Marketing executive Reshma Ahuja tries hard to maintain a unique style, at home and in her wardrobe.
But in a world where chain stores ensure fashion and home accessory trends are homogeneous across the country, or even the world, how does Ahuja manage to hang on to her unique sense of style?
She does so through flea markets.
“I am sick of seeing the same clothes and home décor items at every outlet. I have always gone for exclusivity. That is why I visit flea markets, and I’m never disappointed. Nine times out of ten, I walk away with something really nice,” says Ahuja.
India has a tradition of weekly bazaars that take place in many cities even today. A flea market is a weekly market of a different kind: it’s more upmarket. The concept started with Dilli Haat in Delhi many years ago and has taken off in a big way now with malls and even restaurants setting a day or two in a month aside for them.
“In the current scenario, a flea market is a place where people can relax, enjoy good food and music and shop for interesting products that are usually not available at regular markets,” explains Arjun Sharma, director of Select Citywalk, a Delhi mall that hosts a flea market every Wednesday.
From designer clothes and candles to home-made chocolate, fine chikan kurtas, handwoven saris, jewellery, graffiti T-shirts, dog accessories, handmade paper and cards and even fresh fruits, vegetables and organic cereals, you can find almost anything at these markets.
“The basic idea is to provide the customer with something he will not find at any retail store. That’s what makes such markets a big success. A big attraction is that you can also pick up designer stuff at a very reasonable price,” says Sohrab Sitaram, owner of Tabula Rasa, that holds flea markets once in a while.
Items at flea markets tend to be a little cheaper than those sold at retail stores because entrepreneurs exhibiting at such markets belong to the unorganised sector and don’t usually retail. A flea market gives them the opportunity to showcase their products to a large audience.
Handbag designer Shivani Sood, who supplies clutch bags to high end fashion stores like Samsara and Ensemble and also retails from home, is one such entrepreneur. “I already have a regular clientele because I retail at some stores. But I want to tap fresh clientele through flea markets. That is why the price of my bags are lower there than at branded stores,” she says.
It’s a win-win situation for both customer and vendor. “The secret behind a successful flea market lies in the kind of vendors you have. The vendors also get a good deal because they don’t have any retail space to showcase their products,” says A D Singh, owner of the restaurant Olive, that organised its first flea market in 2004. Its branches in Mumbai and Bangalore host a flea market every month.
Mumbai restaurant Out of the Blue, that has held flea markets in the past, hopes to restart again. “It was a great concept. We’d get entrepreneurs with unique products and customers had a great time. We haven’t been able to organise any this year but look forward to doing something soon,” says Namita Punjabi, the restaurant’s events manager.
Often NGOs hold flea markets to increase awareness about the causes they represent and use the proceeds to aid these causes. The popular Blind School Diwali mela in Delhi is one such market.