If you’re looking to start a small retail business but don’t want to sell goods online, you might want to consider starting a market stall business. It’s a fairly straightforward business to start, but you still need to look into a few things before diving headlong into this opportunity.

This article will serve as a guide on how to start a market stall business. We’ll provide advice on everything from registering your business to advertising and selecting products for your market stall. The complete list of topics we’ll cover includes:

  • Why you might want to start a market stall business
  • General tips for setting up a business
  • Picking products for your stall
  • Advertising your market stall
  • Organising your finances

Why you might want to start a market stall business

There are a surprising number of millionaires who began their career by selling from a market stall. Examples include Sir Alan Sugar and Poundland founder Steve Smith. While their later success comes from various factors, many entrepreneurs start selling from a market stall because it’s a relatively simple operation to run. 

When running a market stall, you have far fewer operating costs than you would if you ran a similar business from a brick and mortar store. Your marketing can also be much simpler, as much of your business will come from passersby and people attending the market you operate in.

Along with these advantages, running a market stall business comes with all the usual advantages of being self-employed — chief among them being the freedom to pursue your interests and turn them into a career. 

In addition, a market stall is a great way to sell handmade or locally-sourced products, so you may consider selling from a stall before eventually expanding online or to a brick and mortar building. 

General tips for setting up a business

Before getting too involved in the unique selling points of your market stall (like the product you’ll sell or your brand identity), you’ll need to make sure you can operate as a business. This means you’ll need to follow the process most companies need to complete when setting up.

Planning 

Like anyone looking to create a new company, you’ll need to write a business plan. This will help you guide your business in the right direction going forward. You might need to change or adapt your original plan as time goes on, but it’s vital to have one when you first start out, as it will provide a guideline for when you need to make big decisions.

You’ll also need to do a great deal of financial planning, so look into how much to budget for starting a business. A market stall is a comparatively cheap business to get off the ground, but you’ll still need to pay for things like inventory and a physical stall to sell from. 

You may also need a vehicle to transport your goods and your stall setup. Finally, leave space in your budget for purposes particular to the kind of product you’ll be selling (i.e. special equipment for production) or purchases unique to running a market stall, like business licenses. 

Registration

In many ways, starting a market stall is like starting any other kind of business. You’ll need to complete a few tasks to ensure that your business can operate legally within the UK.

You’ll need to register as a sole trader or limited company. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, so do some research and see which is better for you. Being a sole trader means you’ll have a simpler time paying taxes and accounting, so it might be a better option for a market stall business. 

As a market stall vendor, you’ll also want to acquire the right kind of business license. Depending on how your stall operates, you’ll need a market stall license or a street trading license. 

You can usually acquire these = from your local council, so you may need to contact the council for information on what exactly you’ll need. Both these licenses have a cost, and you may need to renew them annually. For more information, check out the relevant government websites below:

If you plan to sell food from your market stall, you’ll also need to register with your local authority as a food trader. On top of that, you and any staff you have will need Level Two Hygiene Certificates, which you can get after a day’s training with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

Picking products for your stall

It may be that you have a specific product in mind when you’re first setting up your market stall business; the operations of many market stalls revolve around one specific product. This is particularly true for companies that sell homemade crafts — it may be that the market stall is an extension of an online business where you also sell your crafts. 

You may also have a prior product idea because of the type of market you want to operate in. For example, many large cities in Europe have markets that only sell a particular type of product: there are flower markets, fish markets, clothes markets, and many more. 

Identifying a target market

Even if you don’t have a product idea, you can still start thinking about your target market. A target market is the group of people most likely to buy from your stall, so they’re the people that most of your marketing and product development focuses on.

While it’s more difficult to identify your target market without first having a product in mind, it’s not impossible. You can use other factors like the local area or the people who frequently attend the market to determine who is likely to make purchases from a market stall. 

By doing this research, you may even be able to identify some of your target market’s needs, which will further help you work out what to sell from your stall. Failing that, you can see what other kinds of stalls they’re likely to buy from and sell products similar to those stalls.

Finding a supplier

Finding a supplier is a hugely important part of starting any retail business. You might have the same supplier for years if they provide good quality materials at good prices. In fact, by building a personal relationship with your suppliers over a long period of time, you might be able to ensure they provide you with the best possible prices and supplies.

Finding the right supplier is particularly important if your product’s main selling point is that it’s locally sourced or made. Local produce is a very popular product for market stalls, but you may need to do thorough research to find a high-quality supplier in your local area. Suppliers from other regions might be able to sell better quality goods to you, so decide how important the local connection is to your business model.

Advertising your market stall

Social media 

Social media is one of the most common and effective ways to market small businesses. It’s free to start a profile on most social media websites, and once you build up a following, you’ll be able to promote your business to a vast audience.

One of the trickiest parts of marketing your business on social media is creating engaging content. What this means is different for every business. For instance, the content you produce for your market stall will vary depending on what you sell from the store. 

That said, day-in-the-life style content can be quite popular, as it gives customers an insight into how your business works. Stalls that sell homemade goods might also benefit from making video content that shows how they make their products.

If the market your stall forms a part of only operates on certain days, it’s smart to base your content’s timing around market days. Post frequently on the lead up to market days, and make sure that people know exactly when and where they can purchase your products.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to promote your business through social media and want to find out about how to use a specific platform, try reading one of our more specific guides below:

Build a website 

While you’ll conduct most (if not all) of your sales at your actual stall, having an online presence is always a good idea in the digital world we live in. The first step in creating this online presence is to create a business website

Many businesses thrive off of using their website to sell goods. If you want to offer your customers the option of buying your products online instead of exclusively at your stall, do some research on how to start an ecommerce business. This may become necessary as your business grows, and your single market stall can no longer create enough profit to cover your costs. 

Another benefit of having a website is that it provides a hub where you can store all of your contact information, like social media links, phone numbers, and email addresses. This means that customers can easily get in touch with you after finding your website.

Building a website does require some technical skills, so you might consider hiring a professional to help create the perfect website. There are also a lot of easy-to-use website builders out there that you can try if hiring a professional is too expensive.

Physical advertising 

Although it’s fairly old-fashioned, physical advertisements like posters and banners can do wonders for a market stall. 

This is because many of a market stall’s customers are simply people who were walking by. So if you create eye-catching posters and banners, you’ll likely be able to draw more passersby to your store and (with luck) some will buy your goods. 

If possible, try to find out if there are physical advertisements for the market you sell your goods in. If there is, speak with the people in charge of creating them and see if you can get your stall featured on those adverts. This allows you to extend your reach farther than you would be able to while advertising alone.

Organising your finances

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. It’s even more of a problem when you operate something like a market stall, where you’ll need to spend a lot of time on the business’s day-to-day operations, as opposed to the bookkeeping. 

When you start a market stall (or any business), a good first step is opening a business account. This keeps your personal finances separate from your business account, which makes organising your transactions much easier. 

How Countingup can help run your market stall

Business accounts are also handy because they frequently come with additional features that save you time and make accounting easier. For example, Countingup offers a great business account that also provides real-time profit and loss reporting.

A profit and loss statement is a financial document that shows how much money your company has made and lost over a set period. The Countingup app displays a real-time view of your profits and losses, updating as you make transactions on the business account. This means you’ll be able to see and record any expenses and sales as soon as they go onto your account. 

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