When you are at a market, at times it will be bustling with activity and at other times, may be very slow. The days can be long and tiresome. This is even more true if you are dealing with a difficult neighbor in the booth next to you.
A good neighbor can be a great asset during a market and may even become a great friend. The first step in having a good neighbor is to be a good neighbor yourself.
Some of our neighbors at markets have become good friends. We lean on each other for advice, help and commiserating when markets are poor. We help each other by providing product and display feedback as well as telling each other about new markets that they may not know about.
Your market neighbors feel a lot of the same business pains that you do. They are struggling with the financial viability of their business while also trying to balance life, kids and for many of them a regular day job. We have a regular group of vendors that meet on the first Tuesday of the month to provide feedback to each other and discuss new markets that we all may interested in. They are great resources to have even if they are directly competing with your products.
Here are some ways that you can become a good neighbor:
Yes, this is common sense, but when you are busy setting up, common politeness may not be at the forefront of your mind. I know I struggle with this on a regular basis.
Visit their display
Visit your neighbors. See what they have for sale. Take a look at their display to see how they show their products. Provide compliments where appropriate but be careful about coming across as not being sincere.
Stay in your own yard
The space that you have at a market is your space. There is an invisible fence around your booth. Do not encroach upon your neighbors because you probably wouldn’t want them to encroach on you. Just like we all have personal space that varies from individual to individual (mine is measured in yards), be aware of the booth space as well. Don’t let any product display (particularly if you spreading out in front of your booth) to interfere with your neighbors operation.
Strike up a conversation
Its okay to talk to your neighbors as long as they are not busy trying to setup or, even worse, busy with customers. Something as simple as talking about the weather can lead to very deep conversations.
I have a market neighbor that sews. Sewing is not my thing but I really enjoy sitting next to her because the conversation with her can get really deep and insightful. Talking about TV shows, society, religion, and yes, even politics. I wouldn’t recommend these topics for just anyone because it may tax your relationship.
Help thy neighbor
When you see your neighbor struggling, offer help. This may be helping to set up a tent or picking up bags that blew away in the wind. You should offer to watch their booth if they need to run to the facilities. You may offer to pick up a drink or lunch for them when you get yours. You will need help as well so watch out for each other.
If you have tools available, offer them up when they are needed. The same is true for simple things such as paper towels. We try to take a roll of paper towels with us because they are almost always needed to clean up spills.
Be careful offering advice
Market vendors are typically at different phases in their growth. Over time you will see things that a vendor could do differently to improve their display. Your advice may be great but the other vendor may not be in a position to hear your advice. Offer advice when asked or when otherwise appropriate.
At a market that we do on a regular basis, there is a vendor there that has years of experience selling at markets. He is often offering advice to others. He is usually right about his advice, but can be overbearing when offering it. It can be a major turn off.
Don’t be nosy
Some topics are absolutely inappropriate with most other vendors. Some things that are none of your business except maybe with those you are close to include asking:
- How did you do at the last market? This can be rephrased to be “What did you think of the last market?” This leaves the question open ended so they can offer up information that they think is appropriate.
- How much does this cost you?
- What is your markup on price?
- Did you make money last year?
Any money questions should be off limits. Not only are they none of your business, but each of us are different. We sell different products and even if they are similar, we have different strategies so comparing financial data may not even be applicable.
Don’t be a gossip
Over time you will get to know your market neighbors well. While we shouldn’t gossip about neighbors, it can be tempting. I know I struggle with it particularly with the boisterous lady who’s display looks like she is having a yard sale after a hurricane hit.
Over time, your market neighbors will become akin to family. Many of the vendors will come and go over time, but you will get to know them well. Work together with your neighbors and support each other because you can learn and grow together.