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What is a Market Stall Business?
Setting up a market stall business can be a fun, low-cost way of running your own retail business. There are more than 1,000 different markets across the UK, with more than 32,000 businesses trading in these markets. With so many markets across the UK, you could have endless opportunities to set up your own successful market stall.
A market stall business can be extremely lucrative. In fact, Statista reported that retail stalls and markets had an annual turnover of £415 million in 2019.
There are many different types of markets you could choose to set up your market stall business in, including:
These are run from fixed sites and have usually been established for a period of time. Permanent markets can be both indoors and outdoors. These markets may open every day of the week or may only operate on certain days, for example weekends. Some permanent markets allow you to install different features to your stall, decorate your area and leave your equipment or stock there when the market is closed. Other permanent markets rotate stall holders or do not offer permanent pitches.
These are usually held at set times of the year, although some street markets run weekly. Some street markets only sell specific products, for example a clothing market or fresh produce market. Others will have stalls selling a variety of goods.
This is a market where farmers or their representatives sell produce from their farms directly to customers. Most farmers’ markets only sell local produce. Produce sold at farmers’ markets could include meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, flowers and honey.
One-Day Open-Air Markets
These markets are usually run infrequently. They usually coincide with specific events and are often run at the location these events take place in, for example at an air show or village festival. The market is usually organised in advance and will require you to book or reserve a pitch.
These markets run to coincide with events. The most well-known event market is a Christmas market. Christmas markets operate all over the UK in the lead up to Christmas and attract a lot of customers.
A specialist market will only sell a specific type of product. Examples of specialist markets include craft markets or second-hand clothing markets.
A flea market generally sells second-hand goods, such as clothing, CDs, DVDs, memorabilia and other merchandise.
Markets continue to be a staple of British retail. Even with the increase in online shopping and the subsequent decline of the high street, markets continue to remain popular. Markets represent the opportunity to shop, support local businesses, and socialise with the local community. Many markets also offer food and drink and seating areas, with some markets also providing music or entertainment. With indoor and outdoor markets operating across the country, markets can be popular year-round.
The first thing you need to do when setting up a market stall business is to decide what you are going to sell. The type of product you sell will determine the type of market you trade at.
Some ideas of what you can sell at your market stall include, but are not limited to:
- Cooked food.
- Food produce.
- Sweets or other confectionaries.
- Clothing and fashion.
- Shoes and other footwear.
- Crafts and handmade items.
- Home décor items and accessories.
- Children’s toys and clothes.
- Handmade candles and soaps.
- Vintage goods.
- Flowers and potted plants.
- Herbs and spices.
- Baked goods.
- Personalised items.
- Local products.
- Pet products.
Successful market stalls will be run like any other business. Although you do not require any qualifications or prior experience, you should ensure you have a strong product or unique selling point, a flair for business and good organisational skills.
Some of your responsibilities as a successful market stall owner could include:
- Ordering, creating or making your products.
- Bookmaking and record keeping.
- Branding and marketing.
- Setting up and running your stall.
- Cleaning and maintaining your area.
- Communicating with customers.
- Booking pitches and market slots.
- Researching products, different locations and the best times of the day, week or year to sell.
Types of Customers
The types of customers you aim to attract, also known as your target market, may be dependent on a number of factors. Determining your target market can be integral to the success of your business. On the other hand, some market stalls don’t focus on any one type of customer and instead aim to attract a variety of consumers to help maximise their profits.
When researching your target market, you should first estimate demand. Consider whether there is demand for your product and whether you are likely to attract customers and make sales. If you are not trading at a specialised market, the market manager or organisers will likely want to ensure a balanced market with plenty of choice for customers. If your products are too similar to existing market stalls, you may be denied the opportunity to trade.
Market stalls are popular with a huge range of people, including families, tourists, couples and groups of friends. Markets are also popular with the old and the young, males and females, city dwellers and country dwellers – there really is no limit.
The types of customers you are likely to attract could depend on a number of factors, including:
The products you sell
The type of market stall you choose to run will be the biggest factor in the types of customers you will attract. Once you have chosen your products and identified your target market you can then market yourself to attract those customers. For example, if you are selling children’s toys, you could decorate your stall with bright colours, or use lights or music. You may also arrange your products lower down, so they are more easily visible and accessible to children.
