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Market stall – StartupSmart

How to start a market stall

Market stalls are usually seen as small-time operations offering food, antiques, arts and crafts, clothing and books.


But, with the right strategy, you could turn a stall into a thriving, innovative business.


StartupSmart browses the market to see what’s involved in setting up.


What is it and who is it suited to?


A market stall is typically an immobile, temporary structure erected by merchants to display and shelter their merchandise in a street market or other site setting.


As a self-employed trader, you can enjoy working in a friendly environment and among like-minded people while selling products you’re passionate about, or perhaps that you have made yourself.


To become a market trader, you don’t need any specific qualifications, although good numeracy skills are important. It’s hugely beneficial to have a personable attitude and a flair for sales because ultimately this is what will determine your success.


As well as strong communication and negotiating abilities, excellent customer service skills and plenty of enthusiasm will go a long way to help you achieve your goals.


Rules and regulations


According to Market Stallholders Australia, prospective stallholders must ensure they read the regulations for stallholders at their market of choice very carefully.


“If public liability insurance isn’t covered in the stall fee, you may need to get some, and some markets will require product liability insurance as well,” it says.


“You will also need to work out whether you will need to register for GST. Talk to your accountant.”


According to Perth-based business Retrorocket, which sells secondhand books and collectables, there are some unspoken rules that are worth adhering to for the sake of your business:

  • Give people the opportunity to browse without pouncing on them.
  • Offer people the chance to bring back goods the following week/fortnight, depending on the goods.
  • Try to keep your cash; don’t be tempted by the items on offer at other stalls. Attempt to put all money made, less the cost of the stall, back into the business.

You can read the rest of Retrorocket owner Kylie Jakobsen’s tips here. 

    Research and competition


    You may benefit from lessons in bookkeeping or short business courses, although these are not obligatory to set up your stall.


    It is possible to learn basic business skills without signing up for a course. However, make sure you know how to work out profit margins and calculate your costs, and that you’re comfortable with the financial aspects of running a stall before launching.


    Once you have made the decision to set up a market stall, the first thing to decide is what you’re going to sell. If you’re not planning on selling your own goods, deciding what to sell and then finding the right products are often the hardest parts about opening a stall.


    Your success as a trader will be determined by the product line you choose, so it’s worthwhile carrying out extensive research into what’s already on sale at the markets in your area and what competition you’ll face from established stalls.


    Try to find a product line that has not been over exposed at that particular market. Most market managers look for a diverse range of stalls selling individual products, so originality is key.


    Once you’ve decided on what you’re going to sell and you’ve sourced the products, you need to get your hands on a market stall. The majority of markets do supply stalls but not all.


    The type of stall you’ll require will depend on what you’re planning on selling. For example, if you’re going to sell clothing, you’ll probably want a walk-in stall so you can put up dress rails.


    It is sometimes cheaper to buy a secondhand stall, but be sure that whatever you buy is durable and won’t fall apart as soon as you put it up.


    The final hurdle in the preparation of your new market stall venture is picking a market you want to trade at and then securing a place at that market.


    Most traders start off on a casual basis, and those who show enthusiasm and create interest from customers will typically be allocated more slots and eventually a regular stall.


    There are a variety of different markets, such as council-operated or privately-operated, indoor and outdoor with or without permanent units, weekdays and weekend-only markets.


    What you’re selling will also have a part to play – does it come under produce sold at farmers’ markets or country markets, or is it better suited to a town centre environment?


    There are a number of other factors to consider when choosing a market such as pitch costs, parking and rush-hour travel times, all of which can affect how many people visit you each day.


    Costs and earnings


    According to Margie Sheedy, author of The Small Business Success Guide, setting up a market stall is one of the best ways to turn a hobby into a money-making venture. However, people shouldn’t underestimate the start-up costs.


    “You’ll need cash to start up – money to produce or procure your product, plus site fees. Don’t forget to factor in time,” Sheedy wrote in a blog on Market Shareholders Australia.


    Things like tables, a chair, marquee and umbrella are essential. You may even need weights to hold your stall down in the event of high winds.


    Ensure you have enough money in your “float” to give your customers the correct change, and provide bags for your customers’ purchases. Sheedy says it’s also worth printing up some business cards.


    You may spend a good part of your day not actually selling anything, warns Market Stallholders Australia.


    “Add in travelling, setting up and unpacking time and make sure you factor this in to your profits. You may find you’re working for $3 an hour,” it says.


    An average day


    Before setting up your own stall, it’s important to be aware of what the job entails. While running a market stall can be flexible, traders tend to work long hours.


    Also, depending on the type of stall you operate, the working day may start extremely early in the morning, especially if the trader needs to attend wholesale markets beforehand, which is often the case for food vendors.


    Setting up the stall in an eye-catching and presentable manner is crucial and may take an hour or two, so factor this in when evaluating your working hours.


    Some markets run every day, others once a week or just at weekends, and others may only be on a monthly or seasonal basis.


    It’s not uncommon for traders to work at a number of different markets during a given week, so you may decide it’s more lucrative to spread yourself over a number of markets, depending on where you’re based and how feasible it is to do this.


    Useful contacts

    Market Stallholders Australia


    Trash & Treasure

    02 9607 5255


    Australian Government Small Business Support Line

    1800 777 275

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