Setting Up and Running A Market Stall

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Setting Up A Market Stall. A short Introduction for new Market Traders

Help and advice for would-be Market Stall Traders

Running A Market Stall can be a great way to make your own living. Flexible working hours, the attraction of being your own boss, the fresh air and a relaxed, friendly working environment are just some of the many reasons why each year thousands of people choose to set up as Market Traders and run their business from Markets and Car Boot Sales all over the country.

Running A Market Stall: Getting Started

The easiest way to get involved in Market Trading is to go to your local Car Boot Sale, typically on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and give it a go. Car Boot Sales, in the classic sense are informal markets held on playing fields or other designated open areas which are generally intended for selling second hand goods. These days however, you'll find that most have a relaxed attitude towards the type of goods sold and well organised Car Boot Sales more often than not have a dedicated section for traders who wish to sell new goods. Check with the Operator of the Car Boot Sale beforehand to find out the arrangements they have in place as they can vary from location to location. You'll also need to know the following before deciding to attend a Car Boot Sale as a trader:

  • Set up time: the time at which traders are allowed onto the premises to set up pitch (the open space from which you trade), this could be any time between 5:30am and 8:30am depending upon the Car Boot Sale.
  • Pitch Cost & Frontage Dimensions: you'll need to know how much it's going to cost to rent a pitch as well as the pitch frontage dimensions (the amount of space along the front of the pitch) which may dictate how big a Stall or Table you can use to display your products.

On the day of the Car Boot Sale, the normal arrangement is to allow regular traders onto the site first followed by casual traders (those without a regular pitch) who are either left to find a space or are allocated one by the operator. The best pitches are generally considered those on the ends of rows or in isles where the flow of customers is greatest. You may be lucky to get one of these pitches the first time around.

Finding a product to sell

If you're not sure what kind of product to sell, or where to find the type of product you want in wholesale quantities look no further than Trader Magazine, a monthly publication crammed full of advertisements for wholesalers stocking a vast range of goods from homeware to consumer electronics, fashion goods to gardening products. The Trader Magazine's website also has an Online Stock Buying Directory with details of many hundreds of wholesalers sorted into useful categories. Also worth mentioning is Market Trade News, essential reading for any Market Trader which also features a selection of advertisements for wholesalers. Click here for subscription details of both publications.

Diplaying and pricing your product

Most traders starting out on Car Boot Sales will display their goods on cheap pasteboard tables or something similar. Unfortunately these are generally poor quality structures, not designed for holding anything heavier than several soggy pieces of wallpaper! If you intend to display goods on one you'll drastically reduce its life expectancy to that of about 30 minutes. Try to find a sturdy workman's tressel table available at your local DIY store or even better, a Gavin Kenning Engineering Table.

Display your product in the best way you can. Appearance can play an essential role in making a sale, as is picking an appropriate price to sell your product at. Poor appearance or too high a price will result in few or no sales. Similarly, you won't make many sales if you don't make clear the price of an item. Many customers are too polite to ask or may assume that the price is too high. Add a small percentage to your sale price which you can allow to be knocked off should you need to haggle.


Haggling, or bartering as it's also known, is an ancient skill that many of us Brits have lost in recent years but it is nevertheless a vital asset to any successful Market Trader. Take your que from the Market Traders of Asian and Eastern European origin for whom haggling is part of their inherent nature and are exceptionally skilled at it. Respect them for it and treat any haggling experience you have with them as a free lesson that you can use next time you strike a deal with a wholesaler or sell an item to a customer who wants to bag a bargain. Don't take the idea of haggling too seriously, treat it as a game and enjoy it. When you reach your final price don't move from it — be firm and stick to it. Never reveal your final price, be it the lowest price you'll sell at, or your highest price you'll buy at, that way you may walk away with more than you were hoping for.

Keeping track of your sales, working out your true profit

Keep a list of what you sell and the price you get for each item. Back home you can use this information to work out how much profit you've made by comparing your cost price (the price you buy the product at) with your final sale price. Subtracting your cost from your profit gives you your margin (profit made on a product). However, this figure doesn't take into account other expenses which you should also deduct, such as the rent for your pitch, fuel to get you and your products to and from the Car Boot Sale, food and drink and stolen or damaged goods. This will give you your true profit, referred to as net profit.

Within a few weeks you'll know if what you're doing is making you a profit and if you want to continue making your own living in this way. By this time you will most likely have experienced poor weather and the affect this can have on the number of customers attending a Car Boot Sale. This can be of benefit however as bad weather also affects how many traders turn out and fewer traders mean less competition.
If you're serious about becoming a Market Trader, have made profit and enjoy what you're doing, now is the time to consider buying a Market Stall that will stand up to heavy and prolonged use for years to come.

Buying A Market Stall, second hand or new

If you're lucky you may be able to get hold of a second hand Market Stall, but be weary as many will have had a hard life and very frequently have damaged or missing parts. If you do stumble across a good deal check that the Market Stall goes together properly and that the cover is of good quality and doesn't have any obvious holes or tears in it. Market Stall Covers have a life expectancy of 6 months to a year depending upon how much use they get. You'll also need at least 10 good Market Stall Clips to secure your Market Stall Cover. Ensure that the counter boards are present and fit well on the stall.

Be careful not to pay too much for a second hand Market Stall, remember you can buy a new one from Gavin Kenning Engineering for as little as 122.85 with a Market Stall Cover, Clips and counter boards. That's just 2.45 over a 50 week period. A very small price to pay for a Market Stall that will last for years and keep you, your customers and your products protected from the elements.

Setting Up A Market Stall. A short Introduction for new Market Traders was written by Gavin Kenning, a veteran of the British Market Industry and founder of Gavin Kenning Engineering, the UK's leading Market Stall Manufacturer.
The written content in this article may not be republished or redistributed without prior permission.