This was our first Fesch'markt, and honestly, probably our last. If you're a small business owner in Austria, you might be contemplating whether or not you should apply to be a stall holder at Fesch'markt, the famous design market that runs a few times a year in Austria.
A bit of background
Fesch'markt started small about 10 years ago but has grown to become the largest design market in the region, with thousands of attendees and hundreds and hundreds of stallholders.
They claim on their website:
"We only choose the most original national and international representatives of the creative underground scene within the categories fashion, jewelry, accessories, art, graphics, product design, food, deli food, sport and kids design."
For many startups and small businesses in the region, the market is seen as a rite of passage. That's how I viewed it anyway: I had to try it at least once because being able to say "I've done it" would give my business some legitimacy.
The following pros and cons are based purely off my experience. Maybe they will be helpful to you, maybe not, use your common sense.
Photo credit: Fesch'markt, no photographer listed
1. It's big
The market is really big and your potential reach is huge. Thousands of potential customers trawl through the brewery over the course of three days.
2. It's a good photo opp
The market is held in the absolutely picturesque Ottakringer Brauerei (for the Viennese iteration anyway). The Ottakringer Brauerei (a brewery) is about 180 years old, with huge old floorboards, sprawling work areas, and a beer garden (of course).
1. Extremely expensive for stallholders
The cheapest spot I could buy in 2021 cost 320€, this included a small table and no guaranteed wall space or power outlet. Power outlets, extra floor space, wall space, tables, and all that stuff? Yeah, they cost extra.
From every stall holder I spoke to, no one expected to recoup their financial investment directly from the market. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, you just need to weigh up whether the potential marketing and PR benefits are worth the financial hit for you. More on that below.
You can find the costs for stallholders here.
2. Expensive for attendees
Entry, food, drinks and transportation are all big costs that will undoubtedly impact how much attendees are willing to buy from actual stallholders.
Transportation: the brewery is located on the outskirts of town with below average public transport access, meaning many drive or catch an uber. This also means the market attracts virtually zero walk-by traffic.
Food and drink: Despite being held in a traditionally non-expensive brewery, a beer will set you back a minimum of 4,50€. This price sucks for Vienna. There are almost no groceries within walking distance and the food trucks on site are (as food trucks often are) tasty but very expensive and with very small portion sizes.
Entry: Attendees need to pay to get in (around 5 €). This might not sound like much, but it isn't really common for design markets in the region, especially not those that claim to cater to small-businesses and the "creative underground scene".
3. Only attracts a certain target audience
Given the costs for attendees and for stallholders, the market tends to attract only a very certain type of audience. By and large, most attendees were middle-aged or older and all kind of dressed alike (mostly non-expressive, understated fast-fashion pieces). If this generally describes the audience you are trying to reach, then you should definitely attend the market. I saw some stallholders absolutely killing it.
If you are interested in targeting a young, creative, culturally and economically diverse audience - then this probably isn't the place to do it.
The Gerstenboden, photo credit: Ottakringer Brauerei
4. Held indoors
Not all stall holder placements are equal. I was located in the Gerstenboden for example, which is a thin, long room with low ceilings, black painted floors and a few tiny windows that cannot be opened to let in fresh air. This made the three market days extremely uncomfortable given that everyone had to wear FFP2 masks at all times and the weather was stinking hot. The lack of natural light also made visibility and photography extremely difficult.
5. Lack of design
The market has expanded over the years to include "fashion, jewelry, accessories, art, graphics, product design, food, deli food, sport and kids design." From my perception, the non-design categories have come to engulf the design ones. Further, the market originally only accepted independent artists, creators and small businesses that made their own goods. Now, they also accept resellers.
Without delving too deeply into why this is an issue, I will say that for many stallholders such markets are an opportunity to showcase their goods in a space where they don't have to compete with the marketing budgets of big corporations and where their handmade goods are valued. I think Fesch'markt no longer offers this opportunity to stallholders, not in the way it once did.
So, who should apply?
Just because it wasn't a fit for me, doesn't mean it won't be for you. I have no regrets doing it once, like I said, for me it was something I wanted to tick off, to give myself a feeling of legitimacy.
For all the reasons I have outlined above, I would recommend the following groups to apply:
Gastronomy and food stalls: even if they aren't buying they will definitely be tasting your goods - everyone loves a freebie!
Jewellery resellers. I wouldn't recommend that high-end or fine jewellery sellers attend. But those who were selling "cheap and cheerful" or non-precious metal wares will likely do well. Generally speaking, people at markets love to pick up a little souvenir but it is far less likely they will buy an investment piece in the context of a bustling, hot market.