how to shop a flea market

House & Home

July 30, 2014

Flea markets are fun, exciting and addicting but can be a bit over whelming. it’s important to have a plan, strategy and supplies. Let’s dive in to how to best shop a flea market.
How to shop a flea market: What to bring. 
this can make or break your shopping experience. the most important thing is COMFY SHOES. don’t try to  be the most stylish gal in the field. wear comfy shoes or it could seriously cut your trip short. especially if you are in the market for larger pieces. you should NEVER carry big furniture pieces in flip flops (although i think we’re all guilty of it at least once)
How to shop a flea market to find the best deals
dress in layers! a lot of times flea markets start early in the morning and if you are like me, you can shop until late afternoon. i usually like to wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve underneath and capri length jeans. unless it’s july, then i usually wear a sundress because it allows me to keep cool and move around with ease (with my boots or tennis shoes of course). i also bring a hat from time to time depending on the sun.
speaking of sun, wear sunscreen! you don’t realize how quickly you can burn and nobody likes a “flea burn” you walk around with your head tilted down looking at items so your neck and back of your ears burn. no fun. wear sunscreen.
a lot of how you dress is based on weather so be sure you check before you leave.
a few other things to bring are tote bags. a lot of vendors do not have bags just packing material. i usually bring my cart or a few reusable totes so i can take only a few trips to the car instead of every time i buy something.
bring cash! a lot of vendors do not accept checks anymore and there are usually no ATM’s in the facility. i usually bring about $300 if i’m looking for larger items and $100 if i’m shopping for smalls. i bring my checkbook as back up in case i do run out of cash.
How to shop a flea market: Have a Strategy 
there are two different ways to shop. leisure or on a mission.

leisure shopping is great. low pressure. wander around. strategy people are people looking for specific things.

bring a list! it’s easy to forget what you are looking for once you arrive because there is so so so much stuff! i also bring a short list of things i’m looking for. (storage pieces, shelving, display pieces etc).
along with a list of items you are looking for bring measurements! i usually keep a list in my phone of pieces i’m looking for along with the measurements they need to be. that way you are not hauling home a big dresser that isn’t going to fit. etc.
stick to the rows. you’ll miss a bunch of things if you don’t stick to a particular path! a lot of markets will offer a map when you pay to get in. use it! (PS if you go to the markets website you can usually find an entrance coupon).
keep a list of where things you buy are located. if i buy a larger piece of furniture and leave to pick it up later. WRITE IT DOWN. write the booth number down along with what it’s next too. I have accidentally left things behind before because i didn’t write it down!
How to Shop a Flea Market:  etiquette. 
this is a big important one. with the rise of popular shows such as “picker sisters” and “american pickers” they have given tips for making deals.
as someone who sells in west Michigan, they are most likely out of their minds when they give these tips. i’m not even kidding.
here is the biggest mistake about negotiating price: assuming that you have to negotiate on the price.
yes it’s fun to haggle and barter but only if the price is worth haggling over.
here are some tips for price negotiations.
be polite. please please please do not walk up and offer a dealer half the price of what it’s listed for.
a lot of television shows and magazines will tell you to do that. i’m telling you, they are not dealers, they are writers and have no idea what goes in to providing items to sell.
imagine if you worked an entire day and your boss said. hey i know that you came in, did what i asked you to do but i actually want to offer you half of what you think you deserve.
you would be insulted right?
when you see an item for sale usually the dealer drove to a sale, picker etc (gas $$) took home the item, cleaned it up (time) fixed it, painted it (more time and $$) and gave up more time to sell and paid for a space (more $$). most items dealers are not making a killing on so offering half price is down right insulting and will most likely get you nowhere. not even a counter offer.
do your research on the items you are after. if you think an item is over priced or priced too high, rather than offering a price. ask the dealer can you do any better? or is this your best price?
this could usually be done on items that are priced OVER $10. if you want a deal on smaller items ($10) try bundling.
Exampling: i found a few small valentines in a box that i thought were so cute. they were priced at $2 each which i thought was a little steep. the gentleman had a big box of them and they didn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the stuff he was selling. i asked him if he could give me a deal on the entire box. sure enough for $15 i walked away with about 50 valentines and he got money. i let him come up with the price though.
it’s ok to haggle but be realistic. if an item is priced fairly and you know it, just pay it! don’t try to get the dealer to lower on a fair price because they most likely know it’s a fair price.
please do not think these picking “reality” shows are reality. they’re not.
How to Shop a Flea Market: Unpacking at Home
my favorite favorite thing to do after a flea market is going home and emptying my car into the yard and looking at all my treasures. it’s just putting them away that i hate. i never liked putting away my toys…..
i hope that this has helped you learn how to shop a flea market a bit more! maybe i’ll see you out in the field!
How to shop a flea market to find pink dishes


How to shop a flea market with red radio flyer wagons


How to shop a flea market to find trunks and suitcases


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. […] you can see my flea market tips here!  after the flea market i got back to work on stripping more paint off of my camper. sigh. this is tough work! it wasn’t as bad as the first layer but still. sucks.  i then planned out my menu for the week and got groceries. while at the downtown market i did try out the new sushi place. called it a late lunch. it was very good and i couldn’t believe the prices! the rolls were only $4-7 with specialty rolls $9-$15. it was delicious and quick. i picked up what i needed for the week and headed home to see joe (who was at “deer camp” all weekend).  i made some cookies, prepped some food items for the week and made us dinner of steak and squash with a hoison sauce and gorgonzola (a totally rip off from one of my favorite restaurants in holland, itty bitty bar) and that was a wrap!  hope you all had an awesome weekend!  […]

Abigail Albers       Author

Abby is a wife and mother, antique shopper, entrepreneur, gardener, sheep lady, sequin enthusiast and your Midwest Martha Stewart Wannabe.. Follow her on instagram @adventuresinabbyland.

Enjoy the latest Posts

find your next favorite post