How to set up a market stall

I love markets. Partly because I’m a shopaholic and partly because I was born in Notting Hill next to Portobello Road market. Some of my favourite childhood memories involve the noise and buzz of the market. I love the food, the variety, the colour, the crowds, the friendly atmosphere and the bargains to be had! Markets can be romantic places. I once asked my dad where people met before online dating. He said the marketplace. When he and my mum first started dating they were too poor to go to restaurants so they went to a market stall for salt beef sandwiches. I recently had to research what’s involved in setting up a market stall so here’s what I learnt. Setting up a market stall can be a great way to start your own business if you have a product you’re passionate about. Many successful businesses started life on the market – The Body Shop and Radley, Britain’s biggest selling handbag brand, for example. Here are some tips on how to get started.  I’ve never set up a market stall myself so this is based on desk research. It would be great to hear from market traders – please share your tips and let me know if I’ve missed anything.

  1. Do your research. Start by visiting markets near you to decide whether what you intend to sell complements the existing stalls. Check out your competition in the surrounding area.
  2. Once you know which markets you’re interested in you usually apply directly to the market for a pitch. If the market has a website this should explain the application process. If not, try your local council website. Some markets have drop-in sessions where you can meeting the manager to discuss a pitch. Some have a more formal application process. Make sure you have samples or images of your products ready. If you’re planning to sell food, have your menu in writing. Think about what makes your product special and why you think it will sell well at your chosen market. Be prepared to ‘pitch’ for you pitch. Have details of where you source your products or materials to hand. It’s also a good idea to think about any questions that the market manager, or your customers, might ask so you’ve got your answers ready.
  3. All markets have different rates for renting a pitch so compare prices before you make a decision. The cost of renting a pitch varies depending on the day – weekends tend to be more expensive. The cost ranges from about £10 to £65 a day depending on the area and time of year. Some markets have waiting list and you may have to wait for months to get your pitch.
  4. You don’t have to have a creative talent to run a market stall. Some stallholders are crafts people selling their own products that they’ve made, but many traders source products to sell through stock websites, wholesalers, direct from makers or by scouting around for bargains and selling them on.
  5. If you’re planning to set up your stall independently, rather than as part of an established market, you’ll need to contact your local council to for street trading consent. This may apply even if you’re on private land.
  6. To sell food you’ll need to register with your local environmental health office and get a food hygiene certificate. Find our more from the Food Standards Agency.
  7. Find a mentor – someone with retail experience who can give you advice on pricing, marketing, networking and filling in your tax return. If you’re lucky you’ll find someone willing to give you a couple of hours of their time over a coffee.
  8. You will need insurance for your stall. Check with the market first as they may have a special deal for their stallholders. Will you need to employ someone to help? If so you’ll need employers’ liability insurance.
  9. Once you’ve got your stall, consider setting up your own website to promote it or use social media to tell people about your products.
  10. And finally, invest in some thermal undies! We all love a bit of fresh air but outdoor markets can be tough in winter if you’re not wearing the right gear.

Image by Visit England

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