Looking Back at Mercari’s 11th Anniversary Event: Returning to Our Roots With a Classic Flea Market

Hi there! This is @yumincho. I work on Mercari’s HRBP and Organization & Talent Development (OTD) teams, the latter of which shoulders the task of spreading Mercari’s company culture and developing our organization.

On February 1, 2024, we marked our 11th anniversary at Mercari, where we value the annual events celebrating our founding as opportunities for communication among our employees. This is why we like to bring the entire company together each year to celebrate.

This year, aiming to emphasize a return to the roots of our marketplace business, our members collected items they no longer needed and used their skills to organize a classic, in-person flea market.

The OTD/HRBP teams and the Creative Team collaborated to create this event. In this article, I’d like to give you, our readers, an idea of everything the project planning team went through leading up to the event and also give you a feel for how things went on the day of the flea market.

Discovering new people and things through face-to-face communication

You might be wondering why the company that created the Mercari marketplace app would host an offline flea market. But before I get into that, I’d like to tell you about the thought that our planning team put into creating this event.

Flea markets are the genesis of Mercari’s business. The main trait of the Mercari app is that it allows anyone with a smartphone to easily list items they no longer need. That said, some of our members had never had the experience of buying or selling at an in-person flea market. The idea behind holding the flea market was to give people a chance to experience the joy of an in-person flea market through face-to-face communication and return to our roots to have our members see what makes Mercari such a great app to use.

This is how the concept for our 11th-anniversary event was born!

Get more in touch with the real Mercari—Celebrating our anniversary with a flea market festival!!!

This was the first time we’d ever held a flea market at the office. Planning the event from scratch presented us with many challenges.

Payment process
In holding the flea market, a major concern was how people would pay. We thought it was important to utilize our company’s services at the event, so we decided to use the Mercari app for payments. To avoid any confusion on the day of the event, we made a detailed list of any potential concerns and created some guidelines for buying and selling in consultation with the teams at Merpay in charge of development and taxation. On the day of the event, we prepared a QR code for each stall and created a process for buyers to use to make payments.

Using the Mercari Donation feature
The Mercari app includes a feature that allows users to donate the sales proceeds they earn from selling items. Much like the app user experience, at the event we included a mechanism that allowed people running flea market stalls to donate their sales proceeds.

Using the office
We made use of a variety of areas of our office to create a market layout that allowed people to flow through the venue freely. The people running flea market stalls each strived to give their displays a creative twist. They laid out picnic sheets to display various items and used hangers to display chic fashion items. The office was flooded with an ambiance of fun that screamed “flea market.”

Minimizing swag
Initially, people had put forward ideas to create items for the event like reusable shopping bags and novelty items for people who set up stalls, but in line with Mercari’s foundation of sustainability, organizers instead made the most out of existing items, such as rental equipment, rather than use resources to create anything new.

Fostering excitement with key visuals
Ahead of the event, we worked with the Creative Team to produce visuals that would be able to foster excitement on the day of the flea market. The visuals were emblazoned in various places like on the slides and floor plan we used at the event. In addition, we created such things as an instructional video on how to make purchases at the flea market, which drummed up excitement leading up to the event.

From an onsite pub to a bar area that also offered off-sales: Participants opened stalls that leveraged their remarkably unique skills!

The rest of this article covers what it was like on the ground on the day of the event!

3:00–4:00 PM—People start preparing their stalls
Participants began getting their stalls ready. Stall owners donned the red aprons and blue badges used at Mercari Workshops (free courses organized for Mercari users where people can learn how to use our product) for a uniform, coordinated look. The office started to take on a flea market ambiance.

5:00 PM—Live show and flea market kick off
Members of the company’s music club “z-musician” and other volunteer members treated us to live performances! The audience grooved to the music while seated on the artificial grass laid out across the floor of the event space, spreading the feel of authentic music festival vibes.

As live music started to rock the office, flea market stalls opened for business. The event space was filled with row after row of items including children’s clothing and toys, posh gadgets, India-crafted trinkets, and more; it was hard to know where to start looking.

To support the recovery efforts of areas affected by this year’s Noto Peninsula Earthquake, members from the Toyama area sold liquor produced in their home region. All of the sales proceeds were donated to Toyama’s brewers, and the sales floor bustled as throngs of Mercari’s members stepped up to buy a cup of famous sake.

The office also established a space for off-sales of Toyama’s famous sake.

Some of what was available at the flea market was more than just things. Our highly creative members put their skills to task in setting up their stalls in the marketplace area, and at a one-night-only corner pub, a bartender served drinks together with free advice about work and life.

The event also featured a book corner, where all could read about our origins in a bound manuscript about the company’s history. The desire of Mercari Director, Representative Executive Officer and CEO Shintaro Yamada to ink the history of Mercari’s origins while the memories are still fresh was the driving force behind a project to publish the book. While some poured over the pages silently, other members were seen reminiscing with Shintaro.

Once the flea market closed, it was time to drink and socialize. People running stalls were interviewed about their experience during what was an excitement-filled day. It was wonderful to see people having a great time!

How the event reminded us of the appeal of our services and brought up points for improvement

We planned the flea market from scratch. The excitement levels exceeded the organizers’ expectations, making the event great fun!

Here are the sales results of the flea market. Remarkably, we managed to collect over ¥1 million in donations. Wow!

▼Number of stalls:38
▼Number of flea market transactions:308
▼Total amount of flea market transactions:998,059 JPY
▼Donations from people who set up stalls:1,221,322 JPY

In the post-event survey, people who attended the flea market and those who set up stalls left a lot of great comments:
 “I was really glad to see people I knew buy my clothes.”
 “The event gave me a rare opportunity to meet the company leadership, and there were lots of chances to communicate with a variety of other people too.”
Regardless of position or team affiliation, company leaders and members mingled on a level playing field as buyers and sellers, and communication blossomed naturally from their interaction. In addition, organizers got the sense from the surveys that by having the opportunity to experience a flea market first-hand, our members were able to rediscover what makes the Mercari marketplace app so great and also notice a number of ways in which we might be able to improve our product.

Commemorative shot of the event organizers

Taking on unprecedented, bold challenges and sharing a great time with everyone is what Mercari is about

This flea market came together thanks to coordination between the OTD/HRBP and Creative teams, band members, members who set up stalls, and most of all everyone who came to have a great time.

There is of course room for improvement, but the event helped to reaffirm that what defines Mercari as a company is that we take on unprecedented, bold challenges and enjoy our work from the heart. Even Mercari CEO Shintaro left a comment saying, “Let’s do this again!” We’re already looking to plan next year’s event when we just might hold a totally upgraded second flea market. So look forward to more fun!

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