Going to Market: Behind the Scenes

Ever wondered what in the world it means when business owners say they’re “Going to Market”? Yes. It’s so allusive! But I’m here to let you know what it is, what’s so cool about it and why- even though it’s shopping- it’s still hard work!

There are probably several places to go to “market”.  For me, I’m on the East Coast-ish, so I go to America’s Mart in Atlanta, GA (commonly known as Market). There are also markets in Dallas, Las Vegas and Los Angeles {and I’m sure other big cities that I’m not cool enough to know about}.

1) Getting Inside

market check in

To be able to get into market as a buyer, you have to have all kinds of credentials and jump through 84 hoops {please see their site for actual numbers and details; I’m going from an old memory here}. You have to own a legit business tax ID, show that you buy things, show that you have a business checking account and things like that. They don’t ask you to stand on your left foot and hop while you do any of this, but it seems like I remember feeling that way. You can either go as a buyer yourself or go with a friend who is a buyer as a guest ($20/ guest) or “employee” (free).

Or, of course you can be a real employee, but you see that up there ^^^ “employees” are plentiful at market. Once you are in the system, though, you are in for good! It’s very easy to get in as a returning buyer.

The Americas Mart employees are fantastic. They will jump out of any corner to help you and have been amazing. If you have a rolling bag, they will offer to carry it down any stairs; if you even look lost, they will offer to help. They have an outstanding staff and they’re at every turn! Also, have your badge showing because they will check it at. every. turn. 😉

 2) Once you’re inside

There are 3 buildings (conveniently named Building 1, 2 and 3) in America’s Mart in Atlanta. They are each HUGE in their own right and could take days to cover. I’m sure you have seen shots that are something like this from anyone going to market. This is the interior of Building 3:

building 3 at market

As you might be able to see, each floor is dedicated to certain categories and what you might not be able to see is that each floor has hundreds of booths/ vendors there. Each row goes back lots of spaces and there are 27 rows or so filled with showrooms on each floor.

This is a video that will show you a little of the hustle and bustle to expect:

market building 3

(I’m so sorry they were playing Peter Gabriel. No, I can’t get Sledge Hammer out of your head and I apologize.)

There are different themed markets that are highlighted for around a week at different times of year. There are options for gift stores (what we go to), apparel, home and rug, bridal, etc. Check the website for the specific dates. There are also different booth types: permanent and temporary. It’s just like it sounds: some are there all the time and some are just there during those specific market dates. You have to check, ask, talk to people to find out exactly who you need to see and when they’ll be there. During those big market dates, all the temporaries (that you’re there to see for that market) and permanents will most likely be open.

3) What to Expect

There are SO many businesses there. With more items than you’ve ever thought possible in your lifetime. So, my job as a buyer is to have a few high points narrowed down before I get there to be sure to visit. I have scoured my book (they send an enormous catalog of listings prior) before I get there, searched online and on all social media outlets and have a big list.

Obviously I want to go find friends (these are the adorable gals from 1818 Farms -local to us near Huntsville) and we want to search out new vendors, as well.

1818 farms at market

Every buyer/ seller goes through a lot of the same general questions: opening order amount {how much you have to spend to start a relationship/ sell their product= anywhere from $100- $1000}, amount needed to spend when you reorder, product line details, new items, ship dates, wholesale/ resale prices, etc. By the end of the day, you have said the same thing to dozens of people and you just smile and nod. Most businesses want you to purchase while you are there on site at market and give you incentives to do just that. They also give you samples, papers, brochures, freebies- you name it! You will be loaded down by the end of every day, so bring a bag of some sort. People who carry those rolling bags love them. Everyone else hates them… 

4) The Real Key

For me, the real key is establishing a relationship with a company. (And with customers if you want to get really tricky, here, but since we’re talking about other businesses, I’ll stick with the companies). I want to be able to call a company, know who I’m talking with, have personal service and be able to have a quality product for you. That only happens if I put in the time to develop those relationships and it’s FUN, but also work. Much like exercising or eating right or anything you have to do as a grown up: it can be rewarding, but it takes time.mint group picture

For instance, these people at Mint {their colorful showroom pictured at the top} are my real life friends. We know about each other’s children, favorite desserts, funny quirks and stories, etc. Christi/ the owner (2nd from right next to Vicki) knows I’m a space geek and forwards me any article she sees online about NASA. And I send her videos I know she would love. I have stitched lots of their samples shown in their market showroom. We text, talk and are real life friends. So, when I call her about work stuff, she helps me as a friend. THAT is why we go every chance we can: because these companies are awesome and we love being their partners. (Pic swiped from my other IRL friend Lauren- second from left- from Design a Latte Boutique.) (I’m smack in the middle of that pic if you’re keeping track.)

5) Do NOT get sidetracked

Market is like Vegas.

elvis

In most areas, there isn’t a lot of light, people are offering you free drinks at every turn and an Elvis might appear out of nowhere. You have NO idea what time it is and your day will be gone before you know it. Every person there wants to talk with you. Every person there is in SALES. If you don’t have an objective, you WILL be sidetracked.
dolly and michael

Danggit. There’s Dolly and Michael’s alive! Gotta hear them sing for a second…. NO! Must get to floor 16!

6. Cash and Carry

Yes. You’ve heard of it and it’s REAL!

jewels at market

There are places where you can just buy goodies at wholesale prices. Most of these are shops that specialize in jewelry, accessories and clothing, but there are TONS of options. Like the other showrooms, some of the Cash and Carry stores (most take cards, too) are permanents and some are just there as temporaries. Some of the permanent stores have a sign up front that says “SAMPLES” which means you can purchase their last year’s stock or overstock in the back of the showroom. People have been known to purchase entire wardrobes for waaaaay less than retail price. But you have to have time to try on (there aren’t a lot of dressing rooms), dig and dig some more (think TJ Maxx x 1000). Then you have to carry whatever you purchase the rest of the day. So, you really have to want that dress to make it happen!

Just once I wish I was one of those fitbit people, because you walk about 32 million steps at market. (I’m exaggerating. But prob 12,000 or so.) It’s a long day filled with friends, food, cheap alcohol and walking non-stop (basically Mardi Gras for business owners, right?). Then you drag your bag of goodies back to the hotel, talk your roomies into going out with you and then do it all over again the next day! And you secretly wish you had one of those dang rolling bags…

What did I leave out? What questions do you have? I’ll be glad to answer if I can!  

 

Hillary Dunham