Uphams Corner UP Market - Final Meeting before the June 21 Opening Bell

The final UP Market vendor / planning meeting in advance of the opening bell (6/21/14) took place 6/9/14 with eight people in attendance including support staff.  All centered around vendors preparing themselves properly for the Open Air Market format, the meeting saw lively discussion with some issues turned over to the newly appointed Market Managers to handle.  Good Luck to everyone.

UP Market

The final UP Market planning/ vendor meeting was held at the Uphams Corner Main Street office.  Nancy Conrad, Liora Beer, Jaypix Belmer, Vernell Jordan, Clarinda King, Justin Almeida, Loretta Bryant-Bogard and Teha Woodrow attended.

Some of the information was "news" to attendees while other conversation centered around how to make the market successful and what about the weather?

UP Market Managers Appointed

With a Boston Foundation grant to support the UP Market, Vernell Jordan and Jaypix Belmer have been appointed as UP Market Managers.  Their role is planning and logistics - especially day of - work.  One of the first tasks they completed was to create a "new" vendor application form.  The group discussed it and made recommendations.  Given the fast-approaching date of the first event (6/21), the group deferred further comments to the two managers' discretion.

Max MacCarthy (former Executive Director) had verbal confirmation from 13 vendors but only three have sent in their registration and paid.  The official cut-off date is Tuesday, June 17. Clarinda said she had spoken with at least a half-dozen vendors who expressed interest and assumed they had all completed the registration process.  Guess not!!

The new managers have changed the event setup.  It's now on two levels – on the Paraiso Plaza and at the base of Belden Street where it meets Belden Square (and flattens out). Which vendors will be located at which level is a decision the managers will make based on the type of product and how best to group vendors together.  For example, better to NOT put all the T-shirt vendors in adjacency.  Vernell noted and Justin Almeida asserted that even though the Plaza has more visibility from Dudley Street, the managers are planning activities on Belden Street so that visitors will be attracted to the businesses at the bottom of the hill.  No vendors will be on the sidewalk in front of a motto enterprises.

The Importance of the Canopies

Vendor registration is $20 plus a $10 fee for table, chair and canopy. However, the number of tables is limited and there are only 10 canopies. So equipment will be given out on a first-come first-served basis.  Since a canopy can cover a 10' x 10' space, it can be shared, and that is what the market managers are expecting to do.  The biggest issue associated with the canopy is the weather because it protects against both rain and sun effects (heat, warpage, internal package moisture, etc. Often first-time vendors do not realize the difficulties of selling goods in an open air market.

On the day of the event, if there is a potential for rain, the market managers may still hold the event. If it rains, the vendors with a canopy will be protected while the other vendors will have to find some other solution such as large sheets of plastic.

Liora Beer, Director of the art services organization, Art Morpheus,  is a partner on the UP Market project.  Her role is to help the vendors and the market to be successful. Liora has met with vendors individually and has held small group workshops. For this meeting she was providing support for the upmarket organizing efforts and is creating templates of plans to provide structure. This is especially important, they noted, since the Executive Director leaving MainStreet has left a void or knowledge gap.  She will be keeping track of the master vendor email list and making it selectively available as a Google doc.

Marketing and Attracting Customers
The group discussed marketing methods including Facebook, the upmarket event on Facebook, e-mail, post cards, handwritten notes and face-to-face conversation. Talking up the event as much as possible is really important. Vernell suggested that the marketing technique applied to each person or group would depend on your relationship with them.

Regarding Facebook events, anyone who has joined the event, any time information is posted on the event page, they will receive notification about that information.

Liora told a story about having received a personal card from someone which made a significant impression on her.  The net result was that she followed up and attended the event. The personal note made an  important impression.
The group discussed quarter sheet flyers on each table that promoted the continuity of the market over the summer to include a brief description of the market and dates. Different design characteristics were discussed but the final decision was left with the market managers.
Clarinda raised the issue that in our current electronic world, people will give you their phone number and e-mail address but not the physical address. So sending out personal postcards may be difficult. Vernell recommended that each marketing event is a way to gather information about potential customers. It's important to have an information collection sheet and to follow up on all of those customers.  Leora will be creating a form for collecting customer information.

Discounts and Payment
Vernell has had a lot of experience with giving discounts. Sometimes it's a good idea, other times it's not.  One person stated that if you frequently give discounts, and customers expect you to continue to give a discount, then it will begin to affect your ability to make a profit. It's better to sell your products at the appropriate price and only occasionally offer discounts – say for example to people who are frequent customers.  Don't give the impression that you are desperate.
The group then discussed "the square" which is a device to attach directly to your smart phone that allows you to accept customer debit and credit cards through your phone. PayPal offers one and other organizations do as well. It makes sales a lot easier.
To allow customers to pay this way, you use the device, and app (for example from PayPal), you type in the description and the price and swipe the payment card. Below a certain nominal amount, for example $25, the buyer does not even have to sign.  for PayPal, if you use this white, PayPal charges 2.7%.  Without the device and without swiping the card, you can still access PayPal manually but the fee is higher at 3.4% approximately. 

When you get such a device, it comes with a sign that you can place on your table showing either showing the symbol – the square or the triangle – in that way customers will know that you accept this type of payment method.

Consistent Branding / Raffle

As part of the UP Market branding technique, discussion was made that each vendor have an information sheet displayed in an acrylic stand. This approach was used for the Strand Theatre UP Market event on December 20. What should it contain?  Photo, what you sell, social media indicators, short personal statement, Square/Paypal - use a large font and limit to 50 words or less. While the customers may or may not take the time to read what is on display, it provides a uniform branding approach to the whole UP Market event.

The final topic was offering a special raffle where what the customer won depends on how many raffle tickets are sold.  For example, if $25 worth of raffle tickets are sold then that would generate a $20 raffle prize (four dollars towards administrative fees) with the specific item identified in advance as a vendor item priced at $20. That way  the customer, the vendor and the market would benefit.  Justin will be handling the raffle process.

Closing Remarks

Vernell with 40 years experience in open markets said she has seen a change in the nature of markets and customers.  "You have to be committed for the long haul. Anyone specific market might generate a loss or gain and there is just no way to predict this in advance. You simply have to do your best."

Vernell added one other item. With an outdoor event vendors do not expect or anticipate what can happen. For example the sun can create problems with your products and a gust of wind even on the mildest day can move all of your products to the ground. You have to come prepared to secure your products so the wind cannot disturb your table. Also be sure to have a tablecloth that drops all the way to the floor.  She recommended we all research "how to secure your table in an open air market" on the web.

Good Luck to All Vendors on June 21, 2014

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Posted: June 15, 2014    Nancy J Conrad