BOP010 / July 2010
Qualifications and skills
Key market issues
Market stall traders sell a wide variety of goods from stalls at different types of markets. Traders are responsible for sourcing their stock, securing a market pitch, erecting their stalls and setting out their goods. Many begin on a casual basis by taking a vacant pitch on a day-by-day basis before becoming regular traders with a permanent pitch. Markets can be indoor or outdoor, permanent or temporary, and can operate daily or occasionally. Many markets are operated by local authorities and traders often require a licence.
This profile provides information about starting up as a market stall trader. It describes the skills required, the training available, the current market trends and some of the key trading issues. It also identifies some of the main legislation that must be complied with and provides sources of further information.
Qualifications and skills
While there are no mandatory qualifications required to run a market stall, anyone starting this type of business will require communication, numeracy and retail sales skills, as well as customer care skills and general business acumen. If a market stall trader sells food, they will also require an understanding of food hygiene and safety issues.
Relevant courses for a market stall trader include:
Crystal Clear Training provides the 'Becoming a Market Trader' training course, which covers the general skills required to run a market stall, including areas such as planning, legal requirements, the practicalities of getting a pitch and setting up a stall, bookkeeping, and budgeting. Attendees are also encouraged to try running their own stall. The course can be delivered in ten three-hour workshops or via a variety of other methods. For more information go to www.crystalcleartraining.co.uk/Becoming_a_Market_Trader_Programme.htm.
Certain local authorities provide training for market stall traders in their area. For example, the London Development Agency (LDA) funds a free Market Traders' Training Scheme in Acton. The scheme comprises a one-day workshop introducing the basics of running a market stall, plus four additional modules looking at managing money, promotion, sales and expansion. For more details go to www.actionacton.co.uk/documents/MarketTradersTraininginformation.doc. Some individual markets also provide training to encourage new traders, such as that provided by Chrisp Street Market in Poplar, London (www.chrispstreet.org.uk/downloads/Trader%20Training.pdf).
The Retail Academy provides a range of online training courses for individuals and businesses involved in the retail trade. Courses include 'Using Product Knowledge to Increase Sales', and 'Using People Skills to Increase Sales', both of which cost £15. A range of free courses is also available, covering areas such as customer service and visual merchandising. For more details go to www.retailacademy.org.
Learndirect provides online courses covering a number of areas of customer service, including 'Understanding Customers' and 'Steps to success - Professional Customer Service', which cost £39.99 and £69.99 respectively. For more information go to www.learndirect-business.com/customer-service.
Anyone involved in the preparation, handling and selling of food must be able to demonstrate appropriate food hygiene knowledge. Although a formal qualification is not mandatory, obtaining a certificate in food hygiene is a good way of doing this. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) accredits several awards in food hygiene and safety including the Level 2 Award in Food Safety for Manufacturing, aimed at anyone who produces food. It covers temperature control, refrigeration, cooking, food handling and safety and hygiene hazards. Go to www.cieh.org/training/level_2_food_safety.html for details.
Anyone starting up as a market stall trader will also benefit from training in general business and enterprise skills. Relevant courses include:
The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) provides a Level 3 Certificate in Starting Your Enterprise, which covers finance, market research, legislation and regulations, and preparing a business plan. The course is delivered at centres around the UK. For details of centres and course fees go to www.i-l-m.com/learn-with-ilm/1062.aspx.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) provides free business workshops on topics including 'Becoming self-employed' and 'Setting up a Limited Company'. Go to www.hmrc.gov.uk/bst/advice-team-events/work1.htm for details.
Learndirect Business provides online self-study courses in sales and marketing, which cost from £24.99 to £69.99. Go to www1.learndirect-business.com/sales-and-marketing.
Industry awareness, product knowledge and professional development
Market stall traders can keep up to date with developments in their industry and improve their awareness of trends by attending events and reading trade journals and industry resources. There are various sources of useful information, including:
Magazines, such as 'Market Trader and Independent Retailer' (www.market-trader.co.uk) and 'Market Trade News' (www.glen-holland.co.uk/Default.aspx?PID=3), which provides news, articles and features on issues affecting market traders.
Marketformat, which is an online directory and resource for UK market traders, provides news on markets as well as details of events and articles. Go to www.marketformat.com for more details.
The National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA), which is an association for local authorities, publishes a directory of events. For more details go to www.nabma.com/en/training/training-and-development-calendar/index.php.
The National Market Traders Federation (NMTF), the main trade association for market stall traders, provides news, reports and information on running a market stall. Go to www.nmtf.co.uk for more information.
Key market issues
Some of the key current market issues affecting market stall traders include:
There were just over 1,100 traditional retail markets in the UK at the end of 2009, according to the Markets 21 report, published in November 2009 by NABMA. There were also more than 600 farmers' markets and more than 45,700 retail traders working on stalls in markets. The majority of traditional retail markets (60%) are run by the public sector, while nearly a third are run by the private sector. To read the full report go to www.nabma.com/UserFiles/Documents/markets-21-report.pdf.
