Bulk Items To Sell At Flea Markets – Learn To Source From An Expert: The 2023 Liquidators Guide is a comprehensive step-by-step guide that provides the answers you’ve been looking for including sources for sellers of lots, pallets and trucks!
Question: I have been fortunate enough to make a living selling at flea markets here in San Jose, California. My business is run by my family and every Saturday and Sunday we sell at two different markets. Our inventory consists of used clothes that have been purchased by my sister who spends her weekends going to at least 10-15 garage sales. She can buy clothes sometimes for as little as 10 cents an item, and then it’s off to our market booth where we get upwards of $1-$2 an item.
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Other sellers in the market sell items of clothing that are new with retail tags attached. I’ve dug through some of their inventory and noticed that most of the clothes come from big box stores. How much do these clothes cost, and where can we buy flea market products like this?
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Answer: Growing up, thirty years ago, I loved going to flea markets with my mom and dad every weekend. Sellers at that time sold exclusively used goods. Today, flea markets are very different as used items are not the norm. You can buy almost anything at the flea market today, and it’s new items.
Clothing is a staple for everyone; it doesn’t surprise me to hear that you’ve made a good living selling used clothes. The other sellers you asked about buy what are called shelf pulls and/or clothes that the customer returns. These are clothes that are liquidated by large department stores in large quantities. It’s not uncommon to find pallets and truckloads of these clothes at a fraction of the retail price.
Buy pallet quantity from a wholesale liquidator – Smaller quantities mean you will pay a higher cost per unit, but your initial outlay for inventory will be much lower. Wholesale liquidators buy in large quantities and then break down lots to sell to eBay and flea market sellers. Your cost per item depends on where the clothes come from, for example: clothes from Walmart, Kmart and Shopko will cost less than clothes from JCPenneys and Macy’s. Expect to pay between $1-$1.50 per unit from the low-end stores compared to $3-$5 for off-the-shelf items from JC Penney’s and Macy’s
Buy in multiple pallet or truck quantities directly from the source – Here you can cut out the middle man and buy at the lowest possible price, directly from the original source. As you might have guessed, this will cost more initially because you have to buy in much larger quantities. You can expect to pay between $0.75 and $3.00 per unit when buying directly.
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Can you still make money selling more expensive clothes on the market? Yes, but it will take time because you have to rebuild your customer base. I’m sure you have repeat business now, and those customers expect to buy clothes from you in the $1-$2 price range. This new addition to your inventory will increase your prize points significantly. I highly recommend that you continue to sell used clothing with your new mix of celebrated clothing. Keep your existing customer base while building a new group of people who will start buying from you on an ongoing basis!
Liquidators Guide is filled with product supply techniques! The guide gives you FREE access to a 33,000+ member Facebook buying group filled with educational content and deals on pallets and trucks!
Check out our flea market sales series where we outline the steps required to start a profitable flea market business selling liquidation products. Deciding what something is worth – and what a customer is willing to pay – can be one of the hardest parts of running a flea market. How you price determines how quickly your stock will be sold, which affects how customers experience your stand. If goods catch the eye but the price tag repels them, the customer may not stop at your booth and shop!
In my successful flea market booth, I use a few tricks and formulas to find a price point for items that help me balance between having a quick turnover and a bigger profit. Read on for advice on how to price used items at a flea market, thrift store, or swap meet—plus, at the bottom, I’ve included some tips on how to reduce effort and cost when actually putting price tags on products.
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Shopping other flea market stalls will help you build a sense of what items are worth. With practice, you will be able to price things by “getting rid of the guts”, which will save you a lot of time.
EBay and Etsy can provide useful pricing information for reference. I tend to use eBay to calculate prices for bargain-type flea markets and Etsy to calculate prices in classic antique malls. While eBay has been in decline for years, Etsy’s vintage section has exploded in volume, making it a valuable reference resource for local flea market sellers.
To check the price, just search for similar items and activate the “discontinued sales” search filter on eBay. Be sure and look for
NOTE: eBay or Etsy is the best way to sell small, very valuable items when you find these treasures while buying fixtures for your flea market booth. My rule is: If it’s easy to steal and expensive enough for a thief to be willing to risk it, I sell it online. Selling the item on eBay generally means you can get the best price and not risk theft – it’s also perfect for very “weird” items like highly specialized tools that would be difficult to sell to average shoppers at flea markets.
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A classic pricing formula is to take the price paid and double it. Since you may be getting your inventory from free sources or counting on thrift store retailers, this is usually not the most reliable method of pricing items at a flea market, although it’s still a good standard to keep in mind.
For those just starting a flea market, your booth can be a great way to sell belongings that you no longer use or no longer suit your style, but pricing personal belongings – especially items with sentimental value – can be difficult.
Pay attention to what the product can realistically sell for, and if the sentimental value exceeds that value – don’t sell.
In most stores, pricing is simple and standard labels are affixed to packages or barcodes. At a flea market, pricing products is both an art and a science. With no packaging to apply prices to, and with many vintage items having vulnerable or impossible to hold finishes, pricing creativity is required.
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You can read more about my advice on how to display items to increase sales in another post, but here are some basic pricing tips:
At about 1.5¢ each, String Tags are an affordable way to price flea market items and are the most common pricing method at most markets. While not quick to apply (and thus a bit more expensive in terms of labor pricing), string tags are relatively visible and don’t fall off easily.
You can buy a huge range of blank stickers in a billion styles, but I find the best value is Avery 8160 labels which are split at the perforations and then cut in half, meaning you get 60 price tags per sheet.
BIG price tags are more visible and more visibility means fewer customers asking questions about pricing or handling the item (both potential profit killers). Cardstock is great for pricing large or expensive items.
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For books – use a strip of cardboard placed inside the book as a bookmark. Let the price stretch across the pages (add the price again, lower, if your market requires a price format with booth number at top right)
A tagging gun is the best purchase I’ve ever made for my flea market – and never leaves my prize pack. Marking guns can be used on a variety of products to pierce a porous part of the product and attach a label. Loop tags create a looped connection – making it possible to add price tags through handles or rings to a product in literally a fraction of the time it takes to attach a string tag.
Pricing guns usually include a sharp needle nose, which makes it possible to pierce a square of cardboard price tag and attach the tag in a single motion.
This $20 investment in your booth can save hours on pricing by making it easy to group small items and create tamper-proof price tags.
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My favorite way to clear “small stuff” out of my booth without risking theft of these easily packaged items is to use an impulse sealer and plastic bags to make larger grouped units with clearly marked price tags inside the bag (which eliminates any price tampering):
Single small items can be difficult to price and easy to lose to theft – grouping and sealing in a bag is a quick way to bulk price, group and reduce theft.
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