Business development · 11 October 2017

A guide to setting up a market stall as a new trader

A Food Market on the concourse outside Covent Garden market,  London. The market at Covent Garden is one of the long established markets of London but being situated right at the centre of things it is on the itinerary of most visitors to London. Here the Old Hall Farm market stall sells traditional british rare breed cuts of meat in sandwiches. Visitors to the market are being served by the vendors.
The market at Covent Garden is one oflondon’s oldest markets and remains an iconic draw for tourists
Business Advice has put together a step-by-step guide to setting up a market stall, outlining the essential starting points for new traders with some expert pointers from the duo behind an up-and-coming fabrics business using markets to establish the brand.

The British market stall has undergone somewhat of a facelift in recent years. Its East End image has diversified to put higher-end brands alongside traditional grocers. What hasn’t changed, however, are long days in unpredictable British weather and the sense of community among traders.

For entrepreneurs, market pitches provide an ideal entry to market, granting access to potential customers with the chance to receive direct feedback on products. Jack Cohen’s barrow at Hackney’s Well Street Market sowed the seeds for Tesco in 1919, and some small sellers have reached national supermarkets having been spotted at a market.

Our guide will help new traders get their head around the regulations and licensing requirements needed when setting up a market stall, before we reveal the advice one trading business had to offer.

Trade regulations and licensing

Even for the smallest market trading businesses, selling goods to the public means many typical retail regulations must be adhered to.

Public liability insurance is the most crucial legal requirement for any trader, and you won’t be able to set up without it. It protects sellers against accidents while trading, and usually covers claims up to 5m. The Combined Market Traders Insurance Association (CMTIA) offers specialised cover for sellers.

Meanwhile, the Trade Descriptions Act requires market traders to ensure all goods are accurately sold to consumers. Under the act, retailers making false claims about products for example, the origin country of fruit and vegetables are committing an offence.

The Consumer Rights Act is another piece of legislation designed to protect consumers, holding retailers responsible over faulty goods. In instances where the customer simply changes their mind, a cash refund is not legally required, but customer satisfaction might see a retailer offer a credit note instead.

For traders serving food and drinks, hygiene legislation is in place, putting temperature requirements on transported goods as well as labelling rules. Stalls also need to be registered with the Food Standards Agency.

Before you start selling, you may well need a market stall licence from the local authority you are trading in. The licence will dictate where you can place your stall, its size, and how long you can run it for.

Failure to present a valid licence could result in a fine or your goods being seized. Most council’s offer both casual and permanent licences, with the former giving you an opportunity to test the potential of your goods without the commitment of a long lease.

Finding a market pitch

Once you’ve secured your licence, you can begin the search for a market pitch. Local authorities allocate council-run markets spots themselves, but privately-run markets will have an independent registrations process. offers an online search tool for thousands of private events open to market traders, and most local authorities offer pitch availabilities on GOV.UK.

Elsewhere, car boot sales can be the perfect place to become familiar with the demands of a market stall, and represent a low-risk entry for traders. Car Boot Junction holds a directory of car boot sales across the UK.

Marketing and social media

As with any small business, a strong marketing strategy can improve both brand awareness and actual footfall to your stall.?

Some market organisers have begun to bring their markets to life through social media, showcasing what traders are offering. The official Instagram for South East London’s Brockley Market, for example, creates a vivid image of the produce available.

Natural biodynamic and organic wines without crap or compromise from @latypiquewines Saturdays @brockleymarket

A post shared by Brockley Market (@brockleymarket) on

Making sales

A healthy cash float is essential in making sure customers arent turned away, particularly as expectations for flexible payment options increase.

With case use in decline, portable, contactless card readers create faster transaction times for traders and better convenience for customers, meaning more sales.

Stray East’s top five pointers for market stall startups

To get the inside track on successful market trading, Business Advice sat down with Martyn White, co-founder of Stray East, a home furnishings brand that has become a familiar fixture of markets in the South West of England and now with sights set firmly on London.

Stray East co-founder Elly Smith at Frome Independent Market
Stray East co-founder Elly Smith at Frome Independent Market
Founded at the start of 2017, the business sources its product from a small supplier in Rajasthan, India and is committed to bringing ethical and sustainable goods to the UK.

  1. Merchandise your product effectively



Praseeda Nair is an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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