The type of market you intend to sell at
Certain customers are more likely to be present at some types of markets than others. For example, if you are selling homemade honey, your stall is likely to be more successful at a farmers’ market or a street market than a market held at an air show.
Your price points
Products sold at a flea market or car boot sale are likely to have a lower price point than those sold at an open-air market or event market. Consider the price point of your products before deciding on your target market.
You can also consider any local competition when deciding the types of customers you plan to target. For example, if there is already an established antiques stall at your local market, they may already have the loyalty of local collectors, making it more difficult for you to establish your own antiques stall.
Equipment You’ll Need
Once you have decided on the type of market stall you plan to run, you can begin to source your equipment. Doing your research is key, for example, does the market you plan to trade at require you to bring your own stall or do they provide one for you?
Some equipment can be purchased second-hand. You could also calculate the costs of renting vs. buying.
Some of the equipment you may be required to buy for your market stall business could include:
A market stall
There are several options you can choose from for your market stall. Prices can vary depending on the stall you choose.
Below is a list of your options with approximate pricing:
- An integrated market stall with built-in tables and a canvas roof – £200–£400
- A basic table – £30+
- A tilted table – £50+
- A separate gazebo – £400+
Depending on the type of products you sell, you may choose to display your goods on shelves or in display boxes or bins. This improves the presentation and attractiveness of your stall, whilst making it easier for customers to see your products. It can also increase the number of products you can store. You could choose walk-in-shelving, table-style shelving or storage boxes. Prices can range from £30 to £100.
Cash register and a point-of-sale system
This allows you to take payments using cash and card. A more advanced system will also allow you to upload your inventory and manage your stock.
This makes the shopping experience easier for your customers and helps to ensure your pricing stays consistent. Signage that is easy to understand and eye-catching can be beneficial. Pricing signs can be purchased for as little as £1 per pack.
These make it clear exactly what your stall is selling and can be pivotal in attracting more customers. Display boards should reflect your brand, be eye-catching, attractive and easy to read.
Regardless of the type of market stall you run, cleaning equipment is a necessity. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also recommended that you provide a handwashing or hand sanitising station, especially if customers are able to touch your products.
Different market stalls will have different equipment requirements. Below is a general list of equipment you may require for specific types of market stalls.
Equipment for a food stall
Depending on the type of food you plan to sell, there is a wide variety of equipment you may require. This includes a refrigerator, a freezer, a stove, a fryer, an induction cooker, pots, pans, utensils, cutlery, cups, plates and bowls. The type of food you serve will determine the type of equipment you require, for example, an ice-cream stall may require a cone dispenser, a soft-serve ice-cream machine and a topping dispenser.
Equipment for a clothing stall
A clothing stall will usually require clothing rails, shelves or clothing bins. You may also be required to purchase hangers and a curtain or contained area that can be used as a changing room.
Equipment for a jewellery stall
A jewellery stall may require hooks for hanging necklaces, display boxes, box dividers and earring holders.
Typical pricing associated with setting up a market stall business is likely to be much lower than many other retail businesses. Although pricing can vary depending on the type of goods you plan to sell and your equipment requirements, your start-up costs, running costs and overhead costs are still likely to be relatively low.
When looking at the logistics of how to start a market stall business, it is important to consider the associated costs and potential profits you could make. Let’s take a look at the typical pricing you can expect as a market stall business owner.
As mentioned above, the cost of equipment can vary, depending on the type of equipment you choose to buy. Equipment costs can vary from £100 to £1,500. Before purchasing equipment, you should first contact the market you plan to sell at, especially if you will be running a permanent stall at one specific market. This is because some markets have an existing stall for you to utilise, meaning you will not have to purchase your own stall. Also, consider whether you will trade in an indoor or outdoor market before buying a gazebo or a stall with an attached roof.
The cost of stock will vary significantly depending on the goods you sell. For example, an electronics stall will require a higher investment in stock than a candle stall. If you are selling crafts or handmade items you will need to calculate the cost of the separate materials, plus the time it will take you to make the products.
The cost of insurance for your business can vary significantly, depending on the type of insurance, the amount of coverage you require and the value of your equipment and stock. Insurance costs can range from £50 to £500 per year.
