Determining Inventory for a Farmer's Market or Pop-Up

Determining Inventory for a Farmer's Market or Pop-Up

With the holiday season right around the corner, participating in markets or pop-up events can be a fantastic way to boost your reputation through word-of-mouth.

Planning for a market can be intimidating though and one of the most stressful components can be simply determining how much food to bring! If you bring too little, you might sell out early and lose the opportunity for sales, potentially impacting your profits. However, if you bring an excess, you risk taking home perishable items. Of course, you could share those extra baked goods with neighbors or fellow vendors, but when you've put in the effort to create your goods from scratch, selling them and maximizing your profit is the preferred outcome, rather than searching for ways to give them away.

After participating in my local market twice a week for six consecutive months, I eventually came up with a reliable formula that's relatively straightforward to follow. However, it's essential to keep in mind that market conditions can vary from place to place. What works for my area might differ significantly from your own. Additionally, I follow two different approaches depending on whether I'm attending a new market or my familiar local market.

Let's begin with a new market or pop-up event. In this scenario, the first step is to reach out to the event manager to estimate the expected number of attendees. I would then prepare enough of my "core" baked goods (like cake slices or sourdough) to serve 10-15% of the visitors and enough of my "filler" baked goods (such as brownies, cookies, fudge, etc.) to serve 5-10% of the attendees. For example, if the event typically draws 300 visitors, I might bring 30-45 cake slices and 15-20 brownies. Alternatively, I might bring 30 loaves of sourdough and 15 bread bowls (15%) along with 30 cookies (10%), or arrange my offerings as I see fit. For my non-perishable supplementary items like creamed honey, dry pancake mix, or vanilla bean paste, I'd bring as many as I'm comfortable with, given that there's no risk if they don't all sell. Don't forget to bring plenty of samples if your state allows because visitors may not be familiar with your offerings, and sampling can increase the likelihood of them making a purchase.

On the other hand, if the event is one you attend regularly, like your local farmer's market, you can approach things differently, following what I call the "three market rule." This means you maintain the quantities mentioned above until you've sold out at least three times in a row. Once you've achieved this, you increase your quantity by 5%. So, 30 cake slices would become 45, and 15 brownies would become 22. Test these new quantities at the next market and make slight adjustments based on performance. Continue with this approach until you once again sell out three times consecutively, at which point you increase by 5%, and so on. Additionally, it's important to note that as you build a customer base and become a regular at the market, you can significantly reduce the number of samples you offer because your visitors will be familiar with your products and become repeat customers.

That's about it, and I genuinely hope this guidance proves beneficial to you. This was an area where I initially struggled, unsure of where to start and how much to prepare. Best of luck at the markets!


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Lizzie – Her math is on the total attendance – initially was 10-15% of 300 which 10% is 30. Then if you increase it 5% to 15% of the total attendance of 300, now you’re at 45. Does that make sense?


Excited to subscribe! Just joined the platinum membership


Hello. This is Duglenys. Im Baker. Im from Venezuela. I currently attend a local farmers market. I want to take my business to another level. I feel like I’m stuck. My products are good and people like them. I need help.


I think you’re missing a 0 after 5% to make your math work.


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