Why good old market stalls are making a comeback

market stall

market stall

Time was, if you wanted to make some money you just bought some stock, rented a shop, piled it up and waited for customers to come and give you their money. It was a simple model that worked, and worked well.

Lots of today’s top retailers – M&S springs to mind – started this way.

The fact is though, it’s not such a good business model anymore. As a result of the slump, the high street is in turmoil. Not only are there lots and lots of empty shops in most places. But many of the shops that remain are struggling with high rents and rates, falling footfall and consumer spending that is dropping like a stone as prices rise.

So maybe what we need is a low cost retail business model. One that is cheap and easy to start and run. And which can offer top value to hard-pressed consumers.

Why you should rethink your attitude toward market stalls

Well, in our modern day world of mega shopping centres and e-tailing anything and everything we seem to forget that we already have just such a low cost opportunity. …. the good old market stall!

I have to say I’d almost written off market stalls. But I’m starting to think that they could be back in fashion in a big way very soon.

I’m not the only one that seems to think market stalls could be back on the agenda as a good business opportunity either. You might have seen a report at the end of last year by retail guru and consultant Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas. One of her recommendations was that it should be made easier to become a market trader, with more people given the opportunity to try market trading out for themselves.

So why do I think you should give some thought to a market stall as an extra cash opp in 2012?

  • It’s cheap. There are hardly any overheads to pay, apart from rent. You don’t even need a stall in many markets as it’s all provided. All you need is some stock, some spare time and some enthusiasm.
  • You can offer cheaper goods than most of the shops, or at least should be able to offer them cheaper. Because you don’t have the massive rent and business rates that are crippling many of them.
    And bargains are what buyers are looking for right now.
  • It’s a really smart, totally portable business model. If it doesn’t work in one place you can move it somewhere else where it does. Or run it in several different locations over the course of a week if you want to.
  • There’s no credit or bad debts. Most of your sales will be cash in your hand. And that counts for a lot right now.
  • It can be a part time business. You only need to work when customers are there to buy. It can even be weekends only in some cases if you like.
  • You get to deal with customers face to face. So you get great feedback on what they want. And friendly, personal service is something that, try as they might, the big stores just can’t match.

Here are a few tips if you’re interested in setting up a modern day market stall:

* Choose your product area carefully. Modern day market stalls aren’t just restricted to Eastenders-style fruit and veg. In fact there’s every reason NOT to trade in perishable, low margin stuff like that if you want to make good money. Think of better quality, higher margin goods but just sell them at better value prices than the shops.

Your product line could be… electricals, electronics, designer clothes and footwear, quality packaged foodstuffs, books and music, collectables and so on. Or how about good quality used goods? You can also offer services – such as computer, appliance or bike repair. Right now, people are looking to repair things and make them last, but all the old repair shops vanished years ago.

And here’s a thought. If you’re already selling on eBay or Amazon how easy would it be to just order a bit more stock and sell it on a market stall? After all, you already know what sells. Going offline could be an ideal way of expanding your online business.

* Choose the right venue. Normally, only so many traders can sell the same product at each location so look for (literally!) a gap in the market.

But the most important thing about choosing a market is that there should be plenty of footfall.

Do a bit of detective work. Visit the markets you’re thinking of trading at to see what product areas are missing, and to make sure they’re busy. Do a bit of casual market research – ask people what they’d like to be able to buy at the market.

* You can find out about stall availability and costs for public markets from your local council. Remember, outdoor market stalls tend to be cheaper than indoor ones but outdoor traders usually lose a few days trading each year due to the Great British weather.

* Explore other options, other than local public markets. Some shopping centres rent out stalls in their malls. These are usually dearer, but they tend to be good for more upmarket products, such as jewellery. There are also some private companies offering market-style indoor shopping centres. (One such company is Inshops: www.inshopsretail.com.)

Don’t forget other market-style trading formats, like car boot sales (though not great for the winter), Sunday markets and collector fairs. They also offer a similar low cost trading platform.

Ok, so market trading isn’t the most glamorous kind of business model. It’s not the kind of make-money-with-a-few-clicks-of-your-mouse type business we’ve become accustomed to over the years. It’s a real world, gritty enterprise. But in a slump, where low costs and top value are all important, and cold hard cash really talks, I really do think market trading could be an opportunity worth considering in 2012.

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