Starting your own business is a daunting proposition, but small market stalls offer a more manageable place to start. You could even establish and operate a market stall to complement your online presence; running both synergistically will likely encourage the growth of your business over time. Unfortunately, marketplace market stalls have dwindled in today’s click-and-buy environment. But they can be a great way to meet customers face-to-face and develop an active client base. If you’re interested in opening your own market-based market stall to bring your product directly to the masses, here are 12 pointers to help you be successful.
1. Figure out why you want to run a market stall.
Does the idea of a market stall appeal to you from a business standpoint, or are you just looking forward to getting out of the house (and away from your computer) for a few hours each week? Either reason is valid, but there are many factors to think about when running a market stall. The weather can be tricky: once you attract customers, they may rely on you to be at your market stall every week, even if it’s raining, snowing, or freezing. Depending on what you’re selling, you may also have to protect your inventory from the elements. No matter what, you’ll end up enduring inclement weather and long hours on your feet, neither of which may be worth it unless you’re fully dedicated to growing your business. You’ll also need to have the foresight to anticipate busy and slow seasons so you don’t find yourself pinching pennies during the leaner parts of the year.
2. Take a long, hard look at your expenses.
Devote a fair amount of time to laying out all your expenses up-front before setting up shop for the first time. Operating costs for your market stall will affect your bottom line, but be realistic: market stall space isn’t too costly nowadays, so make sure your product prices compensate for the expense without pricing yourself out of the market. But do consider the time you’ll spend planning, driving, laying out your product, and interacting with customers. Do you have the time to do all that and still maintain a productive business (and life) outside the market? Make sure that you can afford to run a market stall without sacrificing your existing customer base and budget.
Consider the following: What sort of hole does your product fill in the market? Is it reasonably priced? Will you have enough turnover to make a profit? Who are your competitors, and what are they doing (or not doing) to be successful?
Have you ever sold your products to customers face-to-face before? How comfortable are you when it comes to advertising, making small talk, and promoting yourself? (Spoiler: If you’re not comfortable now, you’ll need to learn to be.) Do you have a failsafe pitch and quality product to keep customers coming back for more?
Do you want to build a market presence in your hometown, or would you rather branch out eventually to other areas or regions? And how will you move your product from your home or warehouse to your market stall? Can your car accommodate sufficient inventory, and will you be able to transport items safely back and forth yourself?
4. Sign on the dotted line.
Don’t expect to show up at a market, open a market stall, and watch the money roll in. You’ll need paperwork in hand first, including any industry-relevant certifications and various insurances to protect against loss and theft. Do your research beforehand so you know what you’re getting into and what exactly you need to have in writing before you can run your market stall.
5. Investigate the lay of the land at markets.
Check out www.ncass.org.uk for tips and advice. Try to get out to other markets to see how they run and what the customer base is like. See which markets are well advertised and attended and which aren’t to give yourself a better idea of where you might be successful.
6. Provide customer incentives.
Once you build a client base, how will you retain your customers? You’ll need to offer promotions to drum up business. Consider “frequent flyer” discounts, free gift(s) with purchase, or a punch card that earns customers 1 free item for every 10 purchased. These types of bonuses will seem like a treat for your customers and will likely compel them to share and discuss your product with others.
7. Make yourself accessible regardless of customers’ budgets.
You should stock several items that have lots of turnover, even if they may earn you relatively little profit due to their low price tags. These products should be accessible to everyone who is interested in your brand. Make sure your best sellers are affordable and of decent quality.
Mid-range items may be out of the budget for some customers, but they should be unique enough to persuade people to purchase. Ideally, these products will be priced high enough to earn you a decent profit while remaining popular with the majority of consumers to promote consistent sales.
High-end items are obviously your most expensive and have the greatest potential to generate profit. Not everyone will be interested in or able to afford your top-shelf products, but those who do will earn you a pretty penny. And those who can’t afford a certain product at a given time may be inspired to save up for it in the future if your inventory’s quality speaks for itself.
8. Get involved in your market.
Be friendly and welcoming to other business owners throughout your chosen market. You’ll make connections and maybe even friends while learning a great deal about how market stall culture works. Above all, you’ll want to make a name for yourself in whichever market you choose so you can attract and retain customers and colleagues. Networking is a great tool for business growth, and it’s even more valuable when you have other professionals on your side.
9. Take advantage of technology.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram offer quick and easy ways to promote your business. Buy-1-Get-1 promotions, bulk discounts, and free samples may persuade customers to visit your market stall, and you can interact with customers virtually on social media platforms, too. Communicate and connect with as many people as possible to spread the word about your inventory.
10. Arrange your market stall with care.
Aesthetics are a large part of small business success, and a market market stall is no exception. Make sure your space is clean, well-organized, and user friendly; customers shouldn’t have to rifle through piles of product to find what they need. Figure out a layout that makes sense for your inventory and stick to it.
Use shelving, stacks, and other configurations to put your items on display and within easy reach. Placing less expensive items in front and more expensive items in back will help to draw people in because they won’t be immediately put off by seemingly high prices. Keep a box of extras behind your market stall to refill as necessary; don’t drown your storefront in unnecessary product. Replenish stock as people buy.
Branding is also important. You’ll need a clear, readable sign that’s visible from a distance. Use the same branding on your products if you can, for the sake of cohesion. Switch “spotlight items” out on a weekly basis to keep things interesting, and mix up your promos regularly, too. That way, customers will stop by your market stall every week to see the new deals you’re offering. Keep your brand interesting to entice customers to return.
11. Always put the customer first.
Make the purchase process simple for your customers. If you’re able to, accept a variety of payment methods like cash, cheque, bank card, or PayPal. PayPal even offers attachable card readers for business owners so customers can pay for products with a single swipe. Even though cash is a popular payment option at many market stalls, offering the convenience of alternative payment methods can help to set you apart.
Most importantly, be nice! Smile and wave at customers, and consider putting sample products on display so customers can touch and hold items before they buy. The better impression you make on your customers, the more likely they’ll be to come back. It should go without saying, but never be rude, impatient, or pushy when customers linger near your market stall. Let them explore and encourage them to ask questions if they have any. Always be friendly and sincere in your appreciation of their patronage—after all, you wouldn’t be at the market if it weren’t for them.
12. Make yourself stand out from the competition.
Niche products will help attract customers’ attention. Think about displaying vintage jewellery in clear cases for customers’ perusal. Use unique fabrics, coverings, and product staging to pique the interest of passersby. Or identify several current trends in your business area and use them to your advantage. If you sell jewellery, for example, figure out what’s popular: lots of bling? Minimalism? Unique colours and designs? Whatever’s the rage, put it on prominent display.