Lessons learned from my first trip to a wholesale market
I had the privilege of attending Dallas Market this year. It was a whirlwind of a week, and now that it’s over, I wanted to share with you 7 hacks I stumbled upon along the way. While I totally get that attending Market is not within reach for many, I still hope you find this insiders perspective useful and interesting — if not for now, perhaps for a future market.
“Market” happens 2 times per year for us floral peeps. In January, you shop for products for the upcoming and Fall and Christmas season. Likewise, in June, you shop for Spring/Summer the following year. I decided to attend market specifically to see and source wreath florals, greenery and embellishments for you firsthand, but even if you don’t plan on purchasing in quantity (or purchasing anything for that matter), by attending market, you will get a sneak peek of the trends of upcoming seasons 6-8 months in advance! This, in turn, lets you pre-plan your projects so you can be ahead of the competition with your wreath designs.
The best floral selection happens at Dallas Market (which is why I chose to attend that one), however there’s another market in Atlanta, Georgia. From my random conversations with more savvy market buyers, the consensus was that Dallas is the best market for newbies like me. It’s not nearly as spread out, and just much, much easier to navigate.
Beyond florals, you’ll find vendors peddling jewelry, lighting, furniture, knick knacks, plates, vases, signs, food, essential oils… the list goes on and on and on. There’s just soooo much to see, you guys!
Here’s a few things i’ve learned from this inspiring and exciting adventure:
Lesson 1: Plan ahead
Since I had never been to the Dallas area before, I had NO IDEA where I was going or what I was doing. The helpful folks at Dallas Market Travel were able to recommend a hotel that provided a shuttle to market every day as well as a shuttle to and from the airport. No rental car needed! If you choose to find a hotel room yourself, make sure you keep ground transportation in mind. Parking at market is next to impossible, so I strongly urge you to find accommodations on the shuttle route.
Regarding airfare, Dallas Market Travel offers a discount if you fly with certain airlines, but I chose to instead fly Southwest to the closer airport (Dallas/Love Field). Love Field is a smaller airport, and it’s only about a 10-15 minute car ride away from many hotels along the market shuttle route.
I ended up staying at the Crowne Plaza Market Center – as of this writing, it is in the middle of a renovation. There were a few minor inconveniences like only 2 working elevators and random cordoned off areas of construction, but the friendliness of the staff more than made up for it. (there may or may not have been a busted toilet issue as well, but that problem was corrected too, so I don’t hold anything against them) This particular hotel is located over 2 miles away from market, but who cares? The free shuttle took us there and back every day with zero problems (other than traffic, which is just a little bit intense in the Dallas area, in case you didn’t know).
Lesson 2: Give yourself plenty of time
Pro buyers that go to market are often able to somehow accomplish everything they need to in just a few days. Perhaps they already know which vendors to approach? I was not so lucky! I arrived in Dallas on Tuesday evening and ventured in to Market for most of the day on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (mental note, wear comfy shoes!). And I still ran out of time!
You guys, I cannot stress HOW HUGE this place is! You walk in and it feels like a shopping mall. Walk past the registration desk and look up to see an open atrium with floor upon floor of vendors. And that’s just the one building – there are 2 more!
I ended up spending most of my time on the second floor of one of the buildings (IHDC). That’s where the bulk of the floral companies are. I did venture in to the other buildings briefly (hello, indoor koi pond!) but by and large, most of my time was in IHDC.
Lesson 3: Try to leave no stone unturned
Never underestimate a vendor. Just because you have never heard of a particular company does not mean they are not worth looking at. I found SOOOOO many hidden gems from companies I have never heard of! In fact, I found myself spending the most time at places like these. I knew I could purchase online from the big name wholesale companies whenever I feel like it, but spending time and money at places only accessible via going to market means I can bring you products that aren’t generally available to everyone. This, in turn, means your creations will have a unique flair!
Lesson 4: Things to ask when you walk in the door
Each company handles their showroom differently, but the questions I asked when I approached a new vendor are the same:
- What is your order minimum?
- How does your pricing work? (for example, priced as marked, 50% off the ticketed price, 60% off, etc etc – each vendor does it differently). Note that the second part of the pricing equation concerns case quantities (cases range from quantities of 24 or less for bulky items all the way up to 144 or more for small/flat items). Many vendors offered less of a discount if you did not buy a full case. Pay attention to this, because your benefits of buying wholesale can rapidly disappear unless you buy in quantity.
- Where do orders ship from?
A note on shipping: Being in Maryland, you can imagine my dismay when I heard time and again that most companies ship out of California. In order to make it worth my while to order products, I have to order a pallet worth of stuff (which is A TON and WAAAY more than the minimum order amount, btw!) If a vendor only had 2 or 3 things I was interested in purchasing, it wasn’t worth even considering buying from them, as the shipping would have negated any savings gleaned from purchasing wholesale.
BUUUUUT — The good news is that certain vendors will combine shipping with other vendors if their warehouses are near enough to each other. With this hack, you’ll be able to get minimum quantities from multiple showrooms, but you only need to pay to ship 1 pallet. Talk to your vendors to see if they will combine shipping and with whom.
I fully recognize not everyone needs to order pallet quantities! However if you do get full cases of items, consider splitting the spoils amongst other local crafters. That way, you’ll be able to capitalize on some supply savings!
Lesson 5: Texas is COOOOOOLD in January!
Coming from Maryland with a foot of snow on the ground, I was looking forward to spending some time in a warm, southern state. You guys! Texas in January is COOOOOLD!!!! Not quite as cold as Maryland, however one windy day it was 28 degrees in the morning. Seriously! I can get that treatment at home, LOL.
The takeaway here, is to bring a mixture of comfy clothes and wear layers so you aren’t boiling hot while shopping at Market. I ended up needing a sweater for outdoors in the morning/afternoon, but took it off once I entered market (and I repeat, WEAR COMFY SHOES! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!).
Lesson 6: There’s an app for that
Dallas Market Center has an app. Use it! I ended up adding a few of the instructional events to my calendar but the only things I ended up attending were Damon (Deco Exchange) & Julie’s (Southern Charm Wreaths) presentations. I just did not have time to do much of anything else! Hopefully I will be able to pay more attention to other presentations at later markets — you know, once I become a “pro market buyer” (lol).
Beyond scheduling seminars, the app is useful for quickly looking up the location of a particular vendor (which I primarily used it for). Also, push notifications went out when there were special events, snacks, or contests. In short, it’s useful!
Lesson 7: There is strength in numbers
I can’t stress enough how important this lesson is! (#CommunityOverCompetition) Hook up with like-minded floralistas (or floralisters) when you get there! I was able to bounce ideas and opinions off of my crew (Luz Evans from Le Wreath and Stephanie Shackleford from Stephanie’s Design Studio). If I showed them something and they both liked it, I knew it was probably getting added to my order.
I had planned to meet Luz ahead of time (we saved $ by splitting our hotel room), but we met Stephanie Thursday night and spent most of Friday and Saturday with her. She is AWESOME, you guys! I valued both of their opinions over my own, and while Luz could not convince me to buy a red truck anything (soooo over that, y’all!) she did convince me to get a couple of unique pieces for halloween (!!!).
If you only walk away from this post with one takeaway, let it be known to wear comfy shoes, and comfy clothes! My first day at market was completely overwhelming (sensory overload — all the pretty things!), and I had to take frequent breaks. Don’t be afraid to take it all in at your own pace. Oh, and wear comfy shoes! 😀
So tell me, have you ever had to battle traffic in the Dallas area? Or ever been to a wholesale market?