There are a few good reasons why I think Sunday market trading is worth considering:

First, it’s an ideal part-time, sideline opportunity – it won’t interfere with your weekday income. It’s really great for the current economic climate too. Because low market trading overheads mean you can sell your stuff at realistic prices and still make a good profit margin. Customers are looking for value for money right now, and markets deliver that by the bucket load. And it’s easy and cheap to start. Got a day free on Sundays, a car or van, a little bit of capital (from about £100)? Well, let’s get going – you can be up and running and making money from Sunday market trading in a couple of weeks.

If you move fast you can cash in on the Christmas trade too.

Like I said, there are two great parts to this opportunity. Firstly, running your own stalls at Sunday markets and, secondly – if you want something bigger – running your own Sunday market. You can do either or both, it’s entirely up to you. For starters, let’s look at running your own Sunday market stall…

Choosing the best things to sell

Here’s what you need to know about Sunday markets: People buy different things on a Sunday. More luxuries and impulse buys than daily necessities like in ordinary markets. So, while you can sell almost anything on your stall you will elevate your profits by focusing on more upmarket, slightly higher-priced product lines than the run-of-the-mill market trader. Not too highly priced – after all, there is a recession on. But people still want a few treats. I think products in the £5 to £20 area are probably best to focus on.

I’ve been doing a bit of research around some Sunday markets this last couple of weeks. And I’ve picked out some of the better-quality product areas that I think are worth considering. (These were the stalls that seemed to attract the biggest crowds, and had the happiest sellers!)

· Fashion. But not the cheap-and-cheerful clothes you’d find at a weekday market. Niche fashions. Designer clothes. Vintage clothing. Accessories. Shoes. Handbags. Silk ties. Children’s and baby designer wear. Hats.

· Books. Old books. New books. Collectable books. Rare books.

· Music. Vinyl records. CDs. DVDs. Rare and specialist music.

· Food. Locally produced foodstuffs from local farmers and suppliers. Organic food. Wholefood. Vegetarian, vegan and other special diets. Herbs and spices. Foods of the world.

· Collectables. Stamps. Coins. Paper ephemera. Clocks. Medals. Postcards. Photography.

· Antiques and reproductions. Glass. Silver. China. Brass. Gold. Pottery. Occasional furniture.

· Jewellery. Hand-made jewellery. Costume jewellery. Necklaces. Pendants. Rings. Bangles. Bracelets. Body jewellery.

· Gifts. Greetings cards. Gift wrap. Confectionery. Toys. Pens. Watches. Toiletries.

· Cosmetics. Natural cosmetics. Hypo allergenic products. Ethical products.

· Arts and crafts. Paintings. Prints. Sketches. Sculpture. Wood and metal craft. Candles. Leather goods. Textiles. Models. Ceramics.

· Ethical and fair trade items. Clothing. Furnishings. Food.

· Home design and decor. Soft furnishings. Linens. Lighting. Textiles. Ornaments. Pottery.

· Garden. Plants. Seeds. Bulbs. Shrubs. Tools. Garden ornaments.

· Used goods. Sure to be a good product line at the moment – but make sure they are good quality if you want to get good prices. Note: I’m not saying this is all you can sell. There are probably lots of other things that would go down a bomb at Sunday markets. Do your own research to see what is selling well.

Getting stock for your stall… finding secret wholesale sources

When you’re doing Sunday markets, working just one day a week, you need a hassle-free source of stock. Cash and carry wholesalers are your best bet here. You can buy in smallish quantities. Nowadays a lot of them even have websites where you can browse and buy and get your stock delivered to your door, so you don’t even have to visit them.

To find wholesalers, have a look in your local Yellow Pages – or join up to the Secret Source

Finder subscription website at There are hundreds of wholesalers and suppliers with detailed listings of what they sell on there.

Wholesalers are normally happy to supply market traders and will give you a trade card on request. That will entitle you to trade discounts of between 10% and 50%, depending on the product line you’ve chosen.

Actually, there is one source of supply that’s better than wholesalers. And that’s to make the products you sell yourself. Or buy them direct from small producers. This way, you get unique, original products that no one else can sell at low manufacturers’ prices. Our other blueprint in this issue is about crafting (that’s no accident, I knew these two opportunities would complement each other perfectly)! So take a look at that and see if there is anything that would be up your street.

Choosing the best Sunday markets

You can’t beat personal knowledge here. Think of any Sunday markets you have been to and that you thought were good. Ask relatives, friends, neighbours and work colleagues if they can recommend any. Next, scour the small ads in the local papers and do an Internet search to see what’s available. Draw up a shortlist. You can do the same Sunday market every week, or mix and match with different ones.