The report also surveyed market operators. Around 40% of those questioned said they had seen a decline in the number of shoppers compared to 2008, while more than half said that they had seen a decline in the average spend of shoppers. A third of market operators said they had seen an increase in the number of market traders selling food.
Traditional retail markets are in decline as a result of increased competition from supermarkets and other retailers, including Internet traders. According to a Communities and Local Government Committee report, 'Market Failure: Can The Traditional Market Survive?', markets that continue to thrive do so because they have adapted to change. The report highlighted the economic and social benefits of markets, and recommended that local authorities and the Government should do more to support markets. To see the report go to www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmcomloc/308/30803.htm.
Market stall traders have suffered along with the retail trade in general over the last few years due to the economic downturn. UK retail sales for April 2010 suffered a like-for-like drop of 2.3% on the previous year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). For more details go to www.brc.org.uk/details04.asp?id=1736&kCat=&kData=1.
According to the NABMA report, many markets have changed the types of goods on sale in order to boost the number of market stall traders and shoppers. Some markets are encouraging market stall traders to sell locally produced food, such as that made by independent bakers and butchers, as well as trying to attract more traders selling local handmade crafts. Farmers' markets selling fresh and locally produced goods, often including organic produce and speciality items, are increasing in popularity, and there are now more than 500 around the UK.
Car boot sales provide both competition and opportunities for market stall traders. Consumers visit car boot sales to purchase low cost and second-hand goods or to sell their own unwanted goods. Car boot sales are essentially informal markets and they also offer market stall traders the opportunity to set up their stall and sell their goods. For start up traders this can provide valuable experience. Many larger car boot sales have dedicated areas for professional traders. For a directory of car boot sales go to www.carbootjunction.co.uk or www.yourbooty.co.uk.
There are various types of market around the UK. Permanent markets are established sites, which can be either indoor or outdoor, where stalls are usually left erected, so there is no need to dismantle the stall every evening. Some permanent stalls have lockable units where stock can be left overnight. Permanent markets usually allow traders to rent the pre-erected stall along with their pitch space, so a trader won't usually need their own stall equipment. Depending upon the location, new traders may find it difficult to get a pitch in permanent markets that are dominated by established traders.
Street markets are held regularly on streets or pedestrianised areas. Stalls are erected and dismantled every day, and traders normally need to provide their own stall equipment. There can often be a waiting list for regular pitches, but casual traders can usually apply for vacant pitches on a day-to-day basis. Larger one-day markets are held at outdoor venues such as racecourses and recreation grounds. Pitches at one-day markets have to be booked well in advance, and traders need to bring their own stall equipment.
Some of the main trading issues faced by market stall traders include:
Market stall traders generally need to obtain a market trader's licence from their local authority. Street traders will need to obtain a street trader's licence. In order to obtain a market trader's licence, the stall holder must fill in an application form detailing what the stall will sell. They must also present proof of identification, proof of minimum public liability insurance cover and documentation confirming the stall holder's address. The local authority will also require proof of a licence to sell certain types of goods, for example an alcohol licence to sell alcohol or proof of registration as a food business for traders selling food.
Licences must normally be prominently displayed, usually with a sign on a stall or a badge worn by the trader. Failure to obtain a required trading licence is a criminal offence. To check local requirements contact the licensing department of the local authority in which the market is located.
Many individual markets also have their own local authority licensing requirements, and regular traders often have to sign a licensing agreement. Market stall traders dealing with certain types of goods may have to meet additional obligations. For example, traders who sell second-hand goods may need be registered with their local authority or local Trading Standards office before they can do this. To find local Trading Standards offices go to www.tradingstandards.gov.uk.
Some local authorities have a list of prohibited goods that traders are not allowed to sell. For example, this could include alcohol and tobacco, counterfeit CDs and DVDs or weapons of any description. Generally, if the market inspector finds a market stall trader selling prohibited items they could be asked to leave the market or possibly even be prosecuted.
Food business registration and requirements
Under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006, all businesses supplying food (including market stall traders) must register with the environmental health department of their local authority. A new business must submit an application form for registration at least 28 days before it begins trading. Go to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website at www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/enforceessential/startingup for a guide to registering.
Food traders must meet hygiene standards regarding issues such as cross contamination and cleaning. The FSA has produced a food safety management pack, Safer Food Better Business, which is designed for small retail businesses that sell food. To view the pack, go to www.food.gov.uk/foodindustry/regulation/hygleg/hyglegresources/sfbb/sfbbretail.
