DESPITE threats of being taxed by overzealous revenue collectors? intent on meeting their target, bazaar joiners remain an undaunted lot. At least, judging by the number of bazaars, flea markets, tiangges or baratillos that have mushroomed these days in commercial centers and ritzy enclaves. (Well, okay, maybe a few suddenly got cold feet after the taxmen floated their Santax scheme, sending this writer a flurry of text messages begging us to ?pls dnt use my rl name tnx? and ?dnt idntfy me ha??).
Quick, somebody tell these revenue guys that while long-time bazaar participants (or bazaaristas as they call themselves) have started enjoying respectable profits, a lot more are really just budding traders or young entrepreneurs testing their wings in the real marketing world.
?Yes, it?s good income now,? admits Baby T., whose family leases seven stalls in the Greenhills Bazaar during its Yuletide run. ?But you have to factor in the fact that it?s taken us years, and a lot of hard work and investment, before we realized some profit. And for those who?re just starting out, because of so many tiangges these days, competition is greater and making some profit can be more difficult.?
It was Baby?s eldest daughter, fresh from college with a Med Tech degree, who took a chance on the first Ortigas tiangge offering in the ?80s, borrowing the initial capital for stall rental and stocks from her parents.
?I was worried for her at the start, especially when I saw that her co-graduates were getting on in their careers or had left for training abroad,? recalls Baby. ?And here she was, manning her stall daily, working on what many do not even consider a career. I felt she was being left behind, and sometimes I would nag her about applying for work that?s more in line with her course and training.?
Soon enough however, the family discovered that the daughter?s gift was in merchandising ? she knew just what the buyers wanted ? and how to cost out the items. At first, she got them on consignment from local wholesalers. Later, not content with the stocks of local importers, she decided to source her stuff directly from abroad.
Today the still exasperated, though proud, mother laughs about being a ?hired help? of her bazaarista daughter, who travels abroad every other month to get fresh stocks for her 10 RTW stalls all over Metro Manila.
Yes, Baby admits. ?You can earn much from participating in a bazaar or tiangge, but you have to be willing to work and you must have patience because it can take long before you see any real pay-off.?
But what works for one many not necessarily work for another, cautions Faiba, a young Muslim mother who has just opened her second ?Everything 10? stall in Cubao. She tried the clothes, bags and accessories routine, she says, ?pero hindi ako nag-click sa ganoon [it didn?t work for me].? When she observed that the low-priced stuff were what customers were snapping up, she re-invented her stall and came up with real low-cost deals.
?But isn?t that what tiangge really means?? she asks in Tagalog. ?Tingi-tingi, piso-piso. Customers like that. They look through the small items, and when they see something that they believe is a bargain, they?re happy to pay only P10 for it.?
She?s doing so well the other stalls that offer more pricey items don?t dare scoff at her odds-and-ends stuff. Faiba may be evasive when asked for figures, but her more sociable tindera readily shares that the P10 sales put together gross about P4,000 a day for them. And with most items bought at wholesale prices, the mark-up for most of them is at least 100 percent, she adds.
?There?s no sure-fire formula for what works and what doesn?t in a tiangge or bazaar,? agrees Noel Garcia, who wandered into the bazaar industry seven years ago, and has since gone from seasonal bazaar exhibitor, to fixed stall lessee, to bazaar organizer. ?You wonder how bazaaristas can still make a profit if they have to pay P2,000 to P5,000 a day for stall rental ? and yet some of them do. Some of the already popular sites even have quite an extensive waiting list of participants.?
Noel recalls that he was already comfortably ensconced in the corporate world as a project engineer when he needed to have a cell phone repaired. Walking through a bazaar in a Quezon City mall, he met a former classmate who had leased a booth offering cell phone supplies and services. Talk shifted to earnings and, doing his math, Noel realized that the friend was making more money than he was, and seemed to be enjoying himself as well.
