Do you own an RV? Do you dream of owning one? Do you like the pop up camping lifestyle? Would you like to travel in retirement? If you answered yes to any of these questions AND you are one of those who have a knack for sales, and a love for something that is marketable- have I got the job for you!
When I think about my dream (years and years ago) of opening a store and pursuing my passion, I can remember days where I knew that owning a retail brick and mortar store was too much, at the time. There were few if any Internet sales, so I worked in many a store…but it wasn’t where my heart was. These days many of you might wonder about or be considering internet sales as the way to go in pursuing your dreams. And then, there are those of us who love the open road and traveling, with an equal love of flea markets, antiquing, vintage goods and craft shows. How better to get there AND sell your wares than to invest in a pop up store…one that you can sleep in each night!
Mobile stores are all over Europe and they are becoming more commonplace here in America. They allow store owners to take their “stores” (RVs) to various locations to maximize their exposure and attract diverse customers. You can take your store on the road using a bus, a van or an RV that is set up specifically to hold new or used clothing, vintage items or personal crafts, jewelry, art, or food. The possibilities are many if you stop and think about it. While the space is smaller than a typical brick-and-mortar location, you can still display your wares throughout the mobile store for shoppers to browse.
What if you have an historical interest that spans years of collectables and want to share it? Take it on the road! Museums that travel are popular and the choice of attending a show or event is up to you. The contacts you might meet and the friends you would get to know that share your passion would be incredible.
Do you plan (or hope) to retire at the beach? Why not supplement your income selling hot dogs and lemonade from your RV? Heck, why not sell cupcakes, baked goods, Italian ice or even ice cream! Can you imagine the fun you would have? RVs can be equipped with professional kitchens and the menu can change according to your whims.
Flea marketing and selling in a caravan and the RV lifestyle are extremely compatible. You can sell whatever interests you. Many caravans take orders for the goods they sell, while others have everything on hand. You want to always plan on having something popular to sell that people can take home that same day.
You can sell a hodgepodge of used and new items, and personal crafts and wares, depending on what is available, where you are at, the type of show, and how long you expect to be there. Weather is always an issue for the mobile enthusiast who travels with her store. Your selection of merchandise can change from weekend to weekend, based on the weather, the area and your inventory. Some vendors specialize in one line; others travel and spend time looking for new wares to sell, and then set up their store. Still others make their goods while they travel and sell it at the same time-sometimes even unfinished!
Being mobile has several advantages when it comes to selling merchandise. Items that may not sell well in one area may sell great a couple of states over. A market may be saturated with a certain product, to the point where no one is selling much of it, and a dealer with a stockpile of it may be more than happy to trade it for stock you have that is new to his market. The barter system can be fun! When traveling, it is also possible to stop at wholesalers across the country to pick up merchandise, thus saving on shipping charges and allowing you to obtain items that are not available from a catalog. The RV mercantile of today is nothing like the past. Your life won’t suddenly become an episode of Little House on the Prairie…although sometimes I bet many of us long for that simplicity.
Flea market vending while full-time RVing lets you choose how often you relocate and how many new markets you work. You can also choose the size of your booth display, making it suitable for any size rig. The amount of traveling you do can fluctuate with the time of year, the prosperity of the present market, and how severe your hitch-itch is at the moment. (Hitch-itch is a term used by full-timers to express the uneasiness of being in one place for too long a time, and the desire to hitch up the rig and move to somewhere new).
In the fall, for instance, you can do a series of farm harvest shows, which means you move every weekend. In the winter, you may find a place you like and settle in for a couple months. It is possible to sell at a different market every weekend throughout the year. It is also possible to stay at one market year around, although sales may be better if you move at least seasonally.
You have to consider costs when moving, balancing the cost of moving with anticipated sales increases. Your desire to be in one place or another plays a big part in how often you move, as well as to where you go. Overall, when flea marketing, vendors move an average of about every two or three weeks.
Several guide books and numerous publications are available to help locate markets. State tourism departments offer listings of events, many which include flea markets, craft sales, and antique shows in their programs. Dealers share information on markets and shows, often providing a lead to the next stop.
The equipment needed to operate a business in a caravan is as varied as the people who do it and the merchandise they sell. One flea market set-up is large and seems excessive to some, while others seem too small. Sometimes vendors use as many as 28 eight-foot tables, plus ground space. Some use a pick-up truck to tow a cargo trailer that carries merchandise. One’s home trailer can be pulled by a van, or a truck, transformed into a well-equipped workshop on wheels. In addition to an inventory that is both extensive and bulky, and tables, you need to have one or two canopy sets. On the other hand there are set-ups that include a single card table and a showcase full of jewelry or a box full of the seller’s own handcrafted works. The norm is somewhere in between the extremes.
In addition to flea markets, other sales vending opportunities exist for RVers who want to spend time outdoors. Fairs and carnivals can be very lucrative. RV shows and rallies are natural places for RVers to sell their wares. Community days, fall days, special interest hobby shows, car shows, beach venues and numerous other special events usually have a sales area.
Many thrive on the freedom and independence flea marketing and caravanning provides. However, while there are few rules, there are fewer guarantees. One weekend sales may be great; the next they may be completely rained out. Many vendors become family in much the same way RVers in clubs do. Many choose markets that allow RVers to stay on the grounds with their trailer (and pets). Although the facilities may not be the fanciest, overnight fees/campground costs are next to nothing.
An added bonus is that many venues are historical areas or tourism hot spots. This is an added bonus for non sale days. Obtaining merchandise, processing it for sale, setting up, selling, tearing down, packing, doing bookwork, etc. are all part of the job., but everyone needs a day off now and then and you can plan excursions on these days.
Selling in a mobile store is still a job. It can be a lot of hard work. But, it is a job that allows couples or friends to work together pursuing their personal interests while maintaining a lifestyle that is reasonably free of tight time schedules and arbitrary rules. It is a fun way for a single retiree to spend time with like-minded people. It is a way for “Mom” to get away on weekends and take the kids along.
If you are not quite ready for a brick and mortar store or consigning your wares, and online sales aren’t your cup of tea, another way to pursue your passion is with a caravan.
What do you think? Could you become a store on wheels? Is this the lifestyle for you?
Where there is a will, there is a way. Never stop dreaming.
Living the Dream,