Soapbox Sunday: To have or to sell?

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite games was shops. I'd spend hours setting out all my things, usually on my bed, ready for my first (and only) customer (my sister) to come in and please herself perusing all on offer – books, porcelain dressing table ornaments, the odd bit of jewellery, ballet shoes, clothing and tapes (that's cassette tapes for you young folk). I'd usually get bored after about five minutes and pull the plug, but I've always harboured a secret desire to open my own boutique flush with things to my liking, with very nice bags and gift wrapping and comfy man couches (this, Husband says, is very important for those poor souls reluctantly dragged about by their girlfriends/wives/mistresses – he'll be far more encouraging and less likely to hurry her on if he's able to rest his tired feet).

Until I find the funds to bankroll my little shop of stuff, I have to make do with offloading my wares at the markets. It's like play-shops for grown-ups with commitment issues (and short attention spans). To date I've 'done' Kirribilli Markets twice and Bondi Markets once (that would be today). And, man, is it hard work. It's not just the physical schlepping of your load from home to car to stall, and the time you spend folding and refolding items (only to have them madly tossed about the place by the next nonchalant market goer – grrr), setting up and deconstructing tables and standing on your feet, but the hours of preparation (culling, sorting, re-culling, bagging, hanging...) and emotional tug-of-war that goes along with it (material things harbour so many memories).

Rather like having a Brazilian wax, I forget just how much work holding a stall is and eagerly anticipate the next one with all the enthusiasm of a celebrity on Jay Leno. In my delusional mind state, I imagine selling everything and making a freakin' fortune. The reality is only about a third of your stuff goes and usually for 1/1000th of what you paid for it... if you're lucky. Take, for example, one Charlie Brown winter coat – bought for around $250, sold for $10. Ouch! Or one pair of Calvin Klein Jeans, worn once – bought for $170, sold for $10. Double ouch!

As I've learnt, market retailing is all about quantity over quality. Stacks of pre-loved magazines sold at $1 per piece will disappear in seconds. CDs (already uploaded on iTunes) sold for $2 will fly off the stands. Three tops or tees for $10? Sold, sold, sold! You can't be precious about your stuff, no matter how many good memories they conjure up – on the market playing field, all clothes are created equal... and all are worth next to nix to Nancy Fancy from Neutral Bay. She doesn't care that you went on your first date with your boy in that dress; she just wants the dress for her daughter... for half of what you're asking. And then she'll rifle through a pile of your very cool shorts and skirts and turn her nose up at them (she clearly has no taste, you surmise). Or she'll try to stuff her D-cup boobs inside your size 8 jacket as you cringe behind your veil of politeness, refraining from all but telling her it looks fabulous. You need to affect a little emotional detachment from your stuff prior to market day, and lower your financial expectations, or else you'll find yourself ripping your Ksubi jeans away from some well-meaning 15-year-old who only has $5 to spend. Even though you know you'll never wear them again. You must be strong. There will be other clothes in your life.

Looking at all of the clothes I intended to sell, I felt an immense sense of guilt. How could I have possibly accumulated all of this? I am the Imelda Marcos of tee shirts! I'm like a stockbroker for middle-of-the-range labels (which are, inevitably, what I find myself selling). Why don't I have shares in Witchery/Sportsgirl/Lee/Kookai/American Apparel? Sometimes I can't even remember buying the clothes. Or they still have their price tags attached. Mother looked on with astonishment and admonishment ("Well, it's plain to see where all your money goes") as I lay everything out for assessment pre-markets in her spare room, while Husband gave off an almighty aura of smug (i.e. you have spent a ridiculous sum of money on clothes and shoes and don't have a financial leg to stand on when you get annoyed at me for spending money on my car! Ha!").

The positive thing to come of all of this is that the culling and selling has enabled me to refine my style and made me realise that I really don't need that many things to scrape by... especially as I now work from home and can get away with wearing the same shorts/singlet combo for days without anyone knowing (oops, cat's out of the bag). Sure, when you work in magazines, as apposed to blogging home about them, there is a certain level of glamour and newness to maintain and aspire to – and the girls are very encouraging of new purchases, particularly if they arrive in the office – but when your daily beauty routine turns from a full face (concealer, foundation, shadow, mascara, blush, bronzer, gloss) to naked face (Blistex and SPF moisturiser), there's really no need to break out the heels. I've also decided to spend more on a few special purchases than buying huge quantities of mid-range things, the cumulative affect of which adds up to the price of a designer item I would have held onto for years (or could have, at least, fetched a nice price at the markets).

All said and done, when approached with a realistic and opportunistic attitude, the markets can be fun. I didn't make a zillion bucks (apparently, everyone was sizzling at the beach, not shopping at the markets today, which made for a sparse crowd), but at the end of the day what wasn't sold was given to charity, which was the least I could do to appease my guilty shopaholic's conscience. And I now have space in my wardrobe, room on my shoe racks, drawers that shut and coat hangers with nothing on them. Oh, the possibilities!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Illustration credit: Style: A to Zoe

Bondi markets deets: Go to for info. A casual stall costs $65, plus $10 for insurance and $5 for tables. I recommend you take lots of small change, create signs advertising how cheap your wares are ($5 tops! $10 dresses!), take a clothing rack if possible and don't bother with pricing/labelling. Be prepared to stand around for ages – take iPod, newspaper/magazine/book, sunscreen, snacks and water – and don't be precious about reducing prices to accommodate the market-goers; if you still really love the item, stand your ground or take it off the floor but it'll inevitably just wind up back in your wardrobe taking up space and not being worn. I found Kirribilli markets to be more profitable (and I prefer the 6.30am start to a 9am one) but it could have just been today's weather keeping the crowds at bay (or the beach)...


Anonymous said...

That's such a coincidence, I was at bondi markets yesterday!

Anonymous said...

I live near bondi markets, they are quite fun but often seem to have the same stuff over and over :) Glebe markets are some very interesting markets to

Siobhan said...

I've had stalls at Kirribilli markets too and found there's a good profit to be made from them

Anonymous said...

You have me inspired! :)