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How to become a Market Trader

market trader careers

What does a Market Trader do?

Market traders, also known as stall-holders, sell goods from stalls in open air, indoor or covered markets. The goods could be anything from meat and fish to books and antiques. They could be new or second hand.

Traders start work early in the morning. They may drive to a wholesale market to buy fresh produce, or a warehouse to pick up supplies. On arrival at the market, they unload the van and set up the stall. The day is likely to include standing behind the stall and chatting to customers, giving them advice and encouraging them to buy. Traders take payment for goods and give change. At the end of the day the stall and goods are packed up. Part of the evening may involve stocktaking and deciding what replacement goods are needed for the stall.

Traders devote some time each week to buying goods, finding suitable suppliers and negotiating prices with them. They must keep records of the goods bought and sold, including VAT details. Traders also need to keep up-to-date with and adhere to the market’s regulations and the latest laws on trading and employment.

Traders selling their own handmade crafts also spend a great deal of time buying materials, and designing and making items for sale. They also travel frequently to specialist markets such as craft markets and fairs. Other traders sell services, such as body-piercing or key-cutting.

What's the working environment like working as a Market Trader?

Hours are variable. Starts between 5am and 7am are usual. Market traders normally work until 5.30pm or 6pm. Weekend work is common.

Some traders work at only one market, others work at different markets on different days. There are opportunities to work on market stalls on a part-time basis.

Some time is spent travelling - to buy and collect goods, and to and from the market.

Physical fitness is required as the work involves a lot of standing, lifting and bending. Market traders may have to work outside in all weathers.

What does it take to become a Market Trader?

To work as a market trader you will need:

  • confidence, a friendly and pleasant personality, a sense of humour and the ability to relate to all kinds of people
  • enthusiasm for selling goods
  • the ability to negotiate and persuade
  • presentation skills for creating an attractive stall
  • business skills for the competitive pricing and sale of goods
  • to be fit and active
  • the ability to understand and keep up-to-date with trading law and regulations
  • numeracy skills for handling money and keeping accounts.
IT skills are useful to manage stock and keep track of income and expenditure.

Market Trader Career Opportunities

Markets are located in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Local authorities often run large outdoor or covered markets, town square and high street markets, and indoor markets with permanent units. Other market venues include privately run markets that operate only at weekends, Sunday markets, special bank holiday fairs and tourist markets.

Prospects for entering market trading depend on the type of goods being sold. Chances of securing a permanent pitch are increased if a less common line of goods is being sold. It is important to be aware of the kinds of markets where goods are most likely to sell.

Competition for stalls can be quite strong, and it can take a long time to secure a permanent pitch.

Generally, market trading is becoming an increasingly competitive area, with rising costs for stalls and an increase in shops selling cut-price goods.

Some traders are employees and earn a wage, but the majority of people working on markets are self-employed. There may be opportunities to expand by taking on staff and starting up stalls in nearby markets. Some market traders work, or expand their business, abroad.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Market Trader that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

National Market Traders' Federation
Hampton House
Hawshaw Lane
South Yorkshire
Tel: 01226 749021

Skillsmart Retail
40 Duke Street
Tel: 0800 093 5001

Facts and Stats:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte once called England a "nation of shopkeepers".

  • Consumer expenditure per head in the UK is £8,053.

  • The phrase "The customer is always right", was coined by H Gordon Selfridge.

  • The annual sales of digestive biscuits, if stacked on top of each other, would reach 275 miles high That's 4,500 times the height of Nelson's Column or 1,400 times the height of the Eiffel Tower.

  • Britain's first department store was Selfridges, which was opened in 1909.