?It was a quick decision ? I quit my job and asked my friend to take me in as a technician,? he continues. When a booth was available, he grabbed the chance to set up his own outlet. ?The location was not exactly the best, but after a while, if you give really good service, you get to develop a loyal following and people learn of you by word-of-mouth.? From the initial booth, he has acquired five more in the same site.
Just recently, Noel joined a group that has organized a bazaar at the topmost floor of the Farmers Plaza in Cubao. Their strategy is to launch the initiative as the Tien Gate Christmas tiangge, to take advantage of the holiday shopping. But the long-range goal is a permanent bazaar set-up that encourages private enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Having once been a bazaarista himself, Noel knows the problems of small entrepreneurs who are just getting their feet wet. ?We want to make it easy for start-up businesses, which do not have as much capital or unlimited resources as the malls would require,? he says. ?What we did was to lease a large area from the mall and subdivided it into booths with rentals that are more affordable and easier to manage.? Adopting the local Pinoy market style, booth rentals are collected daily, weekly or monthly, at the option of the stall holder.
With so many bazaar or tiangge space offerings to choose from these days, Baby T., Faiba and Noel share some tips to help along the aspiring bazaar participants:
1. Before joining a bazaar, consider your product or merchandise, and determine what market it appeals to. ?Real bargains? on imported products or collectors? items for an AB crowd may be too ?outrageously expensive? for masa (grassroots) consumers. While some organizers do allow participants to reinvent their stall or shift to other products that may be more saleable, others hold you to a contract that limits the item/s you can sell in your booth. So be sure you?re in the right place to begin with.
2. Check the reputation and track record of the bazaar organizer. What other events have they organized and what was the success rate of the exhibitors? Noel warns would-be bazaar joiners to be especially wary of organizers that charge advance rentals. It may happen that the organizer?s contract with the mall is only for two months, renewable. If the stalls are sub-leased for six months and the mall does not renew the organizer?s contract, exhibitors could be left holding the bag. So ask about the organizer?s contract with the mall.
3. Make sure you have a contract with the organizer, which states all the terms: area to be occupied, rate, manner of payment, duration and renewal option, and other details. For instance, is mixed merchandising allowed, i.e. food and non-food together; shoes/bags and clothes together. Some organizers impose zoning restrictions so that there is no mixing of merchandise within the booths.
4. Is it better to join a bazaar that charges for entrance? Again it depends on your products or merchandise. Veteran tiangge participants claim, however, that when people pay to enter a bazaar, they are usually prepared to spend ? or at least feel they have to buy something so the entrance fee is not entirely wasted.
5. Signing up early allows you to choose a good location for your stall, and sometimes get even lower, introductory rates. Passageways are the best and therefore always the first to go, Noel says. Choice spots are also corner stalls, with two sides open, adds Baby T., but they may be more expensive.
6. Pedestrian or foot traffic is a major selling point of organizers ? but look for more than that. ?Even if there are a lot of people, they may only be strollers or browsers,? Noel cautions. ?An easy guide: If a lot of them carry shopping bags or store supots, you know you have a consumer or buying public.?
7. Once you?ve signed up for the bazaar, deck out your stall to make it stand out. Use a lot of signage with attractive colors to make it visually appealing. Offer freebies that add to the bargain experience. Props always help. ?The thing is to stand out in a bazaar, and to promote your products,? advises Faiba. ?A lot of people come just because they see the sign ?Everything P10!? They may be just curious about what they can get for P10, but they?re all potential buyers.?
8. A word on pricing: it helps if you have price tags on all items on display as some shoppers are shy about asking directly if they?re not too sure they?re ready to buy. As ever, though, remember you?re dealing with Pinoys who love to haggle, and feel they?ve always gotten away with a bargain if you knock some pesos or centavos off. Be ready to stall an impending refusal to buy and a hasty departure with the expected ?May tawad pa naman? [haggling is allowed].?