Market stalls can make a lot of money and gain great exposure for your brand... if they are done right.
This complete guide to market stall selling will give the best tips for selling, offer preparation advice, and help you get started at your first market.
It will answer how to start a market stall, how much a market stall will cost, what it’s like to sell and what you need to bring to your first market. This is designed to help you get the best results possible at your first event.
Whether you are an experienced trader, or just starting to think about doing your first market stall, this complete guide to market stall selling will show you some useful things to consider and make your stall more profitable.
Have you ever considered what it’s like to sell at a market?
Perhaps you are thinking about launching a new product and would like to know some tricks to promote sales. Maybe you are just curious, wondering what it’s like to be on the other side and what goes through a sellers mind.
Everyone has engaged with market traders before. Whether you feel you are being constantly watched, pressured into purchasing, or able to browse at ease, we have all come into contact with market stall sellers.
You may love them or hate them, but you can normally find some pretty unique things being sold.
Here we are going to cover what it’s like to be a seller at a market, covering both the highs and the lows of selling physical products in person. As you dive deeper into this article, we will share the tips and tricks we have learned over a number of years to help increase our market stall sales.
In summary, markets can be pretty hit and miss.
On a good day, the people attending are your exact audience. They relate to your brand, are interested to find out more, engage in conversation and most importantly buy!
Before you think that market stalls are easy, let me warn you that if you get it wrong and the audience is not the one you wished for, you can end up standing around for hours without making any sales whatsoever. Not only can this be a waste of your time, they can also be expensive and completely demoralising.
With this in mind, what should you consider before deciding to trade at a market?
What you should consider before your first market stall
There are 6 things you should consider before selling at a market. These are particularly important if you are new to market selling.
1. Know whether the audience attending is right for you
Firstly, work out whether the audience likely to attend is the right fit for your brand. This means they must be the right age, demographic, shared interests, and most importantly be willing to spend.
One of our first market experiences was just 2 days before Christmas. I know what you are thinking, 2 days before Christmas, surely you can’t get better timing.
This is exactly what we thought as well.
The truth is that had it not been for our friends turning up at our first stall, we would have sold next to nothing.
It appeared that by this point in the month everyone had finished their Christmas shopping. London was a ghost town, I have never seen London so quiet. The streets normally busy on the weekend were dead, it seemed that everyone had left the city to visit relatives in the country.
Sadly, there have been a number of similar ‘learning opportunities’ for us when it comes to judging whether the audience is right. One such event we thought would be perfect was a sustainability focused brand launch for a yoga and meditation event.
The truth was that their marketing clearly wasn’t attracting the crowds they expected. The small audience it did pull to the school assembly hall looking location was not our target audience, forming an older demographic than we typically attract and one who had come primarily for the yoga and not to buy products.
Similarly, we have experienced first hand that at evening events customers are more interested in buying food and drink than physical products. As the interest in alcohol increases through the evening, the attention physical product sellers received corresponding decreases.
Therefore, the biggest piece of advice is to work out whether an event is truly suited to your brand, if it will be busy, and whether people will be willing to spend.
This is often hard to do, and a lot is dependent on things outside of your control such as the weather. Therefore, if possible try to do a recce of similar events or at the same location and decide whether you think the audience will be right for you.
2. Practice makes perfect: it is unlikely you will be a good salesman at first
You won’t know the best way to sell at first, this will only come with time. There is no point worrying about this part of a market stall ahead of schedule. Relax and let your products do the selling for you, and just be ready to answer questions that you customers might have.
Watch what successful brands are doing to drive sales and copy them. They have likely spent years honing their skills, so you will do yourself massive favours by observing and learning from them.
Audiences differ massively from one event to another. Sometimes it’s best to leave customers to browse alone, only letting them know that you are there to help if they have questions. At other markets, people are more interested to engage with your brand.
For example, when we sold at BBC Introducing, people were more than happy to take free stickers, a tactic we found encouraged people to start a conversation with us and often resulted in a successful sale.
