What’s Old is New Again: Flea Markets are Booming

By Garth Kant

May 27, 2020

(Come join the fun at the Leigh Acres Flea Market every Saturday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. We will have on display hundreds of artifacts and antiques from around the world!)

Flea markets are an American tradition as old as baseball. The idea for these open-air street markets arrived from Europe in the 1870’s. Yankee ingenuity quickly turned them into a staple of do-it-yourself capitalism. Flea markets provided a way for immigrants (or anyone) to get into business by finding an instant demand for previously owned goods sold at bargain prices.

Today, business is booming at flea markets across the country. It is now a $30-billion dollar business that is rapidly growing and expected to double in just a few years. There are more than 1,000 flea markets in the U.S. with more than two-million vendors serving more than 150-million customers each year.

The popularity of flea markets is growing as an alternative to big box stores, and without celebrity endorsements or expensive ad campaigns. A new generation of shoppers is looking for items that have been recycled or repurposed. Customers also enjoy helping support local and independent businesses, especially those with a mom-and-pop feel.

For some, there is the thrill of the treasure hunt. For others, it’s a social event in their community – a pleasant way to spend time with family and friends, and a break from the solitary experience of online shopping. Flea markets are helping bring back the human connection to the shopping experience.

“While traditional main street and mall-based retailers have faced enormous headwinds over the years, the flea market industry has remained resilient, successfully weathering the change in consumer spending patterns,” said Rob Sieban, president and CEO of United Flea Markets.

“Today’s younger consumers (Millennials and Gen Z) are smart, frugal, socially and environmentally conscious,” he added. “The days of ostentatious over spending are not for them. We are seeing a heightened desire for vintage and repurposed merchandise. One-of-a-kind offerings are paramount with today’s younger consumers.”

Part of the appeal is what’s called the emerging “circular economy”, one that values regeneration and restoration rather than waste.

“There’s increasing recognition that the businesses that are most successful are the ones that are actually the most nonprofit-like; that create a sense of mission, that create a sense of purpose, their employees work for them because they feel they’re doing good in their job, they’re changing people’s lives in some way,” observed Gary Steuer, CEO and president of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.

Come see for yourself what the excitement is all about every Saturday at the Leigh Acres Flea Market in New Market.

Sources and more information:

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