Flea Market Preparation: Your Ultimate Guide

For serious shoppers, flea market preparation is essential for finding a great deal (and not just on some cat crochet wall art you shouldn’t hang up anyway). To get the inside scoop, we caught up with Nicolas Martin, founder and editor of Flea Market Insiders, to learn how to prep for a flea market like a pro.

1. Whats one flea market planning step many shoppers overlook?

We’re familiar with tips like dress down, wear comfy shoes and bring cash; however, one often-overlooked step for flea market preparation is to get a good night’s sleep.

Remember the saying “the early bird gets the worm?” If you don’t need a flashlight when you arrive, you’re probably too late. The good stuff goes fast. It’s important to be on-site at least two hours before the official opening hour. Showing up when vendors are still unpacking increases your chances of making a satisfying purchase.

2. Anysecret weapons’ for flea market preparation?

  • Know your flea market. Maintaining good relationships with merchants can mean getting a sneak preview on his wares and securing a great price. If you’re not familiar with the flea market you’re visiting, do a quick tour first for an overview before browsing a stall in detail.
  • Educate yourself. Most flea market merchants started their careers out of passion for antiques, vintage and history. Even if you don’t turn your passion into your business, being knowledgeable about something will be profitable to you. This “something” can be furniture, militaria, crockery, industrial design, designer clothes, vintage accessories, paintings, photography — you name it.
  • Use technology. Technology gives you the scoop on an item that’s worth its asking price. Believe it or not, eBay can be a pretty good representation of an item’s resale price. Just Googling a brand, reference, serial number or the picture of an item yields a lot of information that helps you during the negotiation process.
  • Stay open-minded when shopping. If you show up with too specific an idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll preoccupy yourself looking for this item — missing other great finds as a result. Instead, try to picture what a product would look like out of its flea market context. I’ve missed a few opportunities, realizing later how great the object would’ve looked in my apartment.
  • When you find it, keep it. I’ve even seen people go crazy and take things from other people’s hands! When you find something you’re interested in, grab it, hold it firmly and do not let go.

3. Is it worth camping out?

Once or twice a year this is OK. Everyone serious about getting the best deals has done it. Of course camping out at a flea market should be done if the offerings are really worth it, like if it’s only happening a few times per year, or if traveling there requires more than an hour drive.

4. What should one bring when camping out?

  • An easy-to-fold tent (so you don’t lose time folding it in the morning)
  • An inflatable mattress
  • Two pairs of earplugs. Why two pairs? Because it’s easy to lose one earplug, and when not used in pairs, they’re pretty useless.

5. Is it beneficial to get a floor plan beforehand?

Since many flea markets have their floor plans available online, take five minutes to get familiar with it. If you can’t get one beforehand, that’s OK. Just turn left when you first enter the space. Most people are right-handed and automatically go right, ignoring great material in the opposite direction. Also, stroll the flea market up and down. You tend to see familiar things differently — and new things for the first time — from two different perspectives.

6. What’s been the most challenging flea market to prepare for?

Challenging flea markets are generally those for which I have a more precise agenda of things I want to buy there. Since I operate on a tight schedule, I need to get things well-organized, so getting a floor plan beforehand is a must. This allows me to know where to head first and how much time I can afford to spend at each spot. Think of it like how a ballet dancer knows her next step.

The most challenging flea markets to prepare for are generally those which take place once or twice a year. Because they’re highly desirable events, they gather thousands of merchants and tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of shoppers. Therefore, getting things right before heading there is of paramount importance: You need to be the first on-site, shop fast (but efficiently and smartly) and be way “downstream” (i.e. — away from the entrance) of the flea market booths before the rest of the hoard flocks to the premises.

Thank you for subscribing!

Never miss a post with tips, inspiration and insights sent straight to your inbox.
Never miss a post with tips, inspiration and insights sent straight to your inbox.