But this bit is very important:

Do NOT take a stall at a Sunday market without checking it out first in person. Go as a buyer first. More than one visit would be good. Stay the whole morning. Chat to some of the shoppers – and the stallholders. It’s important to make sure that every market you go to is well attended and that the stallholders are doing good business.

At the end of this blueprint you’ll find contacts for four websites where you can search for markets in your area.

Getting the best pitch

A bit of horse trading might be needed to make sure you get the best stall, or pitch as they’re known.

Privately run markets tend to be a bit more easy going than council ones. Some Sunday markets restrict stalls so that there will never be more than one or two stallholders selling the same thing. Generally, it’s great to be the second stallholder –because there’ll already be an established trade for whatever it is.

Be ready to negotiate on the position of your stall. Positions near the entrance are always best. That way, you get first dabs at buyers’ cash before they spend it elsewhere. If it’s an indoor event, which Sunday markets often are, do not – I repeat do not – take a stall either upstairs or downstairs if these are on offer. The vast majority of visitors to a Sunday indoor market will NOT traipse up or down stairs. At the best and busiest Sunday markets you might have to go along as a casual trader first and queue up for stalls on a “first come, first served” basis. Once you’ve got your stall established you will be in a better position to get the best pitches.

Sunday market trading tips

On the quiet, I’ve been speaking to a few traders… and I’ve come up with a few basic tips to help you sell successfully. This isn’t a complete guide to Sunday market trading, but it will help get you up and running quickly.

· If it looks good, it will sell well. Display is everything. Just look at the beautiful displays of fruit and veg on traditional markets. The same applies whatever product you’re selling. If it looks, smells and even just feels good, people are more likely to buy.

· Use light. If power is available take some bright spotlights to highlight your stall. Setting goods against a contrasting background – for example putting sparkling jewellery on a black or dark blue cloth – is another good technique.

· Encourage people to touch. Don’t display your prices too obviously. Put them on the back of goods. If people have to pick things up to see the prices they are more likely to buy them. Sneaky but true. Keep an eye out for any light-fingered shoppers of course!

· Offer free samples where possible. For example, if you’re selling food, offer tiny titbits. If you’re selling textiles, offer fabric swatches.

· Talk to your customers! Remember, Sunday shopping is very much a leisure activity. If you engage with people they are more likely to come back and buy from you again. On prices, the best policy for a Sunday market selling quality goods is to have fixed prices. Sunday market prices are nearer shop prices. Don’t be tempted to haggle. You don’t want to turn your stall into a tacky car boot sale where people start making silly offers.

Upscaling everything – organising your own Sunday markets

Now this is where it all starts to get a bit more exciting. I can sniff a lot more money-making potential in the air!

It’s entirely up to you whether you just run your own stall, or go the whole hog and organise your own markets. The great thing about Sunday market trading is that you can telescope it easily – expanding or contracting things to suit your spare time. Of course, organising your own Sunday markets is going to take more commitment. Apart from working on a Sunday you will need some more time during the week for sorting things out. So let’s take a look at how it might work…

Picking the perfect Sunday market venue

Finding the right venue is going to be absolutely instrumental in making a success of this. To be honest, most of the really successful Sunday markets I’ve seen are successful because they’re in the right place. You need to spend some time to get that right. Try and get it right first time if you can. But this is one of the good things about markets: They’re a portable bus. opp. If it doesn’t work out in one place you can roll it up and move it somewhere else without too much hassle.

First you need somewhere with enough space.

That said, it doesn’t need to be that big. A lot of Sunday markets are fairly intimate affairs. Intimate is probably the wrong word, but I’m sure you know what I mean. In other words, you don’t need hundreds of stalls. People come to a Sunday market because they’re looking for something unique or different that they can’t get from the big stores. Anything from 20 to 50 stalls (at most) is probably about right.

I think you should also look for somewhere that is partly or fully undercover. It will help protect your event from the vagaries of the British weather, especially now we’re coming up to winter. The clever thing is that indoor events will get more customers in bad weather – not fewer – as people look for things they can do inside when it’s raining. You can also attract sellers who are selling better, more upmarket things in an indoor venue – because they know their designer goodies or whatever won’t be soaked by the tail end of the next hurricane.

Second, you need somewhere busy enough.