In addition, market stall traders need to ensure that any food they sell is correctly labelled, particularly if they produce or package it themselves. The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 requires pre-packed food to be labelled with a name, ingredients (including allergens), best before date, storage instructions, and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or retailer. Go to www.food.gov.uk/foodindustry/guidancenotes/labelregsguidance/foodlabelregsguid for more information.
The start up costs for a market stall trader are relatively low and depend on the type of goods being sold. Most traders will require a van to transport stock and equipment. A large van, such as a transit, can be leased for around £250 per month. Examples of van leasing firms include www.nationwidevehiclecontracts.co.uk and www.vanandcarleasingdeals.co.uk.
Many markets provide market stalls for traders as part of the pitch rental, but where they are not included traders will require their own stall and equipment. A basic 8ft x 4ft stall starter kit consisting of steel frame, tarpaulin cover, counter boards and spring clamps costs £180 (including VAT). A 10ft x 10ft walk-in stall starter kit costs £270 (including VAT). Examples of suppliers of market stall kits include Trader Supplies (www.tradersupplies.co.uk/market-stalls) and Midland Marquees (www.midlandmarquees.co.uk/products.php?cat=32).
Other basic equipment required includes receipt books, money belts, point of sale items such as signs and price tags, and carrier bags. For examples of costs go to www.tradersupplies.co.uk or www.vikingdirect.org.uk/Retail-Supplies.aspx.
Finding a pitch
Once a market stall trader is licensed by the local authority, they need to find a permanent pitch in an established market. However, market pitches can be very much in demand, so most start up market stall traders begin on a casual basis. This usually involves arriving several hours before the market opens in the hope that a vacant pitch will be available. Some markets will allocate vacant pitches on a first come, first served basis, while others will give a degree of preference to traders who have worked the market before. There may not be enough vacant pitches, and casual traders may be turned away. This is part and parcel of the working life of a causal market trader, and it means that this approach is unsuitable for traders with perishable goods such as flowers or fruit and veg as the goods will not be sold on that day.
Traders who are offered a pitch on a casual basis will need to register with the market and provide proof of any required licences or insurance. The cost of the pitch rental will depend on the location of the market. Average pitch rentals can range from £40 to £80 per day. Once traders have attended a market several times on a casual basis they may request a permanent pitch, although there is likely to be a waiting list, and those who have been attending the market longest are likely to get priority. Market managers will also consider the types of goods that traders are offering and compare them to those offered by existing traders as they will not want their existing traders' businesses to suffer. Traders offered permanent pitches will usually have to pay in advance, often four weeks at a time, but will generally pay slightly less than casual traders.
When choosing a market, most traders will stick to their local area as they will need to arrive at the market very early in the morning in order to set up. However, some traders, particularly those selling specialist goods, will need to travel further afield. To find markets by location, day and type go to online directories www.findamarket.net and www.marketformat.com.
Specialist markets are held across the UK at various intervals. Examples of specialist markets include organic and locally produced food markets, art and craft fairs and Christmas and other seasonal markets. Farmers' markets are speciality markets that run regularly, often on a monthly basis. Certified farmers' markets will allow only locally produced goods where the primary producer is involved at the stall. For more information on certified farmers' markets, go to www.farmersmarkets.net.
Some traders, such as farmers or craftspeople, make or produce their own goods. Others such as fishmongers or florists obtain goods from wholesale markets. For more general categories of goods there are several resources listing wholesalers and other suppliers.
'The Trader' (www.thetrader.co.uk) is a magazine and website that provides a stock buying directory covering a wide range of goods specifically targeted at small retailers, such as market stall traders. 'Market Trade News' is a print-only magazine that provides similar information. There are many online wholesaler directories listing suppliers of various categories of goods such as www.thewholesaler.co.uk and www.esources.co.uk.
Most market traders deal only in cash and keep takings and change in a money belt or bag or in a money box or tray. Experienced traders usually become very adept at the fast mental arithmetic required to add up prices and work out change. Most will also keep a pocket calculator handy in order to deal with multiple purchases. Some traders use cash tills, which can cost from £150, although they will need to ensure that the market operator provides an electricity supply for traders.
When dealing with cash, some traders use counterfeit detection equipment to detect fake notes. For example, handheld UV torches and lamps are used to check watermarks on notes. These torches and lamps generally cost no more than £10. Examples of suppliers include www.staples.co.uk/retail-supplies/counterfeit-detectors/counterfeit-money-detector-pen and www.c-p-p.co.uk/_counterfeit_detection/asp/CtgID/1016/af/page.htm.
Returns and refunds
Market stall traders have the same legal obligations as any other retail business when it comes to consumer rights. Consumers' general rights to return goods or obtain refunds are covered under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. Consumers can claim a refund if goods are faulty, not of a reasonable quality or not as described. The original purchase price must be refunded even if the customer returns the goods after the price has been reduced in a sale. Another item can be offered in exchange instead of a refund, but the customer is entitled to insist on a refund.
