How to Tackle a Flea Market – And Get What You Want

Welcome Back Boo,

Happy Weekend!!

When you are looking to bring some ‘new’ items into your home for some interior design fun, it might be time to put down the thick catalogues of flatpack greatness, close the internet tab and put your shoes on. Where are we off to? A Flea Market! Some people can feel so overwhelmed when it comes to heading to the flea market for the first time, like with most things after you have been a couple of times, and are armed with some knowledge you’re likely to have a fantastic time and pick up some sweet new pieces.

So how do you nail a flea market?

Rise and shine. You might think you’ll have plenty of time between the time it opens and the time you want to get there, but it’s that golden window that will see some of the best pieces find new owners. As dull as it sounds, the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to get what you want – for the price you want. If you do want to go later, then you’re going to have to be prepared to have a big imagination. Some of the stuff that will still be there after 10 am will be the great stuff, but not the ‘surprising, vintage, going to sell on for thousands of pieces.’  


Photo by Kukuh Himawan Samudro on Unsplash

Write it down.

What is it you want? It is all too easy to walk into a market and start throwing money at things just because they are pretty, and you are caught up in the hype. However, as much fun as that would be, you need to have a firm idea of what pieces you are looking for. Be sure to get specific in terms of texture, design, and color. If you have gone there to get a vintage mirror but leave with a colossal chaise lounge, then something has gone wrong somewhere. Any market can be a hugely distracting space, people pushing by looking for their vintage designer goods, every colour you can think of, the tinkling of glasses – the smells. It can be a total overload. Write a list, keep referring to it.


Do it in sections.

Your first go around should be concentrating on the big stuff on your list. What do we mean by big stuff? Pieces of furniture. It might be tempting to buy something as soon as you see it, especially considering that last point. But if you are early enough the chances are you have time to think about it. Take a photo, picture it in different colors, think about the space it is going to occupy. Touch it, sniff it, do you love the shape? If you love the form but hate the colour, you can reupholster it and be happy with your purchase. If the color is everything, but the shape is giving you cause for concern – step away from the trader – this piece is not for you. Be prepared to haggle. The piece might be £400, or £40, but if there are things you want to change then try to work them down on price.


Second go around, you’re looking for smaller things. Mirrors, handles, ornaments, feet for furniture and that type of thing. Take some time and dig through the treasure. Some people like to put all of their small items in trunks, and you’ll have to dive deep to find the good stuff. But, the big stuff has been handled, so you have the hours to spare.


When to Spend and When to Save.

There isn’t a great deal to say in this one. If you see something that makes your heart sing, it’s on your list, and you know you are very unlikely to ever come by something like it again then you spend. When to save – as above, if you don’t utterly love it if it needs serious work or it’s not all that unique then hold some of that cash back.


Set Rules – Be Harsh

When you are writing your list, think about the nooks you have available for cool stuff. Do you have the room that you are planning on using or is it just because you want more stuff? Stuff is, of course, fabulous, but when you are stuffing things on top of other things just to fit it in, you need to think about if you have the room or need to be spending the money. When you have something beautiful, but you’d need to make room for, imagine it was triple the price – would you still need it? If not, walk away.


It is NOT Ikea.

While the term flea market used to belong solely to the old and slightly dusty, there are more and more traders that will roll up to their stand with new goods that look vintage and charge extortionate prices too. There are two sides to this, of course, you should be supporting small businesses when you can, but, you are there to pick up something that is rare, vintage, a find, unusual – whatever you want to call it, it shouldn’t be new.


Get Out the Magnifying Glass.

This doesn’t have to be literal but if you want to then, by all means, carry on. Be prepared to look closely, if you are looking at wooden furniture, or things that you know have been removed from an old house, then keep your eyes peeled for damage from termites, moths and other infestations. Some pieces will be worth the risk; others certainly won’t be. When it comes to finding those magic pieces, then you’re going to have a look. And, thinking outside the box is going to help you. See something that might be a something? Pick it up, look closer. There is usually more than one use for something, and if your brain is trying to eagerly show you what it could be, you might just be holding the start of something unusual. But, as before, be careful you’re not just a hoarder.


Cash Gives Leverage

If you have a budget, take ¾ of it in cash. Cash will always give you more bartering power. Most traders now have contactless card machines, so all is not lost if a piece is going to swallow your cash.


Speaking of Leverage – Haggling.

Bad example:

You: How much for this?

Them: £600

You: It’s not worth that.



Good Example:

You: How much for this?

Them: £600

You: Okay, I do love it… What would be the bottom price you’d take?

Them: £550

You: I wish I could stretch my budget for it, it’s such a beautiful piece.

Them: What is your top line?

You: £525 cash



And you are both happy. Haggling should be respectful you are both trying to get the best deal; usually, no one is about to rip anyone else off. Traders spend a lot of time trying to ensure that what they bring to the flea markets are high quality, unusual and something special. The price that they have on the piece to start with is what they’d ideally want; it doesn’t mean that it is the best price or even a fair price. The reasonable price is what will be worked out between you. Some traders won’t want to haggle. The price they set is what they want, and that is just how it is.


Know When it is go Time.

Sometimes you will see something that you have to have. And, sometimes your gut will be spot on. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning on flipping it or making it a focal piece in your home – buy it. If something is eye-catching for its great shape, so it’s color, or for its uniqueness, you will not be alone in admiring the piece. How many times have you seen something in a thrift store or online, and hesitation has meant that you missed out on it? If you’re a bargain hunter, probably one too many. Sometimes, it is go time – be ready for it.


Bring These Things.

  • Cash and Cards
  • Lists – bring one for things you need, one for things you’d like.
  • Mobile Phone – if you are shopping in a group you might get separated in a furniture frenzy, use this to take photos too.
  • Pen & Pad – you’re going to have to write down the location of the stalls, you won’t be able to find it again
  • Tasty Treat – You’re going to get hungry, and you’re there for textiles not food truck special dry falafel. It can be overpriced, with long queues and eats away at your budget. £10 is £10.
  • Refillable Water Bottle – you can’t haggle when you’re dehydrated
  • Two bags – a bum bag with your cash close to you but away from light fingers, and either a tote or a rucksack for any of the small pieces of treasure you find.


So now you are all set with these top tips on how to get the most from your flea market experience, go forth and pick up some fantastic pieces.

Remember to keep on slaying,

See you next time xoxo

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