Market stall licence
The cost of a licence to be able to run a market stall varies, depending on your local council. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from £1,000 to £3,000 per year. However, many local councils will allow you to pay an application fee (usually around £75) and then pay a fee per week. This can be more cost-effective if you trade seasonally.
The costs associated with hiring a stall or pitch in a market can vary significantly. Some markets charge a per-day price, with certain days of the week or times of the year being more expensive than others. Daily costs usually vary between £20 and £100. Permanent markets may charge you a weekly, monthly or yearly fee. Seasonal markets, such as a Christmas market, can have different fees depending on where the market is located and your pitch within the market. On average, you can expect to pay £200–£500 per day. Event markets, for example those at music festivals, are likely to have the highest associated costs. Market stall businesses that run at festivals such as Glastonbury Music Festival can expect to pay as much as £8,000 for five days.
Safely Running a Market Stall Business
The safety requirements you need to be aware of and implement will be different depending on the type of market stall you run. For example, a market stall selling food will have considerably different safety requirements compared to other market stalls.
A general list of safety requirements for market stall owners can be found below.
Many markets will require you to conduct a risk assessment or familiarise yourself with their risk assessments before you begin trading. Ensure you are aware of the risks that were identified and have implemented any recommended actions.
Be aware of emergency procedures
Awareness of emergency procedures at the market you trade in is crucial. In the event of an evacuation, you must be aware of the correct procedures and the designated assembly point.
Health and safety requirements
Markets will likely also have health and safety requirements you must adhere to. Failure of you, or any of your staff, to follow these rules, could result in your pitch agreement being revoked.
First aid kit
In case of an accident or injury of an employee or customer, you should have a fully stocked first aid kit available at your market stall. Some markets will have first aid kits available for you to access, so check before purchasing your own. For more information on first aid kits, consult our knowledge base.
Food safety and hygiene requirements
If you trade food or beverages, there are certain regulations you must follow. This includes knowledge of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines, legislation on allergens and labelling, and how to safely cook and store food.
Safe storage of stock
Theft can be a major problem for market stall owners. Ensuring your stock is safely stored when your stall is not operating can help to protect your investments. You could also employ security procedures during market opening hours to prevent your goods from being stolen.
There are several legal requirements you must adhere to when setting up a market stall business. Failure to follow these legal requirements could result in delays opening your market stall business, a fine, or force closure of your business. The legal requirements may vary depending on your local council. However, a general guideline of the legal requirements you will have to follow when opening your market stall business is listed below.
Apply for a market stall licence
To run a market stall, you must apply for a licence from your local council. You can apply for a temporary licence or a permanent licence. Your licence will include restrictions on when and where you can trade and the size of your stall. If you don’t have the correct licence, you could be fined and have all your goods seized. To apply for your licence, visit gov.uk.
There are several pieces of legislation you need to follow when selling goods to consumers. You must ensure your products are described correctly and that pricing is displayed visibly. You must also ensure your products are of good quality.
Products such as alcohol, tobacco, fireworks and weapons have an age restriction in the UK. Traders are legally required to follow guidelines if they sell any of these products. This includes asking for identification, providing clear signage and training your staff. Failure to follow guidelines or selling products to underage people could result in an unlimited fine or a prison sentence. For more information about age-restricted products, consult Business Companion’s website.
If you employ any staff at your market stall, you must follow employment legislation. This includes legislation on recruitment, working hours, pay, sickness, discrimination, dismissals and maternity/paternity pay.
Depending on the type of market stall business you run, there are different types of insurance you may require. This could include Premises Insurance, Contents Insurance, Public Liability Insurance, Product Liability Insurance and Legal Indemnity Insurance.
Register with the Environmental Health Officer (EHO)
If you plan to sell food, you will need to apply for your food business registration at least 28 days before you begin trading.
Positives of Owning a Market Stall Business
There are some great advantages associated with setting up a market stall business:
Low start-up costs and low running costs
A market stall business does not require a high initial investment. Stalls can be purchased for a low price, as can the other equipment you require. This means you will be able to begin making a profit much faster. As you are not running your business from a physical location, such as a shop, your overhead costs and running costs will also be significantly reduced.