The majority of market operators require market traders to ensure that all waste material, refuse and packaging from their business is removed from the market site at the end of each day. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, all waste materials must be disposed of at a licensed waste disposal site. For more information, go to www.netregs.gov.uk/netregs/legislation/current/110400.aspx.
Membership of a trade association can provide a wide range of benefits. Relevant associations include:
The National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) represents the interests of the market trade industry in the UK. Membership of the NMFT includes a package of insurance cover, including public liability cover of £5 million, product liability cover of £5 million and employer's liability cover of £10 million. The insurance also provides cover for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigations. Members are eligible to receive discounts from various approved suppliers. Membership for a sole trader costs £88 per year. For more details go to www.nmtf.co.uk/index.php?id_cpg=6.
The British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) is a trade association for independent retailers, including market stall traders. Membership benefits include advice on employment and consumer law, legal benefits cover, and discounted card processing charges. The cost of membership starts at £195.05, including VAT, per year. For more information go to www.british-shops.co.uk.
Opportunities for promoting this type of business include:
Presenting the stall in an attractive way. Visual merchandising, or the way the stall is laid out, is important in attracting passing trade or customers who are browsing the stalls in a market.
Displaying large, clear signs, indicating prices and special offers.
Printing cards or flyers that customers can pass to friends or relatives. Local shops, libraries and post offices may also offer opportunities to distribute flyers or put up posters. Word of mouth will be important for this type of business, as satisfied customers are likely to tell others.
Setting up a basic profile on social networking website Facebook. Go to www.facebook.com for more information.
Updating customers and followers on blogging website Twitter (www.twitter.com). Many market stall traders already do this and keep people up to date on opening hours, special offers and promotions and information about the products on sale.
A market stall trader requires a number of insurance policies, including:
Public liability insurance , which provides cover against claims from customers, suppliers and members of the public injured or adversely affected as a result of the business' activities.
Product liability insurance , which provides cover against claims made by customers for injury or damage caused by products sold or given away. For example, a trader can be liable if they supply a faulty product.
Employers' liability insurance , which is mandatory as soon as a business employs staff and which covers the business against claims from employees (or their estates) for injuries, disease or death sustained by them in the course of their employment.
Income protection and critical illness cover policies, which provide an income for market traders unable to trade due to injury or illness.
Contract dispute insurance, which covers a business against claims arising from disputes with clients, suppliers or third parties in relation to contractual and commercial issues.
Cover for business use of any vehicles used for business purposes, which must include third party cover as a minimum.
There are specialist insurance policies available for market stall traders, which include public and product liability insurance. For examples of specialist providers go to www.blackfriarsgroup.com/liability_insurance/market_trader.htm and www.cmtia.co.uk/index.htm.
Advice from an independent broker who specialises in business or professional insurance will help ensure that the business has appropriate insurance cover. To find a broker contact the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA, www.biba.org.uk). For further guidance on the range of policies available and their implications for the business see BIF 6, An Introduction to Insurance Cover for Business.
This section is intended as a starting point only. It provides an introduction to some of the key legislation that regulates the activities of a market stall trader. Professional advice about the impact of legislation should always be obtained before making any business decisions. Relevant legislation includes:
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 stipulates that goods sold must be 'of merchantable quality' and 'as described' by the seller. They must also be fit for the purpose for which they were sold. The Act gives consumers specific rights of redress in relation to repair or replacement of goods. See BIF 142, A Guide to the Sale of Goods Act 1979 for further information.
The Price Marking Order 2004 applies to sales to consumers (not sales to other businesses) and requires the prices of products to be clearly displayed and stipulates that prices must include VAT and other taxes.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 stipulates that employers and the self- employed have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, customers and anyone affected by their business activities. In Northern Ireland, the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 applies. See BIF 466, A Guide to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require businesses to carry out health and safety risk assessments and to monitor employee health in accordance with any risks identified. Go to www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/19993242.htm for details and see BIF 140, A Guide to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for more information. In Northern Ireland the Regulations are the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. Go to www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2000/20000388.htm for details.
For practical start up and small business tips, ideas and news, go to:
To access hundreds of practical factsheets, market reports and small business guides, go to:
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The National Market Traders Federation represents the interests of market traders in the UK.
Tel: (01226) 749021
The British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) is a trade association for independent retailers.
Tel: (01295) 712277
The National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) represents local authorities that manage markets and promotes market activities.
Tel: (01691) 680713
The National Farmers' Retail & Markets Association promotes and supports farmers' markets and associated traders.
Tel: 0845 458 8420
This information is meant as a starting point only. Whilst all reasonable efforts have been made, the publisher makes no warranties that the information is accurate and up-to-date and will not be responsible for any errors or omissions in the information nor any consequences of any errors or omissions. Professional advice should be sought where appropriate