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It's a Swapping Success!

Swap meets give entrepreneurs a low-cost way to break into retail.

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This story appears in the June 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Want to get started in the retail business? Check out your local flea market or swap meet as an inexpensive yet effective point of entry. "It's a good way for people to get into business," says Chuck Pretto, president of the National Flea Market Association, which estimates there are currently between 2,500 and 3,000 weekly flea markets across the nation, bringing in about $5 billion in annual sales.

The first step, says Pretto, is to research your local flea market. Shop the market to get a feel for the customers, the booth design/setup and the kinds of products that sell well, paying special attention to vendors in your same category. Says Pretto, "[Determine] who your competition is, and then you can make [your offering] a bit different or a bit better." In terms of booth design, "Don't just lay your merchandise on tables and on the ground," he says. Design a display that is both welcoming and attractive to customers.

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