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Tips for selling at the Rose Bowl Flea Market

Selling at the Rose Bowl has been a goal of mine ever since I started this business, and this year I promised myself I would make it happen. But as I tried to research suggestions for first-time vendors at the Rose Bowl, I realized the only articles I found online were for first-time shoppers! So after this weekend, I decided to make my own guide of things I wish I knew going into this weekend as a vendor.

The first thing ANYONE needs to know, is that the Rose Bowl Flea Market is the biggest flea market in North America. Spanning the two parking lots outside of the historic Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, it's very easy to get overwhelmed just by the sheer amount of vendors that are packed into that space. There are literally hundreds of booths to shop from. Pasadena is off the 134 Highway, and is typically pretty warm. And in addition to all this, the Flea Market opens at 5am for early shoppers. 

Tips on what to bring for yourself:

  • COMFORTABLE SHOES. I cannot stress this enough. Fuck being fashionable right now, we need sneakers. 
  • SNACKS. For us we brought a few frozen Smuckers Uncrustables (they were thawed by the time we were done setting up), some pre-made sandwiches from home, and some granola bars. There is a really good breakfast burrito truck serving up grub but that certainly won't last you all day, and you never know if you'll have enough time to go stand in line, walk it all the way back, and eat it. And don't forget the water!
  • Some sort of caffeinated beverage. We brought along some canned La Columbe iced oatmilk lattes and those SAVED me. (You can find them at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target, etc.) There is a coffee stand available, but again, this place is huge and who really wants to stand around in line?
  • A change of clothes! The weather in that place can be a little unpredictable, if you show up in jeans chances are you'll be sweating by noon and wishing you had your own pair of shorts to change into.
  • Your own first aid kit. For me, being in super hot weather makes me vulnerable to migraines. I was in desperate need of some ibuprofen all day, but like an idiot I didn't pack any. Although there is a first aid office on site, it was right in the middle of all the chaos and I just didn't want to deal. Also you never know if you're going to need bandaids (think blisters, getting cut with something during setup, etc).
  • SUNSCREEN. And a hat. This just speaks for itself. 

Now, to the most helpful part of this blog post - what to bring for your business:

  • An EZ-up. The Rose Bowl is one of those markets that leaves it up to the vendors on whether or not they want to bring one of these, but basically if you do not bring one, plan on being fucking miserable. 
  • PRINTED QR CODES. It is super easy to print a QR code for your Venmo/PayPal account, and it was a game changer for us. We didn't need to pull up any information on our phone, we just handed it to our customers and they scanned it. Easy. Fast. Simple. You could even make it cute and frame them.
  • A CASH BANK. Some buyers only carry cash on them, and it's super important to have a bank of 5's and 1's to give back in change. My suggestion is to have around $100 as a bank. And keep it somewhere secure. 
  • Business cards! The first few hours of the day were super slow for us, so I decided to walk around, find vendors that sold similar products, and introduce myself. Sometimes these events are more about the connections you make than the money, and it definitely paid off. It's a smart business move to shake hands with someone that might be able to help you out in the future! 
  • STRATEGY. For us, we knew we needed a range of prices, but something I wish I had known is that shoppers need to know what the prices are RIGHT AWAY. They do not want to spend time looking at every single tag on all of your products. You need to be able to say, "this rack is $10, this rack is $20...", etc. The shoppers at Rose Bowl flea are used to bargaining, haggling, wheelin' and dealin'. Separate your inventory before hand to make it easier for shoppers to decide how they want to spend their money.
  • This is just a piece of advice, not anything physical that you should bring. Honestly, don't worry about getting there super early unless you have more than one booth. We got there right at 5am, and although I was glad to be set up before 7, it didn't really make a difference. The market didn't pick up until after 9, which is when the general ticket holders are allowed to enter. And even then, we didn't get a rush until around 1030-11am. Although you do need to be checked in by 630am, don't stress on being one of the first ones there unless your inventory is going to occupy multiple spots. 
  • MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS! I would say this is the most important. If I'm being completely honest, the way this place is hyped up makes you think you'll be raking in the cash. But sometimes that's just not the reality. Understand that many of the vendors are selling the exact same thing as you, and if your products are too expensive, there are ten other vendors offering similar items for less, and shoppers know this. The goal for the day should be at least to break even. We paid $135 for our 20x20 booth, and we made more than that. So it was a win in my book. 

Overall, I'm glad we took the risk and made the trip down! I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day because it was a ton of work, but I feel like it paid off because we learned a lot. We will probably be returning, but after the hot summer months are over! This mama doesn't like to sweat.

Hope y'all found this helpful! Happy Monday,

Dani

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