How to Successfully Sell at Farmers Markets (And Why They’re Perfect for Small Businesses!)
For many small food businesses, opening a booth at a farmers market is a cost-effective first step into the world of retail. But to make it a successful experience preparation is key. Here is a quick guide to help your time at the farmers market run smoothly.
Whether it’s your first farmers market or your twenty-first, making sure you know what to expect can help your selling experience run smoothly. The types of products you can sell, the permits you may need, and the product-specific manufacturing requirements can change from place to place. So before you sign up to be a vendor, make sure to look up the regulations for the market you’re attending, as well as any pertinent city or state rules.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind before signing up to become a vendor.
Depending on your local farmers market, booths might be rented out on a weekly basis or may require a longer commitment (some markets require a guarantee of up to 6 months). Booth fees are generally charged per day and can range anywhere from $20 to $50, or more.
While the fees can add up over time, selling at farmers markets offers is still a highly cost-effective option for businesses of any size. For small brands without a marketing strategy, farmers markets provide steady streams of potential customers. And for more established companies, they offer the opportunity to test out new products on a smaller scale without high upfront costs.
Where are the goods manufactured?
Before you sell your food products, make sure you comply with your local cottage law. Cottage laws (which vary between states), allow small manufacturers and home-based businesses to use their home appliances to make “low-risk” foods on a small scale. Low-risk foods have a lesser chance of transmitting foodborne illnesses, and typically do not need refrigeration (such as bread, cookies, granola, etc.). Here’s an excellent reference from Forrager to quickly find your local cottage laws.
Know what you need
Does your booth require electricity or water? Do you need a larger space than the one provided? Before signing up for a market, check to see if the coordinators can accommodate any special requests to limit any future problems.
Get the proper permits
Temporary food permits are a requirement for anyone wanting to sell premade food to the public. Depending on your state (or even county), the types of permits, and the length they are good for may vary. Just like with the cottage laws it’s a good idea to check beforehand to find out what permits you might need, and how long it will take to get it.
Stand out from the crowd
When it comes to running a successful booth at the farmer’s market, your setup can have a significant impact on your sales. Many customers browse the market before buying, so it’s important to set yourself apart from competitors. To draw customers to your table, pay close attention to how your products are displayed.
Here are some important things to consider when setting up your booth.
Make your booth easy to identify. Whether you have an established business or you’re in the midst of starting your brand, getting your name out to the public is an important step. You don’t just want customers to remember your products; you want them to remember your brand. Displaying your company name with large, clear signs will make it easier for customers to find you in the future, whether at the market or in retail stores.
Especially at farmer’s markets, customers are more likely to shop with their eyes first and buy later. Using a clean, open design for your booth will help to highlight your wares and give off a professional vibe. To make the most of your booth, opt for bright, solid colors and clear, easy-to-read signs.
Also, Using shelves or baskets to create height and dimension can make your booth appear more abundant (and more appealing) to passerby. Customers tend to be drawn to booths that seem to have more products. As the old retail saying goes, “pile it high and watch it fly.”
Samples are the perfect way to not only bring customers to your booth but give the customer a chance to try your products before buying (which could lead to them buying more!). For small companies on a tight budget, consider keeping samples covered and offer them if someone asks to avoid giving away too much free food.
You will also want to make sure to check with your local government to find out more about samples regulations, before implementing them in your booth setup. Some locations may require samples to be provided as single servings (like those served on plates, cups, toothpicks, etc.), or will have specific instructions about how to store certain types of samples (such as cut produce stored on ice).
Price to Sell
How to price your products
Making money at a farmers market is exciting for any small business. But to make it worth your time, take into consideration the cost that goes into making your products. Using a guide to figure out your cost of goods sold (like this awesome one from Gredio), will help you figure out a fair price, while still making a profit.
Don’t devalue your products
You may not be in a traditional retail setting, but that doesn’t mean you should be charging less (or even the same) than a grocery store. People tend to come to farmer’s markets for high-quality, hand-crafted foods and products that they can’t get from regular retail stores, so price accordingly.
How to accept payments
Today, more and more customers tend to carry credit and debit cards, rather than cash. Accepting cards could be a valuable boost to your business, and help make sure you don’t miss out on any potential sales.
Pay attention to taxes
You may be selling at a farmer’s market, but all purchases are still subject to sales tax, no matter if it’s a cash or card transaction. Whether you are providing customers with receipts or just keeping track of transactions for your records, keeping an accurate account of your income will make everything easier come tax season.