Good grounding at Sunday flea markets

Sunday markets are offering aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to test their business skills without the burden of high overheads and a huge capital, reports IVY SOON. 

Early this year, Marziani Mohd Zain opened her shop, D’Rias, in Times Square. But every Sunday, Marziani leaves the comfort of her cosy, air-conditioned shop to set up stall under the blazing sun at the Mont Kiara Arts, Bric-a-brac and Craft (ABC) Market.  

“I never miss my Sundays (at the ABC market). It is where I started. My regulars expect me to be there,” says Marziani who set up stall at the Sunday market in the affluent Mont Kiara neighbourhood four years ago. It was at the market that Marziani honed her business skills, and built up her clientele. 

She started her business at home by selling two suitcases of goods she bought with a loan from her air steward husband. Within two days she sold off all the household items she had bought in Beijing, China. But she soon realised the limitations of selling from home.  

When she heard of the weekly market at Mont Kiara, she was determined to set up a stall. 

EXPANDING MARKET: Marziani honed her business skills at the Mont Kiara ABC market without the burden of high overheads and a huge capital.

“I visited the market to see what everyone else was selling, and decided that I’d start by selling children’s apparel and household goods. I applied for a stall, and was fortunate to be given one quite quickly because no one was selling children’s clothes then,” recalls Marziani. 

Getting a place in the weekend markets can be competitive, as only about 20% of stalls are allocated for non-regulars, and there is a long waiting list for the stalls.  

“We usually offer stalls to those selling something unique, that is not available at the fair,” says Sunrise senior corporate communications executive Sharon Lim who helps to coordinate the Mont Kiara ABC Market. 

“We also prefer stall owners with a good track record; those who turn up on time and declare their sales honestly.”  

It also helps if you know the theme of the various markets. 

“The one in Subang Parade is a craft market. So, I’d give preference to vendors who want to sell craft items. But it has to be hand-made, not bought from manufacturers,” says Judy Phoon who started organising bazaars from the late 1980s. 

At the Mont Kiara market, the theme is arts, bric-a-brac, and crafts.  

At the Sunday flea market in Amcorp Mall, the focus is on antiques and collectibles. It does not have space for a clothes stall as it has been allocated to charitable organisations. 

The first indoor Sunday flea market started in Amcorp Mall in 1998 with about 25 stalls. Back then the rental was only RM25. People quickly caught on the concept, and found that it was possible to make money selling off their second-hand schoolbooks, records and even the wedding gift teapot set that has been collecting dust over the years. 

Hobbyists also found weekend markets a good place to sell off their creations. Rina Matsui, whose Flowerdrum bag collection now enjoys a loyal following, first tested her products on the market at the Amcorp Mall flea market.  

More Sunday markets have been established in recent years, each with its own identity. To avoid the competition from the more popular Sunday markets, Saturday markets have also begun cropping up in the Klang valley. 

Marziani still remembers how nervous she was when she first started. The former air stewardess knew next to nothing about running a business. 

But she knew where to shop for beautiful things from her travels abroad, and began sourcing for her products in China and Cambodia. She also had sound instincts, and was determined to be in business for the long haul. 

It was hard work lugging her wares, and manning the stall under the sun, but the experience has been rewarding for Marziani. 

“There is no such thing as being shy, malu, in running a business. I have to do everything; carting the bags, sweating under the hot sun, serving customers, sourcing for the goods. If you are shy, you might as well just stay at home.” 

She started selling women’s clothes when her customers asked her to bring them in, and found her niche.  

“When SARS hit China, I could not go to Beijing to buy my goods. So, I turned to India. It so happened that Indian clothes were in fashion then, so the timing was right,’’ relates Marziani who now travels to India thrice a month to source for her clothes. 

She learnt everything from scratch; from settling logistic matters to establishing contacts to designing her own line. She made mistakes along the way, but she persevered.  

TWO JOBS: Mazlinda holds a full-time job but devotes her weekends to her craft business.

“It was at the market that I began getting regular customers. There are customers who would come and buy something every week. 

It was also her regular customers who encouraged her to go beyond the Sunday market. Some would ask her to bring her goods to their offices ? “I would bring two or three bags and set up shop at someone’s office during the Friday lunch hour. If I remain only at Mont Kiara, only people around Petaling Jaya would know of my products.” 

Her business, says Marziani, has taken on a momentum that is beyond her expectations. 

“I have gone from bringing in goods in one suitcase to using cargo. My car used to be enough to cart the goods, but now I need a van.” 

To expand her market base, Marziani began to set up stall at the City Square craft market on Saturdays, and participated in bazaars held in shopping complexes. 

“It was a good way to start because my overheads were low. I only had to pay the stall rental, which was RM50 and a 10% commission of my sales (at Mont Kiara ABC Market). My family is very supportive; everyone chips in.” 

As her clientele grew, Marziani found herself entertaining customers in her home.  

“Some people could not wait for the weekend, and asked to come to my house to look at the clothes. Sometimes, there would be 10 cars parked outside, and my house became more like a shop. It was then that I decided to open up the shop in Berjaya Times Square with a partner.” 

However, she still holds on to the principles that have won over her customers at the Sunday market – reasonable prices and value for money. 

“The aim is not to get rich quick, but to be in business for the long term. I make sure my clothes are affordable, and my products move ? so that rezeki tak putus,” says Marzani. 

Mazlina Lee, who sells costume jewellery at the Subang Parade weekly craft market, also abides by the same principle. As the overhead is low, Lee says she could afford to keep her prices competitive. 

“My profit margin is not high, but I go for the volume.” 

She started dabbling in business about four years ago, after her daughter was born. At first, she sold bags but business was slow. Then, she switched to costume jewellery and business flourished. She sources for her products locally, but modifies them to give her accessories an edge over the competition. 

Starting her business at the Sunday market was feasible for Mazlina because she did not need to have a huge capital. 

“I haven’t had much rest in the last six months as I spend my evenings modifying the jewellery and my Sundays at the market. But it is satisfying when customers love the things you sell. We even make friends with our regular customers, and they tell us what is in fashion,” says Lee who holds a full time job in administration.  

Some day, says Lee, she hopes to open up her own shop.  

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