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10 Things You Should Know Before You Become a Market Trader

10 Things You Should Know Before You Become a Market Trader

Thinking about becoming a market trader? There are plenty of good reasons why - you’ll enjoy low start-up costs, the thrill (and challenges!) of being your own boss, and uncapped earning potential. 

But before you take the leap, take a look at our checklist below - market trading has more complexities than you might think.

1. You’ll need to apply for a pitch

You can’t just rock up at a market with your stall and products - you’ll need to submit an application well in advance to either the managing company (in the case of privately run markets) or to the relevant local authority (in the case of council-run ones).

The applications are now done online, but it’s worth doing your research via good old-fashioned legwork. Take a good look at where you’re applying to, and whether the clientele and location are right for the products you’re retailing. 

It’s a good opportunity to check out your prospective competition, too.

2. Logistics are key

Every day that you’re at a market, you’ll need to transport your stall and your stock there and back (hopefully with less stock at the end of the day than the start!).

It’s worth considering how long that journey will be, and how you’ll achieve it. Most market traders use a van, but depending on the pitch locations you’re looking at, you might need to consider the feasibility financially and time-wise of long travel morning and night.

It’s also worth factoring in the cost of van insurance if that’s how you’re planning to work. 

3. You’re better off with a range of prices

No matter what you’re selling, it’s better to hedge with a mix of products at different price points. That means big ticket, more expensive items to draw potential customers in, lower-cost products to tempt them into a purchase, and medium priced pieces for upselling opportunities. 

The key is not to put all your eggs in one basket - especially early on, it’s better to spread your bets.

4. Your stall needs to stand out

First impressions matter - so it’s worth considering how you’ll make your stall look. Signage is key. Consider how you want your brand to appear to potential customers. A modern, trendy feel? Or maybe more of a vintage look?

You can always add accessories at a fairly low cost, too - think about how you might incorporate lighting and decor to catch market-goers’ eyes. 

Oh - and make sure you nail the basics. Keep it clean, tidy and professional looking, with personal items out of sight.

5. Insurance is a must

Most markets will require stallholders to have public liability insurance as a bare minimum - but it’s also worth considering insuring your other assets.

You can find specialist policies to cover these (including Van & Truck Insurance and Stock Insurance)  and it’s something we’d advise getting up front - before starting trading.

6. Digital marketing can be a big help

As a market stall holder, you might feel that you’re a strictly physical, in-person sales type of business person. But digital marketing can be a great way of getting the message out about your stall and your products.

Make sure you’ve got social media channels - Facebook and Instagram in particular - set up for your stall, and that you keep them up to date regularly to spread the word.

7. Your customers have rights

Make sure you’ve read and understand the Trade Descriptions Act and the Sale of Goods Act. 

These are key governing pieces of legislation for the rights your customers have when you sell goods to them - you must ensure you’re not accidentally contravening them, or you could find yourself in hot water. 

8.  Understand you’ll now be paying tax via self assessment

As a market stall holder, you’ll be self-employed. That means you need to ensure that you’re paying all the tax that you need to - or you could end up with an unanticipated bill. 

Register on the HMRC as self-employed within three months of starting trading, and ensure that you complete your Self Assessment Tax Return on time each year (it can be worthwhile to get an accountant to help with this initially).

9. You’ll need to get a license from the council

Before you start trading, you’ll need to get in touch with your local authority to apply for either a market stall licence or a street trading licence.

The difference comes down to the location of your stall - it’s best to contact the council and let them know where you’re planning to apply for a pitch so you can ensure you’ve got the right licence for where you’ll be. 

10. You are your brand!

Starting off as a market trader can be a nerve-wracking experience - but confidence is key! At a stall, your brand begins and ends with you. So maintain a confident, friendly, helpful demeanour with customers, avoid the hard sell, and aim for happy customers who’ll tell their friends and family. A little charm goes a long way!


Maddy Harris

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