8 Tips for Tackling Flea Markets Like A Pro
Brittany Cobb knows her way around a flea market. The 33-year-old is the founder of Flea Style, a curated quarterly flea market pop-up in Dallas and Houston that offers vintage, handmade, and one-of-a-kind lifestyle wares from 350-plus vendors. When away from her desk, the self-proclaimed flea market junkie scours souks around the globe from Marrakech to her hometown in Southern California, all to provide gorgeous and meaningful home decor for the masses. We sat down with Brittany to pick her brain for the best tips and tricks for visiting flea markets so you can shop like a pro and find the perfect item to add to your home!
1. Dress appropriately.
You’re attending a flea market, not out for a date. So dress like it! Prices are almost always negotiable, but vendors will be less likely to haggle if you look like you don’t need a discount (consider leaving flashy wedding rings at home, too). Other good things to consider: hats, comfy flat shoes, and a hands-free bag (a cross-body or backpack is a smart choice).
2. Bring cash.
Most markets—especially the ones with good bargains in the great outdoors—only accept cash so don’t get taken for a ride at the local ATM with spiked fees. It's easier to negotiate with a wad of cash in your pocket versus a credit card that makes small businesses swallow annoying fees. Also, consider bringing a variety of bills because vendors might not have enough change to break a $20 for a $2 ring.
Source: Huis Mindy
3. Go in with a game plan (and an open mind).
It’s a good idea to think ahead about what you’d like to bring home. A game plan allows you to be less overwhelmed by the sea of choices ahead (some flea markets have 1000 plus vendors!). That said, don’t be so laser focused that you pass up a fabulous chair just because it’s not on your checklist.
4. Bring wheels, if possible.
A wagon or folding utility cart is your best shopping companion for big shows. They save you time traveling back and forth to your car, and also allow you to not miss out on deals—the ones that you would have skip because you don’t have the right towing tools. Tip: If you’re out of town and don’t want to buy a cart, many shows rent them.
5. Wear layers.
Many markets start at the crack of dawn when it’s cold but warm up by midday (especially coastal-state shows) so bring a light jacket or sweater that can tie around your waist by lunch. If you are on the hunt for vintage clothing, wear tight fitting clothes or a slip to easily try on threads—dressing rooms are few and far between at most flea markets.
Source: Emily Henderson
6. Don’t be afraid of shipping.
If I avoided items that didn’t fit in my suitcase, my home and closet would be far less interesting. Most flea markets buys are priced much below market value, so the cost of shipping is still a better deal than a piece from a big box store. Besides, items from flea markets are often one-of-a-kind that you won't find again!
7. Fuel up.
Eat something before you arrive so you have plenty of energy to tackle the market (some are hundreds of acres). Pack snacks and water to keep your stamina up. Tip: Bathrooms are a luxury and often a hike from the main areas.
8. You can bargain, but be kind.
Don’t be intimidated to negotiate with vendors when appropriate (most markets will denote vendors that are priced as marked). A good rule of thumb is to ask for a discount of 15-20 percent and hope to land at 10 percent off. And if a vendor doesn’t have wiggle room on an item, don’t push it. Their goal is to make a sale but they also have expenses to consider (cost of goods, gas, lodging, booth rental, childcare, etc.). Remember, at the end of the day, you’re supporting a small business and the local community with every flea market purchase—and that makes the item you covet priceless and worth every penny.