I’m often asked for advice by people thinking about setting up a market stall. So for anyone interested here are a few tips:
1. Trading licenses are granted by the local council on the advice of the market manager.
Your first approach should be to the market manager who will let you know if your
proposition is likely to be approved. You stand a better chance if what you are
offering is innovative and does not compete with current stall holders - something
unique has a better chance of success anyway;
2. Apply in Spring with a view to starting in Summer allowing you to get a feel for
things before investing in expensive shelters;
3. Make sure you get your costings right. Apart from material and labour costs in the
production of what you are selling there is the monthly license fee and annual public
liability insurance. Costing in time spent on market days is down to the individual.
Some see the market as a promotional opportunity for an online business or a business
in a permanent high street location. Some use it for market research. Some will not
fully cost their time and see it in terms of cash flow or simply as a social outlet. It
should be borne in mind that for a market that runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (6 hours)
the working time is approx. 11 hours allowing for loading/unloading at each end,
travel time, set up and take down. Even at minimum wage the gross profit for the day
would need to be at least Є150 to break even (remember that’s profit and not
sales) and much greater if you are to consider this as a business. The chances of that
happening are slim to none. So why do we do it? For all of the reasons mentioned
above or a combination of these.
Of course I’m only referring to craft markets. Turnover on hot food is much greater
but that also has it’s own risks and exceptional costs. License fees are greater and
electricity charges are extra. Food safety and hygiene standards are very exacting.
Judging perishable food stocks is almost a science but requires lots of assumptions
and accurate weather forecasts. Getting it wrong can lead to serious losses. Too much
and you face the prospect of dumping the excess. Too little and you go home early
kicking every cat and dog along the way. The initial investment for mobile food
vendors is high and it’s hard graft. On a busy stand you may also have a couple of
extra staff to pay;
4. The key to success is low priced, high turnover items with novelty value. I’ve seen
quite a few traders with high quality, beautifully designed and crafted work come and
go. Their work may be stocked by Avoca or Kilkenny Design but this is not what
people buy at markets. I do understand why they come to the market. The design
stores sell at high prices but the producer only sees a small percentage of that. They
come to the craft markets for a greater return but must substantially undercut the
design shops. The product loses it’s cachet and the design shops are none too happy. It
can only end one way;
5. And finally - follow your own instincts and only take advice from those with
experience. Listen carefully to all of your customers but beware of their helpful
money-making suggestions. I’ve learned that to my cost more than once.
If none of the above has deterred you you’re probably on your way to being a great success or else you’re just as stubborn as me.