Depending on your business, you will need various equipment and supplies for your markets and shows. Your equipment and supply needs will change based on the type of product you are selling and how you want your display to look.
For example, suppose you are a high-end jewelry maker and want your jewelry to shine in your display. You will need tables to set your display on, the display itself and lighting to highlight your collection. Compare this to a tree farmer who probably doesn’t need to set the young trees on a table, but instead can arrange them in his space.
Equipment and supplies start with the actual physical booth that you will set up, to how you want to display your products, how you are going to package your products as well as the miscellaneous stuff that you will find you will need.
Before spending a great deal of money on a bunch of equipment, make sure that you research the markets that you intend on going to. Many markets may have specific requirements regarding the types of tents and their size, tables and other elements that may affect your pocket book.
Monica and I had recently replaced our table cloths for our display from burgundy colored table cloths to black table cloths. About 3 weeks after this change we were getting ready for a huge show – the biggest one yet. This show, however, required fire-resistant table cloths and proof of certification of fire resistance needed to be provided or we would be asked to leave.
Of course, that meant that we had to go buy another set of table cloths that met this requirement. Had we known about this requirement up front (or that this form of certification even existed) then we could have saved a few dollars and bought the fire resistant table cloths at the outset.
What was really irritating though, is that this requirement was lifted the day of the show. Not that it mattered at that point anyways. This is the kind of frustration that you will run into. Get used to it. It happens often.
The beginning of your booth will be your tent or canopy that demarcates your temporary store. Be aware that many markets may have specific requirements for the type, color and size of your tent. Make sure you know what you need before you spend the money.
If you become a weekly vendor like we are with multiples markets and shows each week, your booth equipment will be mistreated on a regular basis. It will be set up and torn down regularly, thrown into the back of the truck or car, and be subject to the elements. Do not be tempted to go the cheapest route with your booth equipment. If you do, it will require replacement often and cost you more in the long run.
The tent you purchase should be market-quality. Remember, you aren’t going camping or to a tailgate party with your tent. Most markets accept a 10×10 tent. You typically can’t go wrong with a basic white canopy (the canopy is the fabric that goes over the tent frame). However, you may want to match your canopy color to match your display and packaging.
A tea vendor that we see at markets often has a pink-purple colored canopy because it matches her overall packaging and display. It definitely makes her easy to identify at markets and sets her apart from the other vendors. I don’t know if she has ever run across a market that requires all white canopies and won’t let her in though.
The tent should be very durable and collapsible. Remember, you want to transport this thing in your car or truck so make sure that it will fit. It should also be easy to set up with the resources that you have. If a tent requires 4 people to set it up, it may become a challenge when you are on your own at a new market.
With your tent, make sure that you get sidewalls that go with it. Sidewalls are canvas fabric with strategically located hook and loop straps so you can completely enclose your tent if you want. These sidewalls can come in very handy if a rogue storm comes along threatening your entire inventory.
We got very lucky when we bought our tent. We didn’t know exactly what we needed but had a good idea of what we needed. After doing some comparison shopping on Amazon, we bought a Caravan Canopy Titanshade that is 10×10 feet. With the sidewalls, it was under $250. It’s not the most expensive nor is it the cheapest. After comparing it to other tents that vendor have at markets, I think it is one of the easiest to set up and very durable. It’s been in use for almost three years and still has some mileage left in it after weekly abuse.
One thing you should always, always, always have with you and on your tent are tent weights. Tent weights are exactly that; they are weights to hold down your tent in the wind. Even if you don’t expect it to be a windy day, you never know when a gust might come along and take your tent away. Yes, we have seen that happen on more than one occasion.
Tent weights can be weights that you bought specifically for that purpose, or they can be re-purposed weights of some form. I’ve seen people use weightlifting weights, concrete filled buckets, cinder blocks, and other forms of weights. You should plan for at least 15 pounds of weight on each corner.
When you research weights, you might be tempted to buy a weight bag. Weight bags are canvas bags that you fill with rock or sand. We had these for six months and they did not stand up to the use that we put them through. When your markets are in parking lots with a rough asphalt surface that they constantly rub against, they won’t last long. If you do get weight bags, do not fill them with sand, but with rocks or old chain. Sand will magically make its way through the bag and leak out. I still have sand all over my truck and I haven’t used the weight bags in a long time!
We use concrete filled PVC pipe with a strap attached. When set on the foot of the tent, this works reasonably well. However, I think that weights that are specifically meant to hold down a tent is a better solution than what I have. I’ll probably have to upgrade soon.
Your tables will also be abused on a regular basis so this is another area to not scrimp if you can help it. Your tables should be durable yet easy to transport and set up. In a 10×10 booth, you can easily fit more than one table, but plan your space accordingly. You want to be able to show off your products but still be able for you and your customers to move around.
The tables we use can easily be found at your local Walmart. They are high-impact plastic with metal telescoping legs. They fold easily for transport. If you can’t find them at Walmart or Home Depot or such, try ordering them online from their website and having them shipped to the store. It will save some money on shipping.
We used several 6-foot fold-able tables that we got from Walmart. We recently replaced one of the 6-foot tables for a 4-foot table that extends taller than the others. This not only suits our display better, but adds visual interest as well.
Before buying any table, consider your display carefully. You may not even need a table! A vendor that we have gotten to know well at various shows and markets sells t-shirts that she designs and prints herself. She has gotten to the point where she doesn’t even have a table. Her display consists of a rolling garment rack and a collapsible shelf display.
We will discuss displays in more detail in another post.
Depending on your situation and whether or not you will be doing any night time markets, you may need lighting. When we first started, we were only doing daytime shows. A year later, we added an afternoon market. During the summer time, this wasn’t a problem, but as the year came to a close, it started get darker earlier. So we had to do something about lighting.
Your choice for lighting, if required, is very dependent on your particular situation and preferences. It also depends greatly on whether or not the market that you are going to will be providing electricity. This is an important consideration because many markets and shows charge an extra fee for using their electricity. Sometimes this fee can rival your monthly electricity bill!
When it comes to lighting, we have seen everything from LED USB lights spread around displays to chandeliers as a lighting centerpiece. The lighting you choose can either be there to illuminate your display or even be the center point of a display.
Also keep in mind the reflective properties of your tent canopy. This is another benefit of choosing a white canopy. One of the best night displays that I have seen took advantage of the reflective properties of the tent canopy. By projecting lighting upwards toward the canopy, the light was reflected back down to provide ambient lighting. Combined with task lighting, this combination resulted in a well-lit booth.
We stole our lighting idea from another vendor. For lighting we use basic mechanic’s lights without the hood cover with high-impact LED bulbs. Using this combination, we can set up and tear down very quickly with minimal risk of breaking any bulbs.
We also chose this lighting because of power consideration. Not all of the markets and shows we go to provide electricity. Even the ones that do provide electricity charge a lot for its use. Instead of depending on an electrical power outlet, we purchased a Black & Decker PPRH5B Professional Power Station on Black Friday a couple of years ago when it was on sale. This power supply provides 120-volt AC power that we can plug straight into. We can run our low-power LED lights on a single charge all night long if we have to.
Lighting and power is something that you probably won’t need right away. However, keep it in mind as a future need and look for the things you will need when they are on sale!