Selling at markets – hints and tips

The past few years have been difficult for everyone and just continues with rising prices and the world economic situation. This has been particularly hard-hitting for the small business, particularly if you sell products. It’s where knowing a bit more about marketing your products comes in and what you can do to maximise the possibilities of selling to your target audience.

I’ve heard several small handmade businesses talking online about the problems they have with making sales – even when they take a stall at a market. So, I thought I would put my marketing thinking cap on and come up with some useful tips to help get those sales.

Before you go

Before you get started or start booking yourself into every craft show, fayre, or market…STOP!

It’s important when you have a handmade business, or in fact any business, that you choose the right venue or event for your business.

You and your products will be judged by everyone else around you, so it’s important that you’re in the right place. For example, if you are at a market or car boot sale, where everyone is selling second-hand goods or junk, the value of your products or services will suffer. So, it’s vital to research the place you’re planning to sell to make sure that it’s right for your particular kind of products or services, so that you give yourself the best possible chance of making sales.

If there are lots of stalls at the venue you choose, check with the organisers how many other stalls are doing the same as you. It’s good to have some competition, but you don’t want your pitch to be right next to someone else who does the same as you, or similar.

Your stock

Seems obvious, but make sure that you have enough stock to sell – be prepared. As you sell your products, your display will reduce…it’s great for you, but can have an adverse effect on those looking to buy from stalls – if there’s not much on your stall, they won’t stop and browse.

In an ideal world, you should sell 8-10 times the fee you paid to have your stall. So, make sure that you have enough stock to replenish sold items, keeping your stall looking as professional as it did when you set it up.

The basics

There are lots of little things to get in place before you can go to the venue.

  • Do you need any special licenses or permits to do the event?
  • Make sure you’ve got the relevant insurance in place
  • How are you going to take payment for your products?
  • Plan how much stock you’re going to take, so you know how much you need to make, and order any materials you might need
  • How are you going to package and wrap your products once they’re sold? Make sure you have enough packaging or wrapping.
  • Think about how you’re going to transport your products – do you need to get any boxes or containers to carry it all?
  • Put price labels on every product – or make price labels for groups of products – there’s nothing worse than having to do this on the day – or worse, not having prices and people either must ask, or don’t bother and walk away.
  • Make sure that any tables, cloths, stands, or props are all clean, not damaged or broken and that you have enough.
  • Make sure that you have signage, so people know what you do. Have business cards or flyers that you can give out or include with purchases.
  • Have something printed to collect email addresses, that asks for a customer/potential customer’s name, email address, stating they agree to having email from you. After the event you can send them a link to your email sign up. Or, have an iPad or phone so you can send your email sign up link to them on the spot.      
  • If it’s an outside event, do you have a contingency plan to keep your products dry in case of a shower? Similarly, if it’s really hot, can you have something to keep you and your products in the shade…and don’t forget sunscreen?
  • Pick your outfit and make sure it’s comfortable and practical – wear comfortable shoes!
  • Pack a chair so you can sit down in between customers
  • Have a rubbish bag with you, pens, paper,
  • Take a packed lunch or snacks and drinks.
  • Make sure that you have fuel in your car and directions to where you are going! And change for parking if necessary.      

Pre event marketing

Although the event will be advertised by the event organisers, it’s a good idea to advertise that your business will be there. Put this everywhere – on your social media pages and add to any groups you belong to. If you have Google My Business, put it on there as this will help with local business. Add it to your website. Tell everyone you know…you could even print off an A5 ad and put it in the window of your car! Make use of any local advertising – some supermarkets or local shops allow small adverts or posters – make one and put it anywhere you can – stating that your business will be there.

Get sales savvy

Before I go into sales on the day…before the day, set up your stall at home – how will it look on the day? Be uber critical – look at it from every angle, so you know it’s right.

Think about the type of people that will visit – you could have children or people in wheelchairs or motorised scooters. If all your stock is up high, is it accessible to everyone?

On the day

Arrive in plenty of time to set up and get everything out of your car, tables set up etc. You don’t want to start the day rushing and flustered.

Once you are set up, do a quick test. Stand where people will see your stall for the first time – maybe 50 feet away. This is the first impression people will have or your stall – what’s your first impression? Does it look inviting? Is it too dark or empty? Can you see what’s for sale? Is your signage visible and does it say clearly what you do?

Once this is done, you’re ready for your customers!

Engage your customers

Don’t just stand behind your stall and expect people to come to you. You need to talk to everyone that comes to your stall. Most people will be generally browsing and looking for reasons not to buy – you need to persuade them that they WANT to buy. So, give them the reasons…

  • Talk about your products
  • Tell customers about the benefits – what it does for them – it could be it would make a great gift for Mum, Dad, friend etc.
  • Everyone loves a story, so talk about your products. How was it made? Where is it from? For example, if you make products from driftwood or sea glass, talk about where you got the raw material and what gave you the idea to make it into your products. It’s not just a sea glass bracelet or necklace – it’s crafted from sea glass that you personally collected from a beach in XXXX. Get people’s attention and interest. A good story can give extra value that actually clinches a sale.

Appeal to everyone

Very often, at craft events or handmade events, there will be Mums and children. Usually, children are given a small amount of money to spend…and Mum is normally with them. Make sure you have a few small items that are pocket-money-affordable, so that you attract the children. Then whilst they are browsing you can engage Mum in a conversation and talk about your products. There’s then the possibility of a bigger sale.   

Target the senses

Encourage visitors to your stall by appealing to their senses.

Here are a few examples…

  • Encourage touch – put a small sign that says, ‘Touch me, I’m hand-felted wool’, or ‘The softest scarf you’ve ever felt’.
  • You might sell soaps or scented candles. ‘I smell delicious, smell for yourself’.
  • If you sell things to eat, such as cupcakes, hone in on the tastebuds. Instead of just having a plate with little samples – asking people if they’d like to try, make it more enticing…for example, you sell ginger or cinnamon spiced cupcakes, ‘Smell and taste Christmas’. Or even, ‘Taste me – what do I remind you of?’ It’s putting out a challenge and giving people a reason to taste your wares…giving them permission to be indulgent.

Don’t have things packaged away in boxes – have the items out of their boxes, so people can see them, or touch them.     

Get in touch with your customer’s senses!

A customer buys from you – what next?

Inside you’re doing your happy dance – you’ve made a sale! So, you wrap the purchase, take their money, and thank them – they go on their way.


You could be missing a trick here. Don’t just let them disappear in the crowd, never to be seen or heard from again. Wouldn’t it be good if you could increase your sales, and make them come back again – or come back with a friend?

Loads of businesses use a loyalty programme – such as coffee shops. Buy so many cups of coffee, get one free. Why not jump on this yourself? Give a loyalty card – once they’ve purchased a certain number of items from you, they get a freebie.

Introduce a friend and if that friend buys from you, they get 10% off their next order.

Ask them to sign up to your email newsletter, where they will get information about where you’ll be at future events, details about your products or services, link to your online shop, and social media. And details of any special offers you run. Have an incentive to sign up, (a lead magnet). This is simply giving a customer or potential customer something in return for their email address. It could be a freebie of some kind or a discount on their first order.   

Even if this doesn’t work, make sure you add a business card/thank you card in their package when they buy. They will find it later when they get home and might decide to look at your online shop.   

ALWAYS engage first and then sell.

I really hope that this has been a useful article for you if you are a handmade business.

If you have any further suggestions of what you do at events, please add to the comments below. Thank you for reading!

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