Business Idea: Market Stall
Selling products at a local market can be a great way to generate some extra income. If your stall does particularly well, it could even become your sole source of income!
It’s relatively cheap to start a market stall and you get immediate access to customers that frequent the markets.
Markets are held all over the country and farmers’ markets in particular have become a very popular weekend activity, with people flocking to buy fresh produce and gourmet food.
If you’re looking to run a market stall, then your first step should be research, namely what to sell and where to sell it. It’s worth checking out the local markets to see what’s already on offer, and to determine which stalls and products are most popular.
You can learn a lot from a bit of reconnaissance, so don’t be afraid to chat with stallholders and ask them a few questions. Most people are happy to share their experiences, particularly if you buy some of their products at the same time! Just be mindful of firing questions at them during busy times, try to catch them when it’s quieter.
Here are some handy resources to kick-start your research of local markets:
A great website for locating farmers’ markets in your area.
A comprehensive directory of markets, grouped by states and territories.
Markets typically run on the weekend. Many markets run each week, but smaller ones will often run intermittently – every second or third weekend for example. You may be able to operate at more than one market each week to maximise your sales. For example, in Hobart, Tasmania, Salamanca Market is held every Saturday and the Farm Gate Market is held every Sunday – so you could run a stall at each market.
Your stall will need to be ready to go before the market opens to the public, so make sure you arrive early with plenty of time to set everything up. The market operators will often stipulate the set up and pack up times.
You may already know what you want to sell (well done!), but for those that don’t – here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Gourmet food
For example: sweets and pastries.
- Fresh produce
For example: organic fruit.
- Arts and crafts
For example: handmade jewellery.
You could focus on products relevant to your skill set and expertise, your areas of interest, or just what sells!
Potential costs and tips for setting up your market stall
Aside from your production costs, there are a number of other expenses that will need to be factored into your budget, particularly when you’re first starting out.
Market operators will typically charge stallholders a fee, which varies depending on the facilities and size of the market.
Trestle tables are sometimes provided (typically for a fee), but it’s worth getting your own if you’ll be running a market stall on a regular basis.
Make sure you purchase a sturdy table that won’t blow over, collapse or otherwise cause distress for you and your customers. Opting for a cheap, flimsy table could result in a collapsed stall and damaged stock – an expensive, embarrassing and potentially dangerous outcome.
Most table tops are not particularly attractive, so it’s worth considering a table cloth to improve the appearance of your stall. In most cases it’s best to use a light colour (white for example), as this will help to showcase your products. Don’t use a tatty old table cloth plucked from the shed!
If your stall will be outside, then you may also need to purchase a marquee. More on this in the ‘Weather’ section.
You may also need display stands, racks or other items depending on the products that you intend to sell. Effective use of height can help to draw attention to your stall and products, so consider using stands to raise your products up rather than laying everything flat on the table.
Public liability and products liability insurance is often covered as part of your stall/site fee, but it’s worth checking with the market operators to determine if you’re covered.
It’s sensible to purchase public liability insurance even if the market operators indicate that their policy covers you; because if the worst case scenario eventuates – you want to be absolutely certain that you have insurance coverage.
If you’re selling food or drinks, then you may require power. Many markets, particularly those held indoors, offer access to power (sometimes for a fee). However, some markets don’t have power available, particularly those held outdoors – so check with the market operator beforehand. If you require power and it’s unavailable at the market site, then you’ll need to consider portable power options, such as generators or solar panels.
If your stall is outside, then you may need a marquee. There are two important things to consider when selecting a marquee: is it waterproof and is it windproof? Ideally it should be both. The supporting structure (poles etc) needs to be sturdy enough to keep the marquee intact during stronger winds and heavy rain.
Of course if the weather is really ferocious, then it’s not going to be a great day for market sales, but on the plus side – if starts to rain, customers may be enticed to the comfort of your sheltered stall!
Attractive stalls attract customers. So take pride in the appearance of your stall, your products, and yourself!
Take advantage of the canvas available to you for branding. For example, you could wear a polo shirt adorned with your business name and logo, perhaps even a catchy slogan that will start a conversation or help people remember your brand. If you’re using a marquee, then take advantage of the advertising space offered by the walls and roof of the marquee.
You could also include brochures or business cards in a stand on your stall, so that customers can easily recommend your products to others.
Use your imagination to make your stall stand out.
If you’re able to bring a partner, family member or friend along – then you’ll have the ‘luxury’ of being able to take bathroom or coffee breaks as required!
Running a market stall solo is quite common and entirely doable, but it’s much easier when you have someone else to support you when it’s busy and to hold the fort if you need to leave the stall for a moment.
Over time, if your market stall really takes off, you may even consider employing staff to help run the stall.
Most markets are cash-based, so customers won’t be expecting facilities for debit or credit cards. Make sure that you have plenty of coins and notes in various denominations, so that you can provide change to customers. If sales go well, then you’ll often need a lot more change than you would think.
It’s important to have a secure container for your money, so make sure you use a solid, lockable box or cash register. Don’t leave the money unattended, or you may find that your cash box goes missing. If possible, it’s sensible to have your cash box secured to the table, making it more difficult to be snatched.
If a customer pays with a note, particularly a large denomination, it’s useful to say the amount out loud, for example “change from $50”, and also place the note separately in the cash area while you collate their change. This helps to limit the chance of providing incorrect change. It also helps to prevent a scam where unscrupulous individuals will purchase a product from your stall, and then when you provide their change – say that they actually paid with a higher denomination note and seek the ‘correct change’ from you – hoping to profit from your inattention.
- Customer service matters. Be friendly and professional. Remember to smile! 😀
- Consider using social media to attract and retain a loyal fan base.
- Practice setting up your stall at home before your first market.
- Take a folding chair.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen if you’re outside.
- Take plenty of water to drink and some food to keep your energy up. Of course you may also be able to purchase food at the market, which has the added benefit of supporting your fellow stallholders.
- Consider setting up an online store (if appropriate for your products), as this can provide ongoing sales outside of market days.
- If you’re selling gourmet food or drinks, consider entering competitions or shows. A sticker on your product promoting a ‘gold medal’ win in a food competition will help to sell your product.
- If you’re selling food, make sure that you’re aware of and compliant with food laws and labelling requirements. Hygiene and food safety is paramount, so do use gloves, tongs and other practices that ensure food safety.
- Make sure that your pricing is clear, either on price tags or signage. Customers shouldn’t have to ask “how much is this?”.
- Have fun!
Article image credit: Farm Gate Market (Hobart, Tasmania)