DIY, Events + Markets

Flea Marketing: Plan Your Attack

April 25, 2008

With the weekend ahead I’m certain that some of you are planning to hit a few flea markets. Time to plan your attack! I’m quite pleased that it’s about time for my annual trip to the Brimfield Flea Market May 13 – 18 in Brimfield, MA. I found my handmade guide to Brimfield from ’07, it’s this system I create and follow each year because it keeps me on track since this is one gigantic show. I need to get started on the ’08 version for next month’s visit.

Why do I bother? At one time, I would attend huge fleas without a game plan and always purchased things I didn’t need, that didn’t work in my home (size, color, etc.), or none of the above — I left empty handed because I felt overwhelmed with options so I didn’t buy a single thing. Then I got smart and started making these little guides for myself so I could chart my course. Here’s what I do:

Flea Marketing: Plan Your Attack Pack supplies: I carry in a large tote some sunscreen, bottled water, a snack bar, almonds, glasses, a hat, my guide, and a smaller zippered pouch (shown above) that holds scissors, pens, pencils, a tiny notebook, a few of my business cards, a few spare ziploc bags (for storing parts that may come with a piece, like screws), measuring tape, fabric swatches I’m looking to match, and paint swatches.) In my car, I have rope and a few screwdrivers just in case. I also bring with me measurements of current spaces I’m looking to fill. Let’s say I need a dresser and I have a very specific place for it. I will measure the space in my home and note it so when I find something I want at the flea market, I can measure it to see if it will fit.

Flea Marketing: Plan Your AttackMake a binder: Grab a bunch of clear page inserts and instead of putting them in a binder, tie them together with ribbon (make knots). I do this because it’s much lighter to carry around in my tote and I can roll it up if I need to. In it, I carry fabric swatches, paint swatches, floor plans, measurements, clippings from magazines of things I’m looking for, etc. All of this keeps my EYE ON THE BALL. I don’t get overwhelmed or confused. I know the exact red I’m looking for, or the pattern I’m trying to find, etc. There’s no guess work. I make purchases that I’m confident in thanks to my handy guide.

Flea Marketing: Plan Your AttackChart your course. I download the various maps from the Brimfield website and highlight the vendors that I want to visit, writing down their name, booth number, and quick notes (what they sell, contact name, etc.). I number them in order of importance so I’m sure not to miss the vendors that I really want to see. You can use their database online to search for vendors that carry what you’re looking for. Let’s say you’re into McCoy. Click here, search for McCoy under Items Exhibited, click Search and you’ll see that two vendors carry McCoy items along with their location. Look for them on your map and highlight their booths so once you arrive, you know where to look first. I also note the time that the show begins, as the flea market contains several fields each with their own opening times.

Tip: Don’t forget a rolling cart! I regret not bringing one last year! You can buy them at a few locations on the fairgrounds for around $40 but they sell out quite fast so bring your own if you can.

Have fun at the fleas this Spring/Summer! Oh and if you’re looking for some flea market inspiration, the Raised in Cotton blog and the Junk Market Girls website are great places to start. And here’s a handy guide I wrote on How To Find Flea Markets and Indie Craft Fairs.

(images from holly becker for decor8)


  • Reply That Girl Designs April 25, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    These are great tips Holly! The hat, sunscreen, and water are a MUST! I can’t wait to go to some flea markets this summer. Happy shopping!

  • Reply Molly April 25, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Great tips. Brimfield is so huge it can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared. In addition to your list of things you bring, I keep blankets in my car, and bubble wrap if I intend to buy fragile things. Don’t want my treasures to get broken before I get home!

  • Reply Vintage-Love April 25, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    hi Holly!
    Great idea – I love fleamarkets and often buy things I didn?t like in my home.

