Tune Up Your Farm Market Stand

Just today the University of Vermont Extension held an online webinar discussing how to tune up your farmers’ market booth. Mary Peabody, a Community Economic Development Specialist, lead the free webinar. The half-hour presentation went past very quickly as there was a lot of great ideas presented.

It looked like the webinar was being recorded, so there might be a link posted in a few days here: https://learn.extension.org/events/1659#.U86KXoBdU0P. What follows are some of my notes from the the presentation.

how to improve your farm stand

How to Improve Sales From Your Farm Market Booth

1) It all starts with …

  • Appearance
  • Attitude
  • Observation

Appearance: People buy with their eyes. Making your market booth visually appealing is paramount. Get a friend or relative who has never been to your booth to give you a brutally honest opinion on what your booth looks like. Having fresh eyes on the display can give you some great insights on what’s working – and what’s not.

Attitude: Your attitude and energy at your booth is more important than you can know. Customers can smell burnout from a mile away. If you’re really tired and worn out it might be better to take a week off from the market than to slog through and turn off customers.

Observation: Really look at your setup. Have a critical eye for dirt, bird poo, and dog eared displays. This includes your own (and employees) dress and cleanliness. Wash hair, clean fingernails. Also observe other booths at the market, and other markets if you can get to them. Would you want to buy from them? What makes certain booths attractive and inviting?

2) Even though it’s now midsummer you’re probably looking toward the last third of the harvest season. This is the period that can make or break your sales for the year. Do you have the energy and strategies to make it a good year for your farm?

3) Get the buyer’s attention. Draw them into your booth. If you can get them to slow down and browse you stand a better chance of making a sale.

4) This part of the season can mean a shift in the type of customer that comes through. Late summer may see less tourist type buyers and more of the “regular locals”. This means a change of shopping patterns. Also, the start of the school year will bring about different shopping patterns – people (women) are looking more to week-long meal planning instead of weekend and evening entertaining dinners.

Someone shopping for a dinner party will likely be looking for special and unique things, while a week-long planner is looking for routine things that will easily keep in the fridge for awhile.

5) Keep in mind there is always a subset of people coming into the market for the first time. These are the people that see things the regular customers might ignore. Try to see your booth like you’re looking at it for the first time. This can be difficult, but with a little practice is an essential skill to possess. Are things fresh, clean, and tidy?

6) At this time of year you can have an over abundance of certain things. It’s advisable NOT to put everything out at the beginning of the market day. Customers can get overwhelmed with too much of something. It’s better to put out a smaller amount into the display, and then keep replenishing it from your stock as the day goes on.

7) You might want to consider adjusting some of your pricing for bulk sales. Offer a “Home Canner’s Special” to those people looking to buy a large quantity. It might be better to sell a LOT of something at a little lower price than nothing at the regular price.

8) Resetting your display — ie. rearranging everything. Commercial grocery stores do this all the time. This can increase sales by 10-20%. It wakes people up to see things in a different way and increase the chance of impulse buying as they walk through the produce section to find their “regular stuff”. It will work the same for your market booth.

9) Offering tastings if at all possible. This depends on the regulations in your particular market, of course. But, if it’s allowed you really need to offer a tasting of something at your booth. If possible have one person monitor the tasting area – to keep it fresh and clean, and to engage the customer if they have questions. For food safety issues surrounding tasting check out this publication: How to Develop a Farm Stand from the University of Vermont Extension. Also keep the tasting area away from the cash register area to prevent a bottle neck of people.

(If that links foes down your can find the PDF here.)

10) Do you really need a break? Taking a week off from the market could be the best thing to get you re-energized to the rest of the season. The only thing you can’t do during this time is to obsess about the money you’re loosing by not being at the market. Then your time off really hasn’t done any good. Make this time off a treat: travel, go for a spa day, go fishing, read a novel in a hammock, etc. etc.

Get Energized

Seeing that I have never personally managed a farm stand I see these as great suggestions to start off in the right direction. Even though I’ve done a LOT of shopping at farmers’ markets I realize it can be a whole different ball game to be the seller.

Hopefully you’ll find some really great points here also. And make sure to follow the link at the top of the page in a few days to see if they have the recording on file to watch again. Well worth half an hour of your time!

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