From food to fabrics, a market stall may be an affordable way to start a retail business without the costs of leasing a bricks-&-mortar store and could provide a real-life opportunity to test your product’s viability before scaling your business.
There are a range of different types of markets tailored to a range of retail approaches – from farmers’ markets to Christmas markets – with the potential to offer you flexibility where, when, and how often your work – whether you wish to work part-time opens in new window or if you want your market stall to be a full-time income source.
So, if you have strong customer service skills opens in new window and are ready to be your own boss, read our guide on starting your own market stall business.
Choose the right type of market
Not all markets are the same – some specialise in particular types of goods, while others attract different customers.
It can pay to research the types of markets opens in new window that best match the products or goods you are looking to sell.
Permanent market stall
A permanent market stall entails setting up a booth opens in new window in a traditional market, such as a dedicated indoor market in a town centre, where you have a regular pitch and is suitable for selling a diverse range of products, from clothing to household goods.
Some permanent markets might be near tourist areas, making them more suited to gifts, souvenirs, and impulse purchases, while others may be geared towards a particular type of produce, such as fish, meat, or flowers, and are designed to attract serious buyers such as catering customers opens in new window.
Street markets are often held at specific times of the year and, in some cases, may operate seasonally opens in new window, such as Christmas markets.
Street markets can sell a range of goods, food, and beverages, from takeaway food to hand-made furniture, and customers may attend street markets to look for unique products not easily found in mainstream shops, save money, or simply stock up on groceries.
Read our guide on how to run a shop on Etsy. opens in new window
Event markets and specialist markets
Event markets tend to run in conjunction with specific events, such as selling merchandise at annual summer festivals and can be worth investigating if you sell products with a particular niche opens in new window.
For example, an antique jewellery opens in new window stall may be a good idea at a vintage clothing festival, whereas a stall selling gingerbread bakes may be better suited to a Christmas market.
Read our guide on how to turn your hobby into a profitable business. opens in new window
If you intend to sell items related to farming and agriculture, you could make an income by selling locally sourced produce opens in new window, such as meat and dairy products.
Farmers’ markets usually appeal to people who want fresh and locally sourced produce; depending on your location, they may operate weekly or monthly.
Create a business plan
The next step is to create a viable business plan.
Your business plan opens in new window helps you pave the way to establishing and running a successful market stall, encompassing things like:
- product demand – this means researching current market trends and opportunities to determine whether there is a healthy demand for your products
- market research – conducting market research opens in new window helps to identify your target market opens in new window and assess the competition opens in new window; for example, how many other stalls in your area sell similar products to you, how often do they operate, and what are their prices? Ultimately, you’ll have to decide how your prices and merchandise will differ.
To run a successful market stall, it may be a good idea to forecast your finances opens in new window, including:
- sales projections
- pricing opens in new window (including whether you’re open to bartering)
- cost of goods sold
- operational expenses opens in new window
- overall expected revenue and profit opens in new window.
Consider how you intend to operate your market stall, such as inventory management and stall set-up.
Promoting your stall opens in new window when you open may be an idea to generate consumer interest; you can advertise your stall in local leaflets or newsletters, for example.
Most market operators usually charge pitch fees for occupying a space opens in new window, which varies depending on the location and popularity of the market.
For example, paying for a pitch on the grounds of a popular city centre market is likely more costly than a pitch in an out-of-town community hall.
You will need to factor in start-up costs, such as:
- display racks
While carrying cash is always advantageous, you may appeal to customers if you take card payments opens in new window, such as contactless payment, though this may mean you need to invest in an electronic card reader.
Investing in a digital cash register is recommended to help you monitor sales data, keep track of stock, and provide receipts to customers.
How to fund your market stall?
There are various ways you can fund the start-up costs of your market stall, such as:
- using personal savings or borrowing from friends or family
- taking a business loan from a bank
- applying for a government-funded Start Up Loan. opens in new window
You may need specific certificates and licences to operate your market stall, such as:
- market trader licence – contact your local council for details on how to apply
- food hygiene certificate – needed if you intend to prepare or sell food
- alcohol licence – you must comply with the Licensing Act 2003 opens in new window if your stall sells alcohol.
If a limited company is set up, as part of any licence for example, the business might need to be registered with the local authority.
Obtaining public liability insurance opens in new window is vital, and many councils require you to have this before approving your application; it provides cover in case someone is injured, or their property is damaged due to your business activities.
It’s also a good idea to research suppliers opens in new window and look for those specialising in the type of products you plan to sell, assessing their products, pricing, order quantities, and delivery options.
Attracting customers and promoting your business
Display your stall’s name clearly and use signage to highlight any special offers or promotions.
If you’re selling edible goods, you could consider offering free samples to entice customers to your stall.
Take advantage of social media and online presence, such as:
- Instagram opens in new window
- Facebook opens in new window
- Twitter opens in new window
- Tiktok opens in new window.
Social media lets you showcase product photos, provide general updates about your stall, and offer promotions.
Interacting with potential customers opens in new window puts a friendly face behind the stall, which can encourage custom.
Ask customers to leave feedback on your website or social media; positive reviews may help increase trust and credibility in your business.
Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.
- Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality opens in new window opens in new window opens in new window
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Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.