View Full Version : questions on selling at flea markets, outdoor markets etc.

Jay Khan
12-20-2009, 4:42 PM
Hi to all, i'm new to the laser engraving side of things but have learnt quite a lot during the past couple of months on these discussion boards. Thank you all for all the information here.

ok, so here are the questions:
1: is it profitable to sell dog tags and pet IDs at a flea market?

2: is it feasible to take my laser machine to an outdoors market (weather allowing) and using it on a electric generator?

3: if i make stuff at home to sell at flea markets( and dont' take my machine), what can should i look into making and selling at flea markets?

I had so many ideas but unfortunately did not write them down so everything is jumbled up in my head now.

4: if i do take my machine to an outdoors market should i create a fume collection filter box for collecting fumes ?

5: final question, has anyone used these machines inside of a Mall, does the material fume cause any hazards inside a shopping mall, if so how to over come the difficulty?

btw, i have a chinese made rabbit brand type of 40w co2 laser machine, water cooled.

Thank you all

Tom Bull
12-20-2009, 4:54 PM
We do OK at a Flea Mart where we have a display of custom work. The customer takes a hang card to the cash register and uses it to buy a certificate that they send to me to do the work. The certificates are under lock and key. You have to keep it simple, there are a lot of folks who don't want to or can't figure it out if it is too complex. We also sell a lot of cash and carry items that are not custom such as Bible verses, 10 commandments, etc.
We have been considering adding the pet tags to our selection. In this case I think I will sell a blank tag with an order blank, 2 envelopes (1 to send to me and 1 for me to send it back to them. I will require they send the original cash resgister receipt (this flea market is pretty upscale and has itemized descriptions of the sales) so shoplifters won't be able to pocket the tag kits.
We would not be able to make a living on it at this time, but we are building a customer base and are getting more than a few repeat customers.
The Flea Market likes it because: 1. we rent a space, 2. they get a per centage of each sale. 3. the customer comes back to pick up the finished work, so that gets them in the door to shop again.:cool:

Jay Khan
12-20-2009, 5:05 PM
Thank you Tom,

From what i understand you're saying that you have display items with other vendors or your own vendor but the workshop is not in the market?

David Fairfield
12-20-2009, 6:31 PM
Dealing in small trinket type stuff I learned one of Murphy's laws-- the cheaper the type of item, the more pain in the butt the type of customer. Never had a problem with a $100 and up sale, but boy oh boy those $20 and under sales are a swamp! I'm not saying you can't make some money, but the amount of time and effort you spend on these little negotiations can be huge.


Joe Pelonio
12-20-2009, 6:47 PM
Indoors or out, you will eventually have complaints and be thrown out when the smell of the fumes are discovered. You would have to buy an air scrubber ($2,000+) to operate in public. I have not seen anyone do a home made one though I suppose it's possible.

Some of us have even had issues with the neighbors and fumes at industrial locations. With your glass tube, the other issue is moving 5the machine frequently, more chance of damage.

Jay Khan
12-20-2009, 7:53 PM
Joe Thanks for the info.

Any ideas as to which egrave-able materials give out little odor?

I know for sure that plastics and wood are heavy on the smell side.

Joe Pelonio
12-20-2009, 8:56 PM
The worst are ABS and the Rowmark Material. I kind of like the sweet smell of acrylic, but all of them smell enough that people will complain. Wait until you try leather!

You can engrave cookies and fruit without bad smell, but that's about it.

Chuck Phillips
12-20-2009, 10:12 PM
Hi Jay, Im a newbie on the board but have been working my local market for some time now. I leave the laser at the shop and sell both cash and carry items and personalized goods. As stated working directly with the end customer on small ticket items can be a pain, but plenty of good can come from it. First is the networking opportunities. Meeting a lot of people in your area and marketing yourself is good for any business. You will also be getting valuable experience running both the business and the laser. With some time the other regular vendors will come to know and trust you, and wholesale opportuities may follow. My largest orders to date have come from contacts I made at the market.

My advice is to look for a high end mini-mall type market. I rent the best spot available, a corner table on the main aisle. Customers place orders with me and pay in advance for personalized goods. They pickup their items the following weekend. If you go that route, its important you be very consistent in your attendance and position at the market. That's not easy during foul weather!

The million dollar question is what to sell! That will depend on your area. Select a market first, and look for something few (if any) people are already doing. It may go rather slow at first (did for me) but the experience and cash flow have been worth every effort.

Rodne Gold
12-20-2009, 10:54 PM
If you transport your laser you will be at huge risk in respect of alignment issue - any bumps can misalign the mirrors etc quite easily and I doubt the glass tube used in these machines will take kindly to transport either.
However , yours is not an expensive machine and considering your small capital investment (seen the rabbit type 40w machines go for $1k) it might not be a bad idea to schlep it around and to try the flea markets.
As to what to sell at flea markets - well it's basically unlimited ...
I can tell you what some of my more successful flea market customers ask me to do for them for sale that seems to work well
1) Coloured perspex jewellery like earrings and necklaces
2) Rude badges that look upmarket (Like a badge in classic copperplate with a crude saying)
3) Sew on denim patches with various messages ...most popular being a bum patch that says "Kiss here"
4) Balsa and other model kits
Lots of other stuff , but thats what my 4 biggest customers buy
By far my biggest customer in respect of flea markets , albeit most of their stuff is spun cast and use my domed decals in rebates cast into the product , is a co that specialises in gay memorabilia , like keytags , badges , promo items etc - they use the rainbow motif and variations thereof.. I live in Cape Town which is one of the cities on the tourist circuit.

Mitchell Andrus
12-21-2009, 9:37 AM
You can engrave cookies and fruit without bad smell, but that's about it.

Fig Newtons are the best.

Tom Bull
12-21-2009, 11:11 AM
Been gone, sorry for slow reply. Our workshop is not at the FleaMart. There are a couple of hundred booths there. We have an endwall right at the entrance with a display of custom work. On the other end of the building exactly opposite of the wall we have a booth with the cash and carry stuff. The idea is to try to catch people's attention, so we used a color theme that ties both locations.
We don't have to man the booth, people pick up the stuff and take it to the cash registers. We do go in every other day or two and tidy up. It is unbelievable how much it can be messed up in just a day. Folks pick stuff up and leave it wherever, they rearrange the displays, etc. It would not work out if we had to drive very far to maintain our displays. I'll get a pic or two and post when I get a chance.