Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Judy's Day at the Flea Market

I love selling on the Internet, but once a year, I sell at a big flea market in Quimper, and it's a blast. It clears out things in one fell swoop and I get to spend all day talking to people. This particular flea market has been in existence for almost 20 years, and it is always the last Sunday in August. It is at the Quimper Parc des Expositions, Quimper's exhibit space which is frankly kind of a dump, and it generally has about 350 sellers, a good mix of professional and non-professional sellers. I sell a variety of things, mostly pottery. This year, I packed up seven plastic boxes, including pottery that I am selling for clients:

and pieces from our own collection (this batch is what did not sell in a recent mailing):

Of course, it's important to remember all the auxiliary bits, like scissors, stickers, pens, paper, kleenex, a thermos of hot tea, lunch, snacks (got to keep your strength up!), business cards, table covers (old sheets are good), and packing materials:

Last year, I exhibited by myself, and it was a very long day. I could not move from my booth, so I didn't get to buy (selling is less fun if you don't get to buy also!). This year, I exhibited with my neighbor, who had household stuff to sell, and the wife of Philippe Lalys, ceramics artist in Quimper. My neighbor drove, and so we loaded up her station wagon Saturday night. She already had a lot in it when she arrived at my house, and she didn't think we'd get it all in, but I'm pretty good at packing by now, and we managed!

Both my cohorts thought I was joking when I said we had to be there at 6 a.m. to set up. But you have to get there early if you want to unload easily AND if you want to be accessible to the really serious buyers who are running around the place with flashlights and cash, waiting for treasures to come out of boxes. So at 6:05 a.m., we were at the end of a rather long line of cars waiting to enter to set up, but it moved pretty quickly, and we were unpacking by 6:30 a.m. We were in a big hall that is basically a corrugated tin building with a macadam floor. We found our spot and started to unload.

Luckily, we had light - the other half of the hall was in the dark for unknown reasons.

By 8:00 a.m., when the doors officially opened, we were ready to go.  Me:

My  neighbor:

Mme Lalys:

At 8:15, we had a problem. A very late arriving seller could not find her space on our row, and finally someone from the organization team arrived with a tape measure. We had taken up half a table too much (that was half my fault, but it was also half the organizers' fault - the spaces were not clearly marked), and the domino effect down the row meant that this seller didn't have a space. So we scrambled to move our things (which is really a drag when you have to move a tablecloth with lots of breakables on it).

One of the great things about doing a flea market is you do unearth things tucked in the back of your storage. A year ago, when I did my inventory, I was sure that I had put aside a package of Quimper calendar tea towels. And then I could never find them again (that's what's wrong with cleaning things out - it's possible to get too organized!). Well, I found them when I was packing up last week. By now, a 2010 tea towel has four months of decorative value left, after which it becomes just another thing to dry glassware with, so these were on sale big time, 1 euro each.

I priced things to sell, and they did! It's great to wrap it up and move it out - I love seeing spaces appear on the table (if you have good sales, you get to spend all day rearranging your selling space)!! It was fun to talk to experienced collectors as well as some who are just getting into it. It's also fun to bargain ...

I sold some of almost everything, including five copies of my book. However, I did not sell a single necklace - I do have to say that I brought a selection of less expensive ones, which are perhaps also the less eye-catching ones of my collection. I should just save them for crafts markets ...

My last client of the day bought four of the eight cider cups that I had - I made her a great price in the hopes that she would take all eight, but just to see the four of them go made me happy (at 50 cents apiece, you can see that it doesn't take much to make me happy ... ).

There was traffic all day long. There was such a range of merchandise, from antiques and collectibles to used clothing and books - really, something for everybody. The serious buyers are there in the morning. There is a lull at the Sunday lunch hour. Mid to late afternoon is the time for the Sunday strollers. And at the end of the day, the last-minute bargain hunters come out - many sellers would rather sell something at a huge discount at the end than have to pack it up and take it home.

Around 5:30 p.m., we decided that it was getting quiet and that it was time to pack up and go. The seller across the aisle from us had put a sign up that he was giving away for free everything on his table. My neighbor took over her one remaining lampshade that she did NOT want to take home and added it to his merchandise. The organizers were walking around with big bags of bread leftover from making sandwiches, selling the baguettes for 50 cents a piece. Packing up was fast for all three of us - we all had good sales.

And the car took about two minutes to load - the only reason it was at all full was that someone delivered a platter to me, so there was an extra box to tote. And I had loaned a clothes rack to someone who was selling; it was returned to me right there, so we stuck it in the car.

And, as I said, it's no fun unless you get to buy ... I got the first shot at the Lalys pieces, and I bought these two rooster plates - design trials - as well as a Le Creuset casserole (for 5 euros - too good a deal to pass up, particularly as it is ovenproof), a teapot with Bigoudènes, a Keraluc dish in the manganese/color series (I love this blue!), an HB fan vase (needs restoring), and two miniature Henriot pitchers which also need a little touching up.

By 6:30 p.m., I was home. It was a fun day, it was a profitable day, I wouldn't want to do it for a living, but I can't wait until next year!


  1. Judy this was a facinating glimpse into the world of French flea markets, thanks so much for the virtual tour.
    Glad you had a good day. The Lalys plates are lovely.
    I hope that we will see some at the QCI meeting in Savannah next month.

  2. Where do I go to sell 12+ piece place setting of Quimper made in the 50's plus lots and lots of serving pieces? All in excellent condition.

  3. Oh Judy, what fun, how I'd love to go to one of these. I know it has to be a lot of work, but what deals! I enjoyed your post a lot!

    Maggie, the new color looks like autumn, looks nice.

  4. Hi Judy, Would love to have been at that flea market. Looks like fun and their were some bargains to be had.
    Would love to be going to Savannah- Hope you have a good time.
    Sue W

  5. Judy, thanks for this fun article on the ins and outs of a French flea. Glad those rooster plates went home with you. What a great deal for a day of selling. LOL
    ~ Sarah

  6. WELL, now, Judy, don't you think that our meeting should be scheduled so we could be there for that sale?? Oh, too early in the year, I suppose..but I hope you can find us some other good markets. There is NOTHING I like better than a treasure hunt at a good flea market! Thanks for the wonderful experience..even vicariously.
    Loved this post! Hugs..