What is it and who is it suited to?
Planning and preparation
Rules and regulations
Beyond the stall - what's next?
Planning and preparation
Once you have made the decision to set up a market stall, the first thing to decide is what you’re going to sell. Your success as a trader will be determined by the product line you choose, so it’s worthwhile carrying out extensive research into what’s already on sale at the markets in your area, and what competition you’ll face from established stalls. You may have to start off as a casual trader, which might require standing in queues early in the morning waiting for a stall to become available. Permanent stalls can be hugely in demand, but being a casual trader also allows the market manager to assess your ability to draw in customers and generate sales. Try to find a product line that has not been over exposed at that particular market, because this will stand you in good stead to extend your slot on a more permanent basis. Most market managers look for a diverse range of stalls selling individual products, so originality is key. As a casual trader, selling fruit and vegetables, or other food produce may not be a viable option, not only because they require a large vehicle for transportation, but also a high turnover to continue purchasing fresh items daily.
There are many wholesale markets around the UK that are great places to explore and source products. These often open early in the morning, so check your local authority’s website for more details. Another worthwhile portal for buying goods is The Trader magazine, which offers a huge range of products from clothing and furniture, to jewellery and toys.
Once you’ve decided on what you’re going to sell and you’ve sourced the products, you need to get your hands on a market stall. The majority of markets do actually supply stalls, however some don’t, especially if they’re non-permanent markets, so if this is the case, check the weekly trade press and annual publications for advertisements from stall manufacturers. The type of stall you’ll require will depend on what you’re planning on selling. For example, if you’re going to sell clothing, you’ll probably want a walk-in stall so you can put up dress rails. It is sometimes cheaper to buy a second hand stall, however be sure that whatever you buy is durable and won’t fall apart as soon as you put it up.
The final hurdle in the preparation of your new market stall venture is picking a market you want to trade at, and then securing a place at that market. As mentioned previously, most traders start off on a casual basis, and those who show enthusiasm and create interest from customers will hopefully be allocated more slots, and eventually a regular stall. There are a variety of different markets, such as council operated or privately operated, indoor and outdoor with or without permanent units, weekdays and weekend-only markets. What you’re selling will also have a part to play; does it come under produce sold at farmers’ markets or country markets, or is it better suited to a town-centre retail market? There are a number of other factors to consider when choosing a market, such as pitch costs, parking and rush hour travel times, all of which can affect how many people visit you each day. Think about all these things before deciding what market to go for and then make every effort to convey your commitment to the market manager to give yourself the greatest chance of securing a permanent stall. Matthew Crawford, who set up Caribbean takeaway stall, Easy ‘Nuh, says: “Before committing to a specific market I would strongly advise asking a trader if you can spend a day or two with them so you can see what it’s like first hand. Hands-on experience beats any amount of theory or planning, no matter how certain or organised you think you are.”
According to Darren Lovatt, senior market officer at Newgate Market in York, January is a great time of year to secure a stall because many traders tend to go away on annual leave during this period, when business is typically slow. Markets tend to pick up again around March, so it may well be easier to get a slot on a market early in the year, which is known as the kipper season.