Participating at the DC Big Flea Market in Chantilly, How to set up your booth and some helpful advice
August 29, 2016
This was my first time at the Big DC Flea market and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did read how to set up a booth, what to bring but a lot of things were still unknown. As a first time participant at an event I was a little worried. I sell mostly vintage clothing and accessories and it has been manageable doing it on-line since I do not need to carry things somewhere else. The most difficult part turned out to be just that – transportation of the merchandise. I used my suitcases and since the setting up for the show was Thursday and Friday, I had enough time to bring it little by little. The problem is gathering up everything at the end and moving out within 2 hrs. You definitely need help and SUV or better yet a van.
Things you need to know:
Organize your merchandise in containers/boxes that can stack and get a dolly. Be prepared to bring back almost as much as you brought in! Make sure you have a car big enough.
If they offer tables like they did at this event, It is worth paying the $8-10 to rent them for 2 days rather than bring them yourself, unless you do this very often.
All spaces are marked in chalk and if you want walls you need to bring them or pay for it. I was lucky enough to have walls already erected by the neighbors and they were very kind to let me use them to hang things. Be mindful that those cost around $200- $400 if you plan on buying it, unless you get lucky and get it second hand
Once you set up your booth, cover everything. Bring 2-3 king size sheets and wrap them around the racks and tables (this is something no one ever mentions). There is security on the premises but people may be tempted if you leave things on the open and during set up time it seems all sorts of people walk in and out.
Sign up with square to accept credit cards and make sure you think about exchanging/keeping cash. I purchased a small cash box for $14 that had separators for coins and cash and kept it under the table. I also bought a small 4” x 7” sales book.
If you have clothing, buy a sturdy rack, I bought 2 very cheap ones and they both broke, thankfully on the last day but I learned my lesson.
Charge tax and file with the appropriate state. I noticed a lot of vendors did not do this but I prefer to play by the rules.
The basics everyone mentions – bring chair/tags/water/snacks/pens/paper.
If you have a table have a rack on top for small items or a mannequin dressed in something bright.
I had a few pieces of jewelry, and I sold none. From 1000 vendors at the Big DC flea market, 850 sell jewelry, you have to have something considerably under the going rate to sell it. Many people had jewelry for $1 and less. Sterling was selling $1.30 per gram.
Items I found helpful:
Furrino stackable shelf. I bought it from amazon for $27 with free shipping, it is a breeze to put together and take apart.
SentrySafe CB12 Medium Cash Box, Black for $14 from Amazon
White Linen Tablecloth 90 x 132-Inch Rectangular Polyester for $10 from Amazon, it is perfect for 8ft table and goes to the floor all around
Commercial grade clothing rack – I was lucky to get one for $55 but they usually go for around $100. I bought this after the show because I broke mine.
Overall it was a great experience for me. It is not lucrative, or at least it wasn’t for me but it paid for itself and I had a great time. I enjoy what I do and the people I met, especially my neighbors who also sell vintage clothing - Chris and Greg, they were so very nice and helpful, even if I do not participate again, I will make the trip to see them. Most other vendors are also very nice. They will stop by, introduce themselves, give valuable advice. Plus if you bring a helper you can browse and possibly find some treasure for yourself. The Big Flea Market at Dulles Expo is impressive in its size. There are 2 rooms (South and North Hall) stacked to the brims. There are tons of things available. From high end antiques to cheap collectibles. I saw people walk by me who bought sticks of dried wood somewhere. It really is everything you can imagine J
I would like to do it again if I can find help with the transportation part, the next show will be in the beginning of March 2016. If you like vintage clothing, please check out my website: