Advice for running a successful market stall

Running a market stall can be a fun and rewarding experience, whether you're looking to showcase your handmade products or as part of sales for your business, or simply looking to pick up a bit of extra money. However, I’ve found it to be a lot of work to get everything ready and working out what you need to do can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're new to the world of markets.

Cotswold Poster Co market stall

To help you get started, here are some tips based on my experiences of doing them to sell my poster designs over the last few years:

  1. Choose the right market: Not all markets are created equal, and it's important to choose the right one for your products and target audience. Look for markets that are well-established and have a good reputation, and that attract the kind of customers you want to reach. The really good ones will be very competitive to apply for and will probably cost a bit more.
  2. Plan ahead: Running a market stall requires some planning and preparation. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment and supplies (see below for a list). You'll also want to plan out your product display and pricing, and consider how you may need to handle things like returns and exchanges. I’ve found it takes a couple of days to get everything ready in the week before a market.
  3. Be organised: On the day of the market, make sure you arrive in good time to set up your stall, especially if you have to travel and/or it’s your first time at that market. Have a system in place for displaying your products in an interesting way, alongside prices. People may not look for long so you want your offering to be self-explanatory and not too cryptic.
  4. Engage with customers: Running a market stall isn't just about selling products – a big part is a chance to engage with potential customers and learn their needs. Be friendly and approachable, and take the time to talk to people about your products. This can help build trust and establish a relationship with your customers, which can lead to repeat business and an understanding of what they like or don’t like about your products. This is very useful for learning what products or variants to create next.
  5. Have contingency plans: What will you do if you sell out of a product? Think about how you might take orders for products you can post to people afterwards. Or what if you are making very few sales? Are you prepared to do some on-the-day special offers or discounting?

Things you’ll need to take

This is the list of things I take for market stalls – of course you may need to adjust it depending on the specific requirements of the market you're attending and the type of products you're selling. It's always a good idea to check with the market organisers to see what they provide and if there’s anything they expect.

  • A sturdy table or two – some markets provide these with your stall, if not it’s worth investing in some folding ones of your own
  • A gazebo or canopy – some markets provide these with your stall
  • Insurance – today most markets will insist on public liability insurance, which you can buy for just a day or for a year for reasonable prices
  • Folding chair/stool – you may be rushed off your feet but you could be waiting a while for things to get going at which point a seat is always welcome
  • Bags or boxes for customers to take their purchases home – probably featuring your logo
  • A portable credit card reader – easy for anyone to get working with their phone and a service such as Sumup, Zettle etc
  • A backup battery pack – for keeping your card reader and phone charged
  • A cash box and float – cash is still popular at markets so it’s a good idea to accept it and not rely on card payments
  • Your products – obviously, don’t forget these
  • Pricing labels – so you don’t have to keep fielding questions about how much everything costs!
  • A system for organising and displaying your products – try for products at a few different heights on things like boxes and shelving to create some variety in your stall
  • A sign or banner with your business name – good for hanging off the table at the front and sometimes behind you too
  • A tablecloth – gives you a nice blank canvas to put your display on and if you’re outside you might need some weights to weigh it (or your sign) down
  • Business cards or flyers to give to customers – and potential customers who are interested but not ready to buy yet
  • A bag you can use for rubbish
  • Water and snacks for yourself – although part of the fun of running a market is going round and finding other stalls selling exciting food to eat!
  • Finally: duct tape, string, kitchen roll – the trio of things that will help you out in any minor emergency!

As you can see, running a market stall takes some effort and planning to make it a success. Hopefully these tips and pointers will help you create a positive experience for your customers and make your time worthwhile.

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