This is very important. The location needs to be in a fairly busy area, with lots of passing trade. This way you won’t need a massive advertising budget. Most town and city centres are very quiet on a Sunday, so these are probably not ideal. A location out in the suburbs, on a busy main road, is much better. Ideally, there should be free parking either at the venue or nearby.

This is a good idea:

Try and look for locations where you can “pinch” customers from an existing busy Sunday business or attraction for free. For example, somewhere on the road to a busy supermarket or shopping centre. Or somewhere next to a busy garden centre, nice cafe or place that’s popular for Sunday walks and so on. You could even be really cheeky and put your market near to an existing car boot sale venue. (But do keep your event that bit separate and a cut above car booting if you want to make the best profits.) There aren’t really any strict rules on what sort of place you use for your Sunday market as long as it meets the above conditions. You might be able to hire an existing indoor market hall. Or an indoor car park, village hall, community centre, town hall or school hall. In a more rural area see if there are any farmers with a spare barn. Auction rooms and agricultural markets are very good places for Sunday markets. They usually have all the space and facilities you need but are never used on Sundays.

What permission do you need?

Oh those lovely bureaucrats! Why do they have to make what is essentially very simple more complicated? I’ve checked and there may be a few bureaucratic hoops you have to jump through with a Sunday market. But don’t worry – it will be worth it. Under the Local Government Act 1982 any person (or landowner) holding a temporary market has to give the local authority not less than one month’s notice of the event. Have a look on your local council’s website (contacts later) to find out who to contact.

Next, under the Town and Country Planning Order, using a piece of land for a market or car boot sale is permitted without the need for planning permission – if it is not held for more than 14 days in any calendar year, ie. it’s temporary. If you want to make it permanent you will need to apply for planning permission. The council has certain standards to satisfy for such things as parking, noise pollution and highway safety. A planning officer will visit the site to check it out and then the council will decide.

So you need to box clever here: When you start, do so with the intention that your market won’t be held for more than 14 Sundays. That should give you enough time to find out whether it’s a good money-maker or not and whether it’s worth going through the application process. (If it isn’t, just move your event somewhere else.) Incidentally, if you sell food, you or your traders will need to comply with food hygiene, labelling, and weights and measures regulations just the same as shops do. Your local council can advise on this. But Sunday trading hours laws don’t apply to Sunday markets. So, while large shops can’t open before 10am your Sunday market can trade whatever hours you like. (I’d suggest you open at 9am or so, and steal a march on Asda and Tesco.)

Renting space for your Sunday market

Once you’ve got some venues in mind you need to contact the owner and try and set up some kind of deal.

Right now with rising running costs like rates and utilities I think anybody with a large space that stands idle on a Sunday is going to grab your hand off with an offer to rent it from them. So it won’t be a hard sell. Always hedge your bets though. Try and have a few venues in mind in each area in case some of them just aren’t interested. Your would-be landlord needs to have quite realistic expectations about rent though. Remember, these are tough times. You need to keep your own costs fairly tight so that you can afford to charge your stallholders reasonable rents. And they can afford to charge their customers reasonable prices. It’s the best way of keeping the wheels of commerce moving right now.

There’s room for negotiation of course. But about £50-£100 to rent the venue for a few hours is about right.

Here’s a good idea:

Try and look for venues that have catering facilities on site – a snack bar or cafeteria. You might even be able to do a deal to get the venue free or for a nominal rent in exchange for the money the property owner can make from that.

One last thing:

Aim to go for a venue that can provide stalls or trestle tables in with the price. This will save a lot of hassle over having to rent them –or having to tell stallholders that they need to provide their own.

Finding stallholders

The next step will be to find those who want to rent a stall at your Sunday market.

Again, this should be a pretty attractive proposition right now. Lots of existing businesses are looking for low cost ways of increasing their turnover. Lots of people are looking for ways to make extra money with a sideline business. Your Sunday market will appeal to both these groups.

One point:

Try and keep your event – well – not too high brow but fairly upmarket. Be selective about what kind of stalls you will take – these should ideally be selling the same product lines we talked about earlier. (If you want to make good money there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit snobby and not letting car booters or anyone selling out-and-out tat into your market.)

You will need to be proactive here.

Use a direct approach by phone or personal visit. Don’t sit about and wait for stallholders to come to you or it could take months to build up a decent number of stalls. These are the type of people you could approach as potential stallholders:

· Existing weekday markets. Have a sneaky look around. If you see any good quality stalls ask the stallholder if they would like to try your Sunday market.

· Local, privately-owned shops. Especially shops selling food, crafts, gifts, clothes boutiques, etc. If they don’t open on Sundays your market could be a lucrative bolt-on for them.

