So you have all the vendors you need for your market – right on! But you’re not done here. Turnover in market vendors can be devastating to your market, and serving your vendors is just as important as serving your customers. It takes a lot more work to bring in new vendors than to keep yours happy and engaged at the market. Use these tips to help support your efforts in retaining farmers market vendors:
- Evaluate Policies. Are the market policies and rules too limiting to vendors? Perceived as fair? Are they consistently and equally enforced? Is there transparency about any changes? Are there communicated policies in place if a vendor has a conflict with a policy or the market manager?
- Examine Logistics. Are vendor booth space locations in a market guaranteed? Does the vendor get to choose? How are the space assignments determined? Similarly, is it easy to unload and load at the market?
- Train Your Manager. Sometimes vendors don’t quit a market – they quit the market manager. Ensure that your manager is enthusiastic, supportive, and well-trained in their role. You want your vendors to feel supported and encouraged – not regulated – by your manager.
- Show Off Your Vendors. It’s great to feel appreciated! Show off your vendors by highlighting them on your website and social media regularly. Tell their story and promote info about their products. Let them know you’re proud to have them.
- Keep Promoting Your Market. High sales volumes keep vendors happy. Some markets get into a slump when it comes to constantly improving their marketing and promotions, and let attendee counts dip. That’s a big loss for vendors and for you. Try hosting special events, getting entertainment, working with the press, investing in new signage, or increasing your online marketing. Keep growing!
- Try New Programs to Increase Sales. Insufficient sales is the #1 reason vendors quit markets. Consider offering SNAP/EBT, or debit card services at the market to increase sales. Bring in a trainer to offer a free workshop to vendors on marketing and merchandising strategies to increase individual sales.
- Provide Perks. Do you offer vendors discounted insurance policies through your provider? Does your market provide volunteers to help with set‐up and take down? Does the market haul trash or compost? Can a farm have their CSA pick up at market? Not only do such perks help ease the physical toil, they also send a clear message of how a market treats and values their vendors.
- Look for Grants to Benefit Vendors. Explore grant opportunities that will allow you to better support your vendors. Maybe you can host free plant and tree giveaways for your farmers, host formal production trainings, support vendors with the purchase of signage and promotional materials for their booths, or something else. Ask vendors what would help them the most.
- Provide Vendor Education. Depending on your market’s needs, utilize vendor meetings as an opportunity to provide training and information. Have a speaker on increasing production for items you want to have, have an Extension agent answer questions, or share information on producer workshops in the community.
- Involve Them. Have regular vendor meetings where vendors can speak out about issues, help to govern or market the organization, and generally feel heard and become more involved. It’s also great socializing and sharing! In the end, it helps to build friendships, overall market participation and trust.
- Survey Your Vendors Annually. One of the best ways to hear what will keep vendors happy is simply to ask them – especially if it’s anonymous. Vendors often have great insight into how you can improve your market if you’re willing to ask.
Have you done something unique in retaining farmers market vendors? If you’re a vendor, what would keep you with a market? Share your tips!