How to run a market stall

How to run a market stall

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 04/10/12

Summer is over and Christmas teeters on the horizon. If you're a maker or collector looking to flog your goods on a market stall, now is the time to get cracking! But first read this advice from traders and market organisers…

Pitch in 

Alright Del Boy, so you’ve got some wares to shift. Numero uno, draw up a list of markets that seem like a good fit. Email the organisers, outlining what you want to sell. If they like what they read, you’ll probably be invited to show them your products – at which point they will reject or accept you. 

So far, so straightforward. However, when the market is especially popular you might go on a reserve list. Sebastian Stobbs, of clothing brand and arts collective Conquer, has a permanent stall at Spitalfields Market but in the beginning he used to turn up each week with no guarantee of a pitch, hoping for a no-show from another stallholder. “Eventually I got a stall that no one liked with a pillar in front of it,” he recalls. “I didn’t kick up a fuss about having that stall and I think that got my foot in the door.” After which, it’s all about persistence: “If you’ve been there for a long time and are known to be regular and reliable they offer you a space and you can trade there every week.” 

If you have trouble getting a pitch at a big, established market, approach flea markets instead. Less formal and more accessible, they can be great starting places. For Hackney Wick Flea Market founder Luk Man Hon anything goes: “As long as they turn up I’m happy,” he says. “I don’t choose who can sell, who can’t sell, it’s not for me to decide.”


Set out your stall 

J&B The Shop, specialising in handmade jewellery, homeware, clothes and accessories, started life as a stall in Broadway Market, run by founders Jessie Chorley and Buddug Humphreys. Before getting embroiled in the niceties of stall arrangement, Jessie recommends thinking through how you want to be perceived: “What is your stall supposed to be? Is it organic bakery? Or luxury underwear? How do you want to convey that to your customers?” Your brand should be reflected in every element of your stall. “Think about the price tags, all those little things,” suggests Buddug. 


Chat to your customers 

“Be open minded because you never know from looking at them what people are going to spend,” advises Jessie. “Always be clear on prices. If someone says, ‘I’d like to get 100 of those can you do them wholesale?’, try to have the information in your head.” Where possible, “tell customers the story behind things,” says Jessie. Buddug adds: “If a customer is looking at something they must have an attraction to it and if it’s not quite right for them, ask what would make it right.”

“One of the greatest things about markets is that you talk to the customer directly,” says Sebastian. “You have people going directly to the items they like, telling you which colours they’re looking for; you get to know what sizes people like and if there are any issues with how things wear.” Seize the opportunity to try things out and adapt your products according to customer feedback.


Keep on top of your cash flow 

“Having a market stall, you don’t have massive overheads but you might have a car, you might have a nice lunch while you’re working, storage and so on,” says Jessie. “Try not to let them get out of control and try to plough all your money back into the business.” Sebastian concurs: “Bring a flask of tea. It will save you a lot of money.”


Stick with it 

“You might not make money for the first six months because you’re experimenting and getting to know the market,” Buddug stresses, “so don’t give up straight away.” Jessie agrees: “You have to have a real passion for it because when it rains and everything’s ruined or when people just don’t look at your stall one day and you make a loss it’s totally heartbreaking.” But, as Jessie and Buddug’s shop shows, the hard work can pay off. Lovely jubbly!


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Do you have experience of running a market stall? What are your tips? Leave a comment below!

Image courtesy of Conquer

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