Pointing out the fact we sell bamboo T-shirts to passers by often helps in these types of events, letting them know the uniqueness and feel of our products and increasing the chances of further conversation and questions.
However, we have noticed that when doing markets in London, people will nervously hurry by if you offer a free sticker or ask them to feel a fabric like bamboo. We tend to leave these shoppers alone to browse at their own pace.
Therefore, test what works and be prepared to adapt. Audiences at different events are very different, so don’t feel you have to push a certain tactic to sell.
3. Prepare by buying the necessary kit to best display your products and promote sales
Attend any market stall and you will likely see a wide variety of tools, props and marketing utensils to help promote their products. Some traders can make a bare wooden stand look beautiful, helping to engender trust and show the quality of their brand.
However, when you start selling, it is unlikely you will know exactly what you need to really bring out the best side of your products. Start by attending stalls and researching online (just do a Google search, or use Pinterest for inspiration) to see how you would like to style your stall.
The stall you face when you arrive to set up in the morning will likely be just the bare bones, meaning you will be supplied with a wooden table or frame and be expected to provide everything you need to make it look like a designers dream.
Over the years, we have slowly built up our stock of hangers, rails, clips, signage, cable ties and most other things that you might need at a market. However, at first you will only have the bare minimum, and even this will seem so expensive that you will likely end up questioning whether you really need it.
4. Arrive in good time to set up your stall
When you are new to selling, it takes a lot longer to set up than you might expect. You will get quicker with time, once you know what you are doing and how best to show off your products. So leave plenty of time when you turn up to your first market.
If the market opens at 11am and your brand new to selling, try to arrive with at least two to three hours to spare. You will no doubt then be readjusting your stall throughout the day, rearranging odd bits and bobs to try to improve the look of your products.
5. Be knowledgeable and ready to answer questions
If you are the founder of your brand and have done everything from sourcing through to marketing, this should be the easy part.
It is important that you know your brand and products inside out. Selling can feel intimidating, but answering customer questions allows you to show your passion about your products. It feels exhilarating when you see your customer shares a similar passion or curiosity.
There will no doubt be a number of customers who are curious and want to find out more. Be armed with your brand story, why you are doing what you are doing, what you are hoping to achieve, how your products are built, and everything else a customer might find interesting.
This isn’t selling, this is fun and offering your advice should hopefully feel like you are actually helping to improve a potential customer’s life.
Confidence will come with time as you get to learn who your ideal audience is, what questions they have and how best to talk to them.
6. Don’t get disheartened
The biggest tip is not to get disheartened if you don’t have success straight away. There are a huge amount of variables that may change how successful or not your day is. Sometimes it is just not your day, whether through being an ill-suited audience or just a bad day in general to sell.
If you know your product is good and something people will want, try to do a number of stalls before you consider throwing in the towel. Each time you should learn new tips that will help you improve for the next time.
You will have to bring all the necessary equipment with you if you wish to ensure your market stall is a success.
As mentioned, this doesn’t mean you need everything at your first event, as you will be able to build up your stall accessories over time. However, you do need to consider the basics if you wish to make your brand shine.
Most market stall events will provide you with a truly blank canvas. This means often a hideous and dirty wooden surface, a bare metal frame, power, and nothing else.
This is a list of things you should consider purchasing if you wish to stand out at your first market.
1. Table cloth or sheet
Bringing a table cloth or sheet is an absolute must, as you will want to hide the surface you are selling on. You would ideally bring two, one for the table and one for the backing of your stall, which will otherwise look through onto the next seller’s space. Try to work out what colours will best suit your brand by viewing similar stalls beforehand, or again looking on Google or Pinterest.
2. Banners, posters or marketing material
Banners, posters or marketing material with your brand name on, the main messages you stand for and your logo will help you stand out in a crowded market. Not only this, it will visually improve the look of your store, allow customers to understand immediately what you are about and what you are selling, encourage trust and credibility in your brand, and provide great opportunities to get images for social media.
3. Tape, cable ties, scissors
Tape, cable ties and scissors are amongst some of the small accessories that you should bring with you whenever you are doing a stall. There will always be times when you wish to prop something up, cut something or stick an item somewhere, so having these to hand is always useful. Other small things to consider is a coffee flask and nibbles as it will likely be a long day.
4. Business cards
The trusty business card is still one of the best ways to help promote your brand. It is rare that you won’t find a market stall trader without these, as often customers will want to follow up on questions with online research. Every now and then you may also give your details to someone who might actually be a good contact to make, such as an events organiser or wholesaler.
5. Something to display your merchandise on
Beyond just a sheet, you will also want something to display your products on that will help attract customer attention. Whether it be stands, shelving space, or clothes hangers, work out beforehand how best to display your products and purchase the necessary items ahead of the event. Remember that you only have a split second to catch a passers by attention, so make the best products you offer really stand out.
6. A mirror
If you are selling anything that a customer can try on, don’t forget to bring a mirror. This is so easily forgotten, and it can become awkward when customers who wish to view themselves have to walk to another seller’s stand.
7. A card reader
Everyone carries cards nowadays, not everyone still carries cash. A card reader is therefore absolutely essential and are super simple to find and set up. With the majority of people now paying by card, vendors are expected to bring their own card reader. Have a quick google and you will see there are a whole host of card reader providers out there, we useiZettle.
8. Cash and spare change
With the above being said, this doesn’t mean that cash is dead. Many people still prefer to pay with cash, therefore it is essential that you are able to offer change. Not only does this mean it can be more helpful to sell your products at rounded whole numbers rather than halves or small change, it also means that someone won’t turn away if you are not able to offer change, which can be the most crushing feeling if you have ever had to do this. Change is also needed if you are planning to pay for car parks, just a helpful additional tip.
9. Bring a chair
If at all possible, bring a transportable chair. Ideally a stool or something you can nip on and off very easily, but anything is better than nothing. A market will likely be a long day and can quickly become very tiring if you are on your feet all the time and not used to it.
Market stalls can vary wildly in price. For example, sell in Spitalfields in London and you are literally looking at four figure days. Sell at a smaller events (which may not have a big audience) and you could be thinking more along the lines of £35 for a day.
Typically, markets we attend such as Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery, where a variety of products from small brands are sold cost around £50 to £80 a day. This depends on the day, location and event. For example, a Saturday may cost £45 but the sunday at the same location will cost £80.
From experience, markets that cost £200 a day does not necessarily mean that you will sell more! So consider the audience in attendance before committing to these larger events.
If you have read this far, you may well be considering whether a stall is something you would like to do at some point in the future.
If this is the case, there are some real advantages of selling at a market rather than purely online.
1. You get to interact with your customers
Most importantly, selling at a market allows you to interact with your customers, know what type of person your brand really attracts, get an understanding of best selling items and what your audience really thinks of your products.
2. You understand what questions your customers might have about your products
You also get a chance to answer questions that customers might have, which may encourage you to develop variations of your product or address recurring questions on your website which you might otherwise not have considered. For example, it is important for us to know how our products are sustainably made as this is a question we are often asked, particularly when a customer is trying to understand the processes involved to make tencel (wood pulp) or bamboo t-shirts.
As a result, we have built up pages on our website demonstrating both the sustainability of our products as well as a guide to how they are made.
3. Ask your customers questions
Markets also offer you an opportunity to ask questions to your customers. We have found that those who are genuinely interested in our products are more than happy to say what they do and don’t like, which allows you to pivot and respond to their likes and dislikes.
Through this process, we have noticed our target audience like coloured items rather than black and white, and love bamboo. However, we have noticed bamboo doesn’t sell as well online because the customer is unable to feel the quality and softness of the fabric. So markets are not the be all and end all when it comes to sales predictions.
4. Markets are a great opportunity to affordably test if new products will sell
Markets are also amazing opportunities to test samples. If you are like us and have a fairly large product range which changes regularly to keep up with styles and trends, it is nice to know what sells before spending a lot of money on any one design. Being able to test with just 1 or 2 products is very handy before committing to spending hundreds of pounds on full product ranges.
