How you set up and pack away your stall matters, be a successful market trader

Lesson 11: Packing and Setting Up

Ever thought why those ‘seasoned’ traders make it look so easy when they arrive at market and by the time you turn around they are already trading and you haven’t even opened your table yet?


Years and years of practise, and just like you, they also started out being a little clumsy and awkward to get started.

As part of the third module for How to Start a Market Stall, we will look at how to pack your products for transport, setting up your stall and items required for a smooth market day.

Your Market Stall Display

By now you have started your research, found the market that most suits your needs as a trader and you have found out the average stall size.

It’s time for the Mock Up!

Either outside, in the garage or in the lounge, mark out the rough space you have for your stall on market day. If you use masking tape you will see how big an area you have to play with.

Some markets provide the tables and rain covers, some markets don’t. Some require you to even bring your own light bulbs!

What ever one you are attending though, you need to be confident in your setup and layout of your products or produce.

Mark the floor with the exact size of your market stall, then set up a table. If you are being given all this at the market, then improvise for now. If you have to take your own, set it up as you would on market day!

This is not only practise for the real day, but also will settle your nerves a little as you keep repeating this over and over.

Now you have your bare table and the space marked on the floor, stand back and notice how small the space is! It is not a huge shop floor with acres of space around your items, but rather it is a mini window into your stall and fledgling business.

The Set Up

Begin by laying a cloth over your table and arranging it in a way that looks good. Make sure it covers the whole front of the table as you are more than likely going to be storing your boxes, packaging and lunch under the table and no one wants to see that as part of your display!

Perhaps use two colours of sheets. One white to cover the whole table and another colour to sit at an angle to the white.

If you have a logo or printed picture you want to display then you can also arrange that so your table is laid out properly and looks appealing.

There is nothing to stop you from getting ideas from shop windows, display counters, Instagram, or even starting your own Pinterest board for market stall displays. Here is my one for some ideas – Pinterest: Market Stall Displays

When you are happy with your colour scheme, take a photo of it on your phone so you can see how you set it up and what you used. Better to see now without anything on the table than with all the products and wonder how you did it.

Products Layout

When you first set up, think about how your stall will appear to your customers. If items are crowded and cluttered you will attracts people who are looking for bargains and quick cheap sales.

The down side is that everything you have on your stall will be handled and damaged by those pawing through your precious goods!

If you have a clear laid out stall then you will attract people who can see your products. Some may ask you questions about your products and you want to be able to easily reach them without knocking everything else over to get to it.

If you are going to have multiple levels, and I suggest you do, then consider the covering of the boxes and the different heights of all the items you have. (Tip: use some of the boxes you are packing/storing your items in)

Create flow where you can so that the eye can move from one item to another. Put yourself in a customers shoes. When you go to a market, where do you normally look first? Where do your eyes move next?

If you are in the western world, you will more than likely read left to right, and that is the way we generally look with our eyes too. So have a few attractive pieces on the edges on the left and right that draws the eyes into your stall center.

If you put all your stock on the table at once you create two different emotions. If it is all oranges and pears, these will make for a lovely colourful display. If you place 30 carved wooden spoons in one area it will look commercial and crowded.

Place ornaments to add to your stall. Not a lot, as you will have to carry these items back and forth each time you go to the market, but things that will make your items stand out.

If you make handmade jewellery, then a tree carved necklace stand will show off your lovely necklaces or rocks with holes in them that makes rings and earrings more pronounced.

Selling fresh fruit and veg, take a few chopping boