Tuesday, 29 June 2010

How-To Tuesday: Market Stalls

Hi this is Ruth from Nice Day Designs. There has been lots of talk recently within the team at meetings and on forums about markets and I realized that after 3 years at trading at a weekly market I may have a few bits of info to impart. There are two sides to doing a market, the nuts and bolts of display, tables, and getting your stall. And also what to do/say to your customers to make the best of your stand. Both aspects have their difficulties, and trust me I've learned the hard way by making every mistake in the book. Later in the week I'll be posting the second half, so stay tuned!
Firstly lets look at the basics, how to get a stall. Lots of people have been asking how can they get a market stall, and is there one basic source of info, and to be honest I'm not sure. In Ireland it mostly seems to be work of mouth, the best advice I can give is go to your nearest market and start talking to the traders. The likelihood is that they sell at a few different locations, and they will be able to tell you which are the best ones, and they'll be honest about footfall. Always try to check out a market before you do it, organisers will promise you the earth, but quite often they deliver very little. Find out things like do you need to supple cover, tables, what is parking like, do they require insurance? The company that I use is IOMST, they do a yearly rate that's very reasonable, most markets insist on it these days so it's just one of those things that you have to fork out for at the start. Also ask the market organiser do they advertise locally, they is no point paying them 50 euro for the day if there are no customers.
Next you need a great display, this can take a long time to figure out, it's taken me years to really figure it out properly. Maybe try to do some research online and at market, take photos of the displays that you like and try to learn from them. Here are some easy pitfalls.

-Don't put all your products flat on a table, people will be walking past and judge what you're selling in about 2 seconds, if it's not visible they will walk on.
-Don't have an empty stand, if there isn't lots to choose from people won't buy. If you don't have lots of work share your stand with a friend. It cuts on cost and it fills up the table better.
-Price your work, people will be afraid to ask if there is no price on it, especially with crafts people always assume that they can't afford it.

To help with creating a better display use risers, I made mine out of notice boards, Tesco are selling them at a really reasonable price at the moment. Buy two of them and put a hinge in the middle so they can be free standing. Also use things like boxes underneath your table cloth to raise the level of the table. Other things like pretty baskets and hat boxes are fantastic for displaying your work in. Shop around in the Euro discount shops, even in the garden or kitchen ware sections, think outside the box for what you can use. Also places like Aldi and Lidl sell mini easels and chalk boards, which can really add to the charm of a display. I got little brightly coloured picnic pots in a pound shop last year and I still get people commenting on how well they look on the stall. If it's possible try to contrast or conordinate the colours of your table cloth to your logo, it will really give your display that extra punch that it needs.
It's a good time of year to go shopping for market equipment, things like fold down tables, chairs and gazebos are all easily available in Argos, B&Q etc, look in the camping and garden sections. In the past I've used fold down tables that are used for wall paper pasting, they are very affordable and the heavy duty one is still working 3 years later. What ever you do if you need to provide your own stall do not buy the one in Argos that is a pole assembly, it is a nightmare to put together and it's useless in Irish weather, it may look like a bargain but trust me it will break your heart (and your back!). At the start try to find a market that is indoors or provides cover for you. For your first market it will be quite daunting to deal with this aspect as well as your display and selling to customers.
Signage is also very important, you want people to remember your brand and know what to call you when talking about how amazing you are later to friends and family! I made my own banner with my sewing machine, but in the past I've used a long laminated sign, that cost about 40 euro from my local printer. Just like with your etsy shop it's good to keep your look consistent, so my banner matches my tags, and my smaller price signs.I got this great stamp on etsy from Jlmould, and it's really helped with my packaging, while keeping my costs low. Also it's essential that you have business cards on hand, they sell little perspex holders for them in Easons. I'll talk more about business cards in the next post about interacting with your customers.

I hope this helps, and if any other readers have market tips I'd love to hear about them, just leave a comment below.


  1. Thanks for the tips. I have done a few stalls in the past and have felt they've never been exactly right. I have one coming up in September, and your post has given me some food for thought, and the motivation to get planning, instead of just piling it all on the table!

  2. Great post, very helpful thanks:)

  3. Ruth
    thanks for the great article. Some very useful information there. Love your display

  4. Ruth, you are so right about checking out the markets beforehand - some organisations really just want you as a backdrop and have no idea what traders really need. One of my last stalls was such a disaster - they put me and another trader in a really dark corner where nobody could see the pieces! When we protested, they couldn't even see the problem...but nobody puts Purls in a corner ;)

    Brilliant tips - I know I have to think about display a bit more and be more creative!

  5. Thanks Ruth, this is a really useful article. I like particularly the hint about buying two notice boards and joining them with a hinge! Excellent.


  6. Great post Ruth, thanks.

    Though I've only done one market so far I've learned a couple of display tricks already:

    I got 2 chrome mug trees for about €2 each at a local discount shop. Perfect for hanging my lower-priced and unboxed pendants, purse charms etc.

    I couldn't find a cheap blue cloth to match my branding, but in the same store I nabbed a cloth-type shower curtain in the blue with cute dolphins on it. It worked perfectly and you'd never know it was a shower curtain I bought for €3! (well now you all know :-P)

  7. Most helpful - was having a chat with Angela from ArtySmarty at a market the other day about merchandising and display and this has given me a few ideas.

    I highly recommend using oilcloths as table coverings - they're durable; don't move around too much; you can wipe them clean and they come in cute patterns (as well as plain). Judith

  8. great tips ruth , thanks for sharing ;o) margo

  9. Thanks everyone, so glad it was helpful!!

    Anne-Marie that's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about!

    Judith-yeah oilcloths are great, I used them all the time when I was doing outdoor markets. Actually that's one thing I still have to sort out, I need a new tablecloth for the stall, this table is much longer than my old one. Guineys are great for oil cloth, much cheaper than hickeys!

  10. Great tips Ruth!! look forward to part 2...

  11. Great post Ruth. It's really helpful and clear. I've done a few markets and always struggle with how to display everything and grab peoples attention, now i have a starting point to improve my stall! Cant wait for part two!


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  13. Ruth, do you a licence to set up a market stall?

  14. thank you for the tips, i am trading at the markets for the past 16 months and still learning:)

  15. Hi Ruth....I have always admired your stall in town. Your article is Brill. I am thinking of setting up a small Jewlery and Fashion stall in the Milk Market. I dont know where to start. This has helped me on my way. I am just wondering do you know if they provide any stalls outside the main building ?

  16. Thanks for the article. I'll add a few tips I've picked up.

    Bring some lights especially for an indoor market. Some battery powered clip on LEDs with a bendable wire stem are best.

    Be wary of taking a stall at a market you haven't been to. People often think that they can post about an event on Facebook and people will show up. Also if the venue has not been rented for the purpose then they lose nothing if the event flops.

    Ask if there is going to be music or other entertainment at the market. Live music is a red flag for me. Twice now I've been given stalls right beside loud live music.A big part of selling is saying hello and being friendly. You can't do that with music blaring. The people who come for the music also don't buy much and they may stand in front of your stall to listen and block your stall from other potential customers. If an event is trying be all things to all people it often fails to serve anyone's needs well.

    If it's the first time the market is being run ask how many stalls there will be and visit the venue. If there are very few stalls don't bother. Don't think of other stalls as your competition, they help draw in the crowd and that benefits everyone. If there are few stalls then people glance around and leave quickly.

    The quality of other stalls is important too. If you're selling great stuff and surrounded by rubbish then people will give up before they get to you. If the organiser accepts you as a seller without seeing your products then turn down the stall. If there is no quality control you are likely to end up surrounded by junk or products that are a poor fit with your own.

    all the best,