The most important thing that you will undoubtedly be looking to do at your first market is sell. There are a number of tips that you should follow if looking to increase your sales at your first market.
The following 10 ways to improve sales at your next market stall are a list of lessons we have learnt over a number of years. But be aware that there is still a lot for us to learn, and no one will ever be perfect when it comes to increasing sales.
1. Ditch your phone
Don’t stand around on your phone or look like you haven’t had any customers all day. Try to look approachable, interested and not bored out of your mind (even if there are times when you are).
2. Offer variety, but don’t overcrowd your stand
Have a variety of products which offers your customers choice, but not too much that people can’t get a feel of your brand or the best products you offer. You only have a few seconds to catch the attention of passers by, so make it clean and clear.
3. Look busy
Often looking busy can help. It means that people don’t feel like they are being awkwardly watched when browsing your stall, giving them the time to flick through the items you sell at their own pace rather than feeling pressured and hurried.
4. Take pictures of your stand
People don’t mind having pictures taken when looking through your stuff, but it is always worth asking first to be safe. This is also a good way to get people engaged with your brand, allowing them to feel more comfortable talking to you and often more likely to buy.
5. Be confident
It is rare that someone won’t talk to you, so feel free to engage with your customers, even if it does feel weird at first. Not only does this help your customer to learn about your brand, it also allows you to learn about your customer, so be willing to ask any questions you might have.
6. Offer something unique
Try to find something unique that will make people want to approach your brand. A unique item can act as a great hook to entice customers in. We have a sign that says ‘Bamboo - Feel me, I’m super soft’. This makes people stop and touch our products, and is often a great way to start a conversation.
A simple sign will do just as well... It doesn't need to be over complicated.
7. Looking popular can draw a crowd
It often helps to have people standing around, engaging with your products or flicking through rails. This makes your stall look popular and like it is making sales, which will entice others to come over and see what is attracting so much attention. However, don’t overcrowd your stall with friends and block potential customer’s line of sight to your products.
8. Remain positive, don’t give up
Sales can often come in waves. You might go hours without making a single sale and then all of a sudden can make 3 in just a few minutes. So don’t become depressed, put your resting moody face on and scare away potential customers with your grumpy stance. Look approachable, positive and happy to be there.
9. Adapt to your surroundings
If possible, try to know what the place where you are selling looks like ahead of schedule, so that you can bring with you the appropriate additions to make your stand look amazing and show off your goods.
10. Make useful contacts
Even if you aren’t selling well, there is always the opportunity to network and make useful contacts at a market. Markets can open many new doors if you display your brand well to the right person. We’ve made friends with brand owners who are selling similar products as us who have helped us find new suppliers. We’ve also been invited to bigger and better events from people who have found our brand at a market. Remember, if you really aren’t selling much that day, at the very least a market stall is increasing your brand recognition.
Markets are friendly places where the majority of traders want everyone to succeed. Feel free to make friends with other people selling, they will no doubt be more than willing to share tips and exchange stories. Other sellers can really be a morale boost when at quieter events, which will happen from time to time.
Like starting a business, a market stall will require a certain amount of confidence, as well as capital expenditure to start up.
They are also a great opportunity to gain exposure, get to know your audience and actually make sales.
You might not necessarily make money at every event, particularly once you have bought a unique mixture of exotic food, vegan cheese and intricate pop-up birthday cards (some of the purchases I have made over the past few weekends whilst at markets), as well as bought the necessary equipment to create your beautiful stall. However, if you get it right you can make a nice profit.
Here at Cariki, we feel that every new business owner should try to do at least one market stall. Beyond just the potential to earn money, they can be a great learning opportunity that may steer the future decisions of your business.
Is there anything you think we’ve missed? We would love to hear from you below if you think there is something we could do to improve at our next market stall...
Comments will be approved before showing up.