Great fun and great interaction with others
Markets are often an integral part of the community, and you are likely to quickly build relationships with fellow stallholders and customers. You will have the opportunity to communicate and socialise with others while you are working.
Potential for great profit margins
As you can choose your own price point, there is high-profit potential. Food, beverages and handmade items usually sell for a high markup price, with some market stall products selling for as much as a 500% profit. Even if you are not making the products yourself, you can sell them for more than the wholesale price.
Opportunity for repeat business
As a market environment naturally encourages more communication between vendor and customer, you may be more likely to experience customer loyalty. Customers may also recommend your market stall to their friends and family.
Easy to link into other industries and great exposure for your brand
A market stall is a great way to open your business and offers great opportunities for expansion or moving into other industries. Once you have established your product and business, you could begin selling online or open a permanent physical shop. For example, Levi Roots began selling his famous Reggae Reggae Sauce at Notting Hill Carnival. Within 4 years, Levi Roots’ business was worth £30 million.
Different ideas are available for market stalls
You have endless options regarding the type of products you focus on for your market stall. You can choose a product you are passionate about; choose to sell food or handmade goods or even focus on an untapped niche or products you think will turn a good profit.
Low returns on goods
As customers can see your products up close, touch them and even try them, you are less likely to receive return requests. Customers also have the opportunity to speak to you directly about any questions or concerns they have.
You can choose how little or often you work. You can fit your business around your lifestyle and control your own hours. You can choose to operate at a daily market or only sell once or twice a week. Alternatively, some market stall businesses choose to only trade at event markets or at certain times of the year.
Negatives of Owning a Market Stall Business
There are some important cons of owning a market stall business that you should first consider:
There are several other costs you need to consider before setting up a market stall business. Additional costs may include pitching fees, insurance, transport costs and wasted or unsold stock.
Your market stall and other equipment may not have as much longevity as you would like. You may find the wear and tear associated with transporting, packing and unpacking your stall, plus trading in different weathers, may result in your equipment needing to be replaced every few years.
Depending on the type of market stall you plan to run, you may find that you have high competition. If you are a new business competing with a similar business that is already established, you are likely to find it more difficult to compete with these existing successful market stalls.
Up and down business – you cannot guarantee a profit
The success of your market stall is dependent on a number of factors that may be out of your control. This includes the weather, the season, the time of day, the number of customers and your competition. This can make it much more difficult to predict the success of your business and your potential profits.
Markets have much less security than traditional retail environments. There are likely to be no CCTV cameras or security guards. The busy environment and high foot traffic of a market can also make it much easier for thieves to target market stalls.
Displaying only a limited number of items
Market stalls are considerably smaller than shops. This means the number of items you can store and the display is much smaller. This could limit the amount of business you can do each day.
Planning Your Market Stall Business
Planning your market stall business effectively may be key to its success. It is important to finalise your ideas and have a solid business plan before opening your business. Here is a list of some of the requirements you will need to consider and steps you will need to take when planning your business.
Decide what goods you are going to sell
This is the first and potentially most important decision you will make. Consider what goods you are passionate about, what is likely to maximise your profits and how much local competition you have in your chosen area. Once you have chosen your products, you can begin to source them, or if they are handmade, begin to make them.
Decide your target market
Knowing your target market can help you to plan your business more effectively, including your brand and the design of your stall.
Choose the market/markets you are going to trade at
You will likely need to apply for your pitching space in advance and may be required to first trade on a temporary basis. Some markets have a long wait list so the sooner you apply the better.
Plan your equipment requirements
What equipment do you need to start your business? How much stock do you need to purchase initially? Can any equipment be bought second-hand?
Calculate your start-up costs and running costs
Calculating your initial investment requirements can help you see how long it will be until you start turning a profit. Being aware of running costs helps you to see how frequently you need to operate your stall and how many sales you need to make.
Develop your business plan
This helps to give you a clear plan, aims and actions. A business plan can help you to establish costs, potential profits, your product range and your trading plan. Take a look at our business plan template to help you effectively plan your market stall business.
Prepare your paperwork and ensure you have followed all legal requirements
This helps you to avoid any fines or delays in opening your market stall business. Consult our list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements.