Big Top

Client: Big Top Flea Market
Industry: Destination Marketing/Hospitality


Waning attendance and losing vendors to Tampa Bay Area flea market competitors threatened Big Top’s ability to remain viable in the long-term.


Seeking definitive answers to the shopper and vendor changes, HCP devised a research plan to gather feedback from the critical stakeholder groups to help determine the prime factors impacting the declines and how Big Top could act upon them to revitalize the business.

Over the past several years, Big Top Flea Market, based in northeastern Hillsborough County, experienced a noticeable change in shopper and vendor traffic. There were several factors impacting this trend that the flea market considered—the significant volume of competitive flea markets in the region, indirect competition of other shopping options, and Tampa’s significant options of things to do on weekends. Management additionally noted losing vendors to other flea markets with a higher volume of shoppers, suggesting vendors were finding advantages with its competitors.

Beginning in summer of 2013, HCP developed a comprehensive research plan to identify areas of improvement that would competitively position Big Top as a place for shopping as well as a place to‘set up shop. A market snapshot methodology aimed to capture insight from competitors’ shoppers and vendors as well as Big Top shoppers and vendors.

HCP launched the research with online and in-person evaluations of Big Top’s top 10 competitors. In-person, the HCP research team visited each flea market. Researchers made observations, exploring each of the markets and noting elements used to enhance the shopper experience. The team secret shopped, posing as shoppers to speak with “fellow” shoppers, striking up conversations about exciting finds of the day and whether the person was a regular or new visitor. During their visits, team members also posed as potential vendors to speak with current vendors about their experience. The team visited each competitor’s office to meet the manager and gather information on setting up shop. Online, HCP evaluated the branding and positioning of each of the main competitors to further identify opportunities for Big Top.

At the Big Top Flea Market, HCP conducted on-site interviews with shoppers, measuring their satisfaction, habits and motivation for visiting the flea market. HCP also conducted entrance and exit intercepts to pinpoint the distance traveled by the shoppers and the intent/success of their shopping experience. To address the decrease in vendors concern, vendors were asked to participate in in-depth interviews to gauge their satisfaction and capture their suggestions for improvement.

After data collection, HCP compiled the results of the research and weighed out the myriad recommendations offered by the various stakeholder groups. The team presented Big Top ownership with actionable recommendations for improvement. Recommendations focused not only on enhancements to the brand but also ways to attract more shoppers, means of further engaging shoppers while onsite, and ways in which to enhance vendor satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.