If you’re looking for unique gifts, you might want to consider doing your holiday shopping at a flea market.
According to the National Flea Market Association, there are more than 1,100 flea markets in America that are visited by over 150 million customers each year. Their site includes directory links. A Google search will also bring up various flea market directories And these days most will have a website, such as Brooklyn Flea in New York.
Since shopping at a flea market can be overwhelming, especially the large ones like the Rose Bowl Flea Market in LA, which has more than 2,500 vendors, have a plan. First, check out what’s there before really shopping. “Do a quick walk-through of the whole market before purchasing. You may find that one vendor has better deals on similar items,” interior decorator and frequent flea market shopper Kristie Barnett explains to us.
Next, you need to have an idea of the value of items in order to bargain. If you’re looking for vintage items, you also have to be able to distinguish between real vintage clothing items and knockoffs or fakes. “If you are shopping for a specific item, say McCoy pottery, a quick Google search will tell you what to look for,” says Barnett.
Talk the Talk
When bargaining, don’t talk a lot or show interest. “Flea market vendors expect a little haggling and build that into their price, but don’t insult them with low-ball offers,” Barnett points out. “Ask them what their ‘best price’ is for an item, or ask them if they’d give you a discount for purchasing several items.”
“You will always get the best possible price towards the end of the sale, as vendors don’t want to pack up anymore than they have to,” she adds. And take with you only the amount of money you want to spend, this way you won´t go overboard—and you will be more aggressive when bargaining down prices.
And use your mobile phone as you would if you were shopping at the mall. “If you have a smartphone, bring it to do on the spot research. You can even show sellers what you’ve found if their pricing is not competitive,” recommends Cristin Frank, founder of The Eve of Reduction and author of the upcoming book Living Simple, Free and Happy (Betterway Home Books, March 2013).
Believe it or not the best time to visit flea markets, which tend to be outdoors, is when it’s cold, making the holidays the perfect time for a bit of flea market browsing. So bundle up and hit the tables. According to The New York Times, there may be fewer vendors on bad weather days but there will also be fewer shoppers, meaning vendors will be more willing to cut you a great deal.
To further discuss ways to save money around the holidays, or any time of year, visit the Madame Noire Business Facebook page on Wednesday at 3pm for our chat with the Double Saving Divas.