Market stalls 101: Selling tips from the experts

Obviously, being able to sell is essential for any small business: it makes the difference between success and failure. So we thought we’d ask expert market stall traders how to do it properly.

Tesco and Marks & Spencer are some of the biggest high street names, but they were built out of a single market stall, while successful entrepreneurs, such as Alan Sugar, cut their teeth on stalls as their first business venture. Succeeding in the rough and tumble world of market stalls is where many learn how to attract, talk to and sell to potential customers.  So, we thought who better give sales advice than market stall holders? We headed down to London’s eco-friendly Zero Waste Market, to get the lowdown on market selling techniques from some of the best. There, we had a chat with the founders of young F&B brand Fatty’s Organics Spirits, sustainable luxury accessory-maker LUXTRA, and sustainably sourced homeware creators, Every Origin.

How do you make your stall stand out?

“The packaging of my product is certainly my secret weapon,” says Phillipa Gee of Fatty’s Organic Spirits, a brand striving to deliver spirits that are better for us and the world we live in. “As a drinks brand, you need to stand out on a dimly lit back bar – but the same is also true for market stalls,” she adds. And with bright green and startling pink bottles, Gee has surely achieved this. Another tip from the ethical spirit vendor? “I make sure my display has plenty of stock so it is eye-catching, with a Christmas theme at this time of year, and I add some fairy lights to make everything sparkle. I also have fabulous Santa hats and scarves for the bottles!”.

Not everyone has the same approach to stall-dressing, however. For some, minimal is best. Although Jessica Kruger, founder of sustainable and vegan accessory brand LUXTRA, is bringing along festive lights and upcycled decorations to give her stand a bit of festive oomph, she prefers things pared down. “Less can be more in my opinion. We are careful to arrange a selection of our best sellers on the space we have, but not put everything out. I think a cluttered stand can be off-putting at times,” she explains.

Positioning products at a variety of heights also helps ‘draw the eye’, according to Kruger, who suggests a tiered display format, and a table-top ‘garnish’ such as a vase of seasonal flowers.

How do you engage with the customer? 

“I literally beam at everybody and say a hearty "good morning" or "hello!" followed by a big genuine smile. I might look a bit goofy, but warmth is going to attract people far more than a lukewarm hello,” says Kruger, who also warns against crossing your arms – a definite turn-off for any potential punter.

“I love connecting with customers,” explains Founder and Creative Director of Every Origin, Libby Brewster, on how she gets people interested in her innovative, wellbeing-focused products. “Especially getting to know their story, whether they are local and what their plans are for the day. Once you start a conversation you can start to understand what kind of customer they might be and whether there's something they might need or want.” Brewster also talks about the provenance of her products and how they can be used: “for example, in the case of the cork products, they all originate from Portugal, where cork is the national tree. Customers love to know if something has been handmade or made of reused or recycled materials too,” she adds.

For an edible, or sippable, product, the answer to engagement often lies in samples( and lots of them). “The most important thing is that the customer tastes the product,” says Gee of Fatty’s Gin. “We have samples of all the products ready to hand out. This also helps engage the customer in a conversation and gives us the opportunity to tell them more about the flavour profile of the products and our sustainability credentials.”

How do you transport your goods to market?

First off, it’s hard to know what exactly to take and how much. “Over time, you get to know what the essentials are and how much stock to bring, but at the start it's tricky, I admit,” says Kruger of LUXTRA. “I recommend having a friend help you out, packing a pouch of essential stationery needs (scissors, sticky tape, masking tape, paper clips, pens and pencils, water bottle). If you know your best-sellers, then take extra of those, but don't feel you need huge amounts of every single product,” she adds.

Your preferred transport option also determines what you can take, of course. “I pack everything I take to the market in suitcases,” says Brewster, of Every Origin, “so depending on the proximity of the market, I can walk, cycle or travel by bus or car wherever I'm going”. Hats off to this uber-sustainable approach.

Some products cannot be transported in a few suitcases on a bicycle, however. Take forty-or-so bottles of gin for example. In the case of Fatty’s Organic Gin, Gee had to sell her car to fund her fledgling business – leaving her without transport. “Three weeks after launching I did my first Christmas fair and without Zipcar I wouldn’t have been able to do it!” she explains. “I am based in South East London, Dulwich, so am fortunate that we have an amazing selection of cars and vans on the streets nearby. It’s incredibly handy, and of course, more environmentally friendly,” she adds. Well, we are very happy to have been of service.

Katie Spillane
Katie manages Zipcar for Business' marketing communications and ensuring we let businesses know how we can help them. A LinkedIn whizz she is always on the hunt to find out how to optimise and improve herself and help businesses work smarter. Outside of work you can find her exploring the newest London hotspots, searching for the best bargain (a self-confessed shopaholic) or obsessing over the latest true crime documentary - full of the best facts you never knew you needed to know.

Date published: 11 December 2019

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