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Starting a Flea Market Business

My name is Jason and I live in Tn. I, like many people, recently lost my job and have begun to try my hand at this liquidation business. I have purchased from Warehouse One in Crossville and visited Lucky-Dollar as well as All Star Wholesalers.

Warehouse One charged me $1,200 for a Rite-Aid pallet! I ‘m still trying to recover from that. When I went to purchase the pallet, they only allowed me to look at the boxes on the top of the pallet. Is that a normal practice? I cant ever do business like that again.

When I got home with the pallet I discovered it was really bad, but I went ahead and sorted, labeled and boxed the products for resale at our local flea market. Now here comes the frustrating part…there was this guy selling a few tables down from me who had clean, sell- able HBA items including Gillette Fusion to Schick Quattro razors!

I’m slowly working through these problem with the philosophy that there is no problem that doesn’t come without a solution. I just have to find the solution. Which leads me to my point, that other guy a the flea market. His product was not full of junk like I received! I am so frustrated because I don’t know where to get product like that from. I asked him a few questions and he told me he gets to hand pick his stuff and that he pays $750 a pallet. Now if only I could hand pick my stuff that would be a start, but all three places I previously mentioned only allow my to look at the boxes at the top of the pallet.

Before answering Jason’s email I asked a few more questions:

Q- Where are you located?
A- Tennessee

Q- How do you intend to resell your liquidation merchandise?

A- I’ve sold around one hundred dollars on ebay and will continue to work on selling more. I also sell at the flea market. Sales were great the first weekend ($400) considering my product was grossly outdated but after that the bottom feel out. I made $150 this past weekend.

Q- How Large is your local flea market:

Our flea market is a well established market in this area and has a volume of around 1000 people a weekend. They are open year around Sat and Sun 8-5, both indoor as well as out door selling.

Jason, thanks for emailing and I appreciate your dedication towards making a living for your family. The liquidation business is tough and I think you can attest based upon your recent experience. I cannot tell you how many pallets and truckloads I have purchased that were either a total loss or required extreme measures to resell. In my situation, back when I started, I knew if I could just find the right source for merchandise…I could become successful. I plugged away spending countless hours online and traveling to visit wholesalers as well as liquidation sources.

There is not a single liquidator out there that will allow you to dig through a pallet prior to purchasing; when I ran our warehouse we had the same policy. Purchasing customer returns and shelf pull can represent a huge risk especially if you are spending limited capital.

I applaud you for talking with that other guy (competitor) at the flea market asking him as many questions as possible. Sometimes investigative work will give way to sources. I know when I have been out and about visiting flea market vendors and closeout retailers, I pay close attention to stock being sold trying to find shipping tags or something that might give away a point of origin. Don’t just stop talking and asking questions; there may be another vendor there at the market who knows this seller. You may be able to prod someone else for his source.

Take a close look at the merchandise he is selling….(1) are there retail price stickers? (2) What store are they from? If you can find the store this merchandise is coming from, sometimes you can visit the actual store within a 100 mile radius of your home and strike up a friendly conversation with a manager there. Ask questions like, “I have always wondered where you guys send the stock that either does not sell or that has been returned by a consumer?”

I cannot tell you how many times I have done this and received answers like: We box this stuff up and it gets sent to either a liquidator or a reverse logistics company out in ______ . Once you have that location you can investigate further. You can try this with any retailer. Some managers will not have a clue, while others may be very knowledgeable and offer worthwhile information to follow-up on.

Jason, I will be very honest and upfront with you: This is not an easy business to be in, you may be better suited to buy products on a wholesale level where you can pick and chose your inventory- No surprises. I am also questioning this flea market and its attendance; I do not think a thousand people in a weekend is enough traffic. Is there a flea market in another neighboring city that might offer more customers?

I know back when I started I spent a great deal of time traveling to pick pallets of merchandise up. I would hook up a U-haul trailer to my Toyota pickup and drive sometimes 8-10 hours in every direction buying pallets. I met a lot of contacts and was able to develop relationships with many liquidators. I think most honest wholesale liquidators will try and steer you In the right direction as far as what to buy based upon how you intend to resell. You may want to change your direction from HBA products to something else. Maybe something unique where you have little or no competition at your local flea market?

The following companies are fairly close to you and I have personally purchased from all three. I, however, had to have items shipped across the country to my location…you are within a days drive to all three. Now just because I have purchased from the following companies please understand that your success could differ from mine. Liquidation merchandise is like a grab bag so to speak, you never know how many bad apples you might receive with a purchase. When I encountered heavy damages or items that I did not think I could resell, often I had to liquidate those items sometimes at my cost (or slightly bellow) just to recoup money for new inventory.

I would start out viewing each website and then call each company to discuss what they have in stock and what they can offer. If you decide to make a trip to visit, tell them you are looking for a supplier ongoing for your business. Ask them if they could somehow offer a discount for a first purchase as you will be traveling far to interview their operation and make a purchase. Never hurts to ask, huh?

  1. 685 miles away from you (about 10 hours by car) is a company called Discount Wholesalers. They have a large selection of HBA on their website.
  1. 485 miles away from you (about 8 hours by car) is a company called American Merchandise Liquidators; they have a contract with Shopko for general merchandise pallets.
  1. 504 Miles away from you (about 7 hours by car) is a company called Countryside Closeouts; they have several liquidation contracts with catalog companies. They have sold what they call an auctioneer pallet for several years now. A pallet will run about $299.00 and can be a mix of merchandise like housewares, kitchenware and small electronics.

Jason, please keep me posted as to your success. I am glad you found our blog and certainly look forward to talking with you again!

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1 comment to Starting a Flea Market Business

  • karen

    Hi, I would like to know if you know of any wholesale salvage food and health and beauty aides in the Pittsburgh,Pa area or 350 miles radius. Thankyou, Karen

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