Yesterday I organized a market stall in Spitalfield's Market, near Liverpool Street Station. A market has been operating in that area since 1638, when King Charles I granted a license for vegetables and meat to be sold in that area. In the 20th century the area became a haven for artists, and many now-famous artists and designers began their retail careers in the market.
This is what we at "Playroom Collective" hoped to achieve by organizing a market stall in the prestigious market. But, however glamorous it might seem to have a stall in Spitalfields, it certainly very hard work, for very small returns.
It seems that the economic downturn has hit craft and antique markets. In the past a recession usually boosted the trade of markets such as Spitalfields because consumers were opting to buy locally (and usually cheaper), rather than spending their money in the high street stores.
However, the most recent recession has hit particularly hard, and this might be due to a change in how people buy products. Now, many people would rather look for their bargains online, either buy searching ebay, amazon, and other large e-retailers, in addition to looking on publicly run sites like gumtree and craigslist.
I talked to many of the vendors at the market yesterday, and most expressed concerned opinions about how hard it is to break even on any given day of trading. The price for a stall on Friday is a mere £15; as a group we Camberwell artists sold only £13 worth of goods (that's RRP, not cost price, so no profit was made...). We did not break even, as a group, but it was a valuable exercise in retail management, so definitely worth the expense.
The vendors mentioned that trade usually picked up from September to Christmas.
The people I spoke to said that their presence in the market was a publicity and "marketing" effort. When customers saw them consistently (every friday, for example), they would be more likely to call or email them on other days to place orders or ask questions. If you are prepared to occasionally make a loss, then having a stall at Spitalfields might be the right thing to boost your business into the public eye.
Another thing to consider is the set-up cost of the stall. I arrived with a white table-cloth, but hadn't realized that one really needed a "modesty" cloth for the front of the table, as well as a backdrop. I was lucky, and my neighbour lent me some black cloth to dress the stall.
Signage and Branding
I printed several signs on A4 paper that advertised "Playroom Collective." These were sufficient for the first attempt at a stall, but in the future one would want a larger and more catchy banner or sign. You need something that will tempt punters to browse your goods.
Marketer beware: Spitalfields does not provide chairs for the vendors. I spent the entirety of the day sitting on an upturned carry-on case, which was (needless to say) rather uncomfortable and frequently precarious.
For a full list of other things to consider when operating a market stall click