depending on the goods e.g. DVDs: I see the market stall as an extension of Retrorocket and I do not want people to find a fault with something and feel they cannot return it (This is a personal opinion and there are at least two schools of thought on it)
  • I see many stall holders browsing: try very hard to keep the cash for the business and not look at other stalls too often (maybe every couple of months explicitly as a buyer)
  • All monies made less cost of stall go back into the business

Additional points

  • Drink lots of water, have access to the caffeinated beverage of your choice (if applicable) and use shade/sunscreen in summer
  • Ask a friend, family or staff member to give you at least two ten minute breaks (I am there for four hours excluding setup)
  • Bring business cards and be open to the real space wish list that will ensue
  • Trust takes time and if people like you and / or your stock they will include you in their rounds
  • Some advice from customers can be helpful: one person who is ex-book trade gave me an invaluable tip on databasing that has saved me hours of work
  • Set an amount of time you will spend on the market aspect of the business or it can consume you: many traders just go to all the markets available whereas I was attending one every week which has dropped to every fortnight due to 40 degree Celsius days in Perth summer.
  • As someone who operates primarily online this stall has also allowed me to provide a free local pick up service for books bought online by locals (this has increased sales)

for more information on this market:

Kylie Jakobsen


Retrorocket books and collectables

1 thought on “Improve Cash Flow: Sell Books at a Market or Antique Fair”

  1. I have had many stalls here on markets in England selling antiques and collectables. The best advice i can think of is have a max and min price for your goods. Then make sure you try and get the max but don’t accept less than the min, who know the next person at your stall may have paid the max price for the piece you just let go for less than the min.

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