· Farmers and local food producers. Farmers’ markets are proving a bit of a hit at the moment.

· Antiques and collectables dealers. Find them at existing fairs, as well as those that already have shops.

· Local crafters. This can really give your market a unique dimension – because you’ll have stalls and products that no other market will have.

Have a look in local community and parish magazines. Get in touch with local evening classes. Ask at the library, who often have a list of local clubs. Look for people who do painting and sketching, needlework, soft toys, woodwork, metalcraft, casting, ceramics, model making and so on – the sky really is the limit here. Of course, there could be a bit of a chicken-andegg situation here in that, when you first start, you won’t have any visitors to attract your stallholders. And until you have some stallholders you won’t have any visitors. What I suggest you do here is offer a few selected stallholders a freebie stall for the first few weeks, to get the ball rolling.

Promoting your Sunday market

As I said earlier you should go for a venue that has a lot of passing trade. And this is why: Because that’s essentially like getting free advertising. You won’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising your event to pull customers (and more stallholders) in. But I do suggest you do a bit of targeted, local advertising. It needn’t cost much if you spend your money wisely. (Long term, once your event gets established, you might not have to do any.)

· Press ads. In the local newspapers and local freesheets. Go into the “What’s On” section if there is one, and advertise on Friday or Saturday only – that’s when people are planning their weekends.

· Posters and banners. Stick some posters and banners up in the area the week before. Whatever venue you’ve rented should be willing to let you put them on their site for free.

· Leaflets. Do a local leaflet drop or handout. Again, this is best done the Friday or Saturday before, no earlier.

· Free publicity. Send details of your events to your local newspapers, radio and TV stations. Write it up as a press release, giving some interesting information about your market. Many of these media will give you a mention by way of a local interest news story.

· The Internet. Get listed on any local community websites there might be in your area – and Find A Market (more about this in a bit).

Making sure everything runs smoothly

The funny thing I found about organising a Sunday market is that, come the Sunday, the event organiser actually has less work to do than the stallholders! You’ll probably need to be on site by about 7am to set out the venue, collect your rent and be ready to open up for 9am. (Incidentally, I suggest you collect your rent before the event, not during or after, just as a safeguard in case a stallholder doesn’t have a particularly good day trading for some reason.) A couple of points: Those people at the council (yes them again) will hold you responsible for any noise, parking problems, crowds or litter that might be caused. That could become a thorny issue if and when you want to apply for planning permission. So when things start to get a bit busier it would be sensible to hire a couple of assistants or stewards for a few hours to help you ensure everything runs smoothly.

What sort of money could you make?

Lastly, let’s just think about how much you could make from Sunday markets. Primarily, I see this as a great sideline income. It’s not going to make you a millionaire, but then it’s relatively easy and hassle free too.

As a stallholder, it’s difficult to say as it depends exactly on what you sell. I don’t think £150-£300 clear profit would be out of the way for an established stall.

As a Sunday market organiser, again, it depends. You would probably be looking at renting out an average stall for £25 a time – although some Sunday markets rent out stall space by the foot. Some of the big Sunday markets have upwards of 500 stalls. But let’s say you had a more modest 20 or 30. That would make you anything from £500 to £750 per Sunday – before costs of course.

And don’t forget:

If you already have your own stall at Sunday markets you can also have that stall at your own market. That would essentially be a free stall, that could add another £150-£300 on top.


Find A Market

This is a must-see site for tracking down Sunday markets. You can search by location and also day of the week, filtering out non-Sunday markets. And the site has a really fantastic feature which I think is really clever – just go to the entry for the market you’re interested in and it will tell you what products there are vacancies for right now! (Not every Sunday market is listed here so don’t rely on it entirely, do your own research as well.)


Christmas Markets

Now this site is a little gem if you fancy becoming a Christmas market trader selling gifts, food or whatever in the run-up to the festive season.

It lists all known Christmas markets and fairs planned in the UK (and in Europe) during November and December, so you can plan ahead and get your stall booked.


Secret Source Finder

Lots of little-known contacts for wholesalers, trade suppliers and also auctions, surplus and bankrupt stock suppliers.


Direct Gov

This official government website has links to every local council where you can find out about venues and get information on planning permission, etc.


National Market Traders Federation

The NMTF site has a searchable database of markets, also lots of free useful information and advice. Joining the NMTF (it costs £76) will give you public liability insurance up to £5m, product liability insurance up to £5m and employer’s liability insurance up to £10m.