I’m always on the lookout for a bargain. I am drawn to thrift shops and try to buy everything I need second-hand if possible. Not just to save money, but to reduce the amount of waste I contribute.
When we moved into our apartment here in Spain we needed a few odds and ends to make ourselves comfortable.
Scouting the local area I found El Beso de la Pulga (The Kiss of the Flea). I instantly loved the feeling of the shop. People gathered around the stands chattering happily, bargain hunters carefully considering each stands offerings. That familiar smell, of well-worn, pre-loved items. The sense that if you take your time, and look carefully you might just stumble upon a treasure.
Anuk, the owner, agreed to chat to me about her wonderful shop. Originally from Finland, Anuk moved to Fuengirola 8 years ago. She’s one of those rare people who allude positivity and business nous. I can tell she is going to be successful in anything she does.
As I browse I hear her switch seamlessly between Finnish, Swedish, English and Spanish, depending on which customer she is talking to. I silently curse my monolingual education. It turns out Anuk also speaks German and a little Japanese.
Her customers come from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, England, Russia, the Netherlands, Morocco, France and Spain.
Itsepalvelukirppis – Self Service Flea Market
Anuk tells me that she remembers going to flea markets just like this with her mother when she was growing up in Finland. Itsepalvelukirppis are all across Finland where the second-hand culture is alive and well.
This is how it works:
- Find stuff in your house you don’t need.
- Take your unwanted stuff to the self-service flea market and book a stand – paying a weekly hire fee.
- Set the stand up and make your items look gorgeous and enticing to buyers.
- Leave. Go to the beach. Or have a cafe con leche. Ruminate on the money you are making whilst you relax.
- You come back every few days to tidy your stand and collect your earnings.
Here are the benefits as I see them
- Exposure: One of the biggest issues with selling stuff yourself is getting exposure. By joining forces with others you overcome this obstacle.
- Hands Off: Other than popping in to collect your earnings and tidy up your stand every so often this is pretty much a passive source of income. Anuk tells me she has vendors that live as far away as Cordoba and Madrid. They pay an extra fee for her to keep their stands tidy but as a one-woman operation there simply isn’t the time for her to tidy every stand.
- Anuk: As I’ve already mentioned, Anuk speaks six languages. This area of Spain is an expat-haven so having a sales rep that can communicate with your customers in their own language is priceless.
- Commission structure: Anuk gets paid by stand rentals and also takes a commission off each item. This means she is motivated to help customers find what they need.
- The store: I love the feel of this place. It’s just off one of the prettiest plazas in Fuengirola, next to a beautiful church. The area invites you to linger, and people here seem to have time. Since we arrived here three weeks ago I have visited the shop at least five times, scouring the stands. The store is planned out efficiently and the customer feels comfortable taking their time, exactly what you want as a seller. Sure beats a casual glance at an online listing.
Anuk tells me that business is going well. In the first four months after opening in September 2013 the store made over 50,000 euros in sales and has been growing ever since.
The thing that really strikes me about this concept is how it’s totally win-win. For people who have to get rid of junk they can rent a table for a few weeks, or those that are more serious and want a side-hustle can source goods to on-sell. Anuk tells me some of her most successful sellers make over 300 euros per week in sales.
Finland has been on my radar since watching a documentary about their liberal and highly successful public education system, but now I’ve found out about itsepalvelukirppis the country is on my must-visit list. And I’ll be bringing an empty suitcase!
You can visit Anuk at Calle de Iglesia, no.72, Plaza del Carmen, Los Boliches, Fuengirola.