Week to week, the number of market shoppers can vary greatly. But a covered shopping area when it rains may help keep visitation fairly steady.
Question: How do you estimate how much to bake when selling at a farmers’ market or festival for the first time? What about when you have a seasonal booth at a farmers’ market? Does it vary week to week?
Answer: This is not a problem unique to our baking businesses. All industries face this question. But when we’re working with perishables, especially for one-day events, it can be quite challenging. For special events such as a yearly festival, find out the expected turn-out and how many similar vendors will be there. Typically, only 10% of fair-goers purchase baked goods. Divide that number by how many vendors make similar products. For example, if 3,000 is the expected turn-out, 300 shoppers might buy baked goods. If there are two other baked goods vendors, you may sell 100 items. Speculating further, multiply your average product price by 100 and then deduct the vendor fee, cost of goods, travel expenses, and incidentals (are you buying drinks or lunch for yourself?) from the gross amount.
It’s different when you have a regular booth at the market. You can build up a loyal following and have customers pre-order each week. But many things affect sales – the weather; holidays preceding or following the market day; if any crazy diets are a growing fad (remember the low-carb fad?); and the new products your competitors may bring to the market.
Do the best you can, and keep track of sales. Eventually you’ll get better at guessing. But know when to cut your losses. Learn from your experiences. Don’t be stupid. Someone once posted on a forum asking for advice. She and her mom were making dozens of products to sell at a weekly flea market. They had no car and used public transportation to haul everything around. There were many weeks when they had no sales even though their prices were cheap. She asked for advice and received numerous responses from people who had no business experience, such as – stick with it you’re not a quitter, sample your products, hold a raffle, drop your prices.
My response: you need to stop immediately. Every week you are losing money. Find another venue (flea markets are notorious for drawing bargain hunters) and re-evaluate both your products and your pricing. She got rather snippy with me. Clearly, she was not looking for business advice, only looking for people to support her misguided attempts.
Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you are in business to make money, please don’t be stupid. Do your market research and don’t take advice from well-meaning but non-business people.
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