    Have a nice fleamarket-weekend,

  • Reply diana @ please sir April 25, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks Holly! I’m going the Libery Antique Festival in NC this weekend. Doesn’t sound as large as the Brimfield, but noteworthy for the east coast. I’m not always as organized, although I do recommend bringing a small cart with wheels (or even suitcase with wheels) to cart around smaller items. For me it is more about when I see it – I know it – and have to get it! Have fun!

  • Reply Lobster and swan April 25, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    This is such a great plan Holly!
    We don’t have flea markets of this size much over here but next time I hit paris this advice will be very valuable.
    Wish I was this organised!

    thanks to you next time I will be : )


  • Reply J April 25, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Such great tips! I have never been but hope to this summer.

  • Reply Cupcakes and Cashmere April 25, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    What a great idea! This tip will surely save me hundreds of dollars a year! I always end up leaving with heaps of dresses, shoes and knick knacks, so I will certainly give your idea a shot!

  • Reply Ver April 25, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Holly! Great tips! You make it sound so exciting! Just like a picnic!

    Would you have any suggestions on how to organize a craft fair in my area? I’d love to do it.. I have lots of great ideas but need a guide on how to do it!

  • Reply diana @ please sir April 25, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Just re-read your article…sorry…you mentioned a rolling cart! But, YES…it is very important!

  • Reply Kristina April 25, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Oh Holly, you are on it! Great, easy tips. I also like to carry a digital camera with me to snap a picture of any piece I’m not quite sure of. This way, I have an image to compare to something else at another booth that might not be so close by.

  • Reply Dina April 25, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Great plan! I’ve been working on my “Brimfield” book for awhile now. Somehow, I always end up finding the one item I really want…this year it’s a card catalog.

    What day are you planning on going?

  • Reply Lauren April 25, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    great tips here! I was thinking about going to Brimfield this year? Is it worth staying over? I live in NYC so the drive isn’t so bad. If I arrived early Saturday morning and stayed over just Saturday night and shopped more Sunday…is it worth it?

  • Reply Marcia V. of Precious Style Blog April 25, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I am so giddy that you posted this today, seeing that I planned on doing a bit of flea market shopping tomorrow. I often find myself leaving fairs, markets, or antique stores earlier than anticipated because I came unprepared. These are great ideas to avoid that frustration and finally make it through the entire place. Thanks Holly!

  • Reply nyc/caribbean ragazza April 26, 2008 at 8:26 am

    These are great tips. There is a huge on Rome every sunday near Trastevere. The first (and last) time I went I felt so overwhelmed.

    I am moving into my apt. this week. I am going to try the market again but this time with a plan.

  • Reply Ashes and Milk April 28, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Amazing post! I really appreciate your organization techniques. And I agree, I think that if you do your homework previous to the trip, you will have so much more fun during the antique show.

    Have fun!

  • Reply a designer friend April 28, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    What a really thorough and useful guide. In all reality, these tips are useful not just for flea market shopping, buy for anytime you are shopping for your home. Thanks for putting it all down in one spot!

  • Reply Liz April 28, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Holly, if you have the option of going to Brimfield any say, how do you decide which day to go? The market opens on Tuesday, but some of the larger shows/fields don’t open until Wednesday. I’m not savvy enough about the individual dealers to choose based on whether one or another of them is in a particular field. Any advice? Thanks so much in advance!

  • Reply Cindy Ann Ganaden April 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks Holly!! I think I’m going to use a similar planning tactics when I go to the National Stationary Show.

  • Reply casapinka April 28, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for the tips – I’m counting the days until Brimfield!

  • Reply Jill April 30, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I, also, would love any advice on navigating Brimfield. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. It will be my first time!

  • Reply magikquilter January 8, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Great post Holly and really spot on…especially the rolling cart bit! I also always take a tape measure with me when charity and vintage shopping and a book with all my friends and relatives measurements…as I sew it is easy for me to work out if something can be altered easily…have mad ea lot of great buys in silk and linen which are also wonderful to work with.

    magikquilters last blog post: Kaffe Lovers

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