Business Overview

A flea market, sometimes known as a swap meet, rents space to individual vendors who then can use the space to sell anything from vintage furniture to pre-owned video games to customers. There are many types of flea markets. Some offer general merchandise while others specialize in one kind of product, like antiques or collectible.

Who is this business right for?

People able to operate flea markets successfully usually have experience as flea market or craft show vendors or have extensive retail management experience. While most flea markets are only open for a few days per week, owners of a large flea market need to be able to devote enough time to operating the business, at least during the months the market is running.

What happens during a typical day at a flea market?

Running a flea market is more complex than owning a strip mall or renting out other retail spaces because of the temporary nature of the business. At the start of each new season, the owner needs to go through the process of hiring, training, and overseeing numerous part-time employees. Owners will also need to apply for relevant permits and meet the ever-changing regulations. Marketing requires a good portion of the owner's time.

What is the target market?

Since there are so many kinds of flea markets, there is no ideal customer across the board. Many older customers are interested in antiques and nostalgic items from their childhoods while younger shoppers are looking for vintage and off-beat items. The one characteristic common among all customers at a flea market is that they are looking for a deal.

How does a flea market make money?

The owner of a flea market can make money in a few ways. Almost every flea market charges vendors rent to set up and sell at the event. Besides collecting rent, some flea markets charge customers an admission charge and require a payment for parking on the site.

What is the growth potential for a flea market?

The popularity of swap meets and flea markets continue to grow, but the problem is there is only a certain number of vendors and shoppers within in driving distance. When multiple flea markets operate close to one another, the profitability of all of the flea markets in the area decreases.

But there is good news. There are still opportunities to make money by opening a flea market in an under-served area or by specializing in marketings catering to a particular niche. What works in one area will not work in another, so it is critical to research before opening. Organizers of even well-established flea markets, like the Brooklyn Flea, have had to look to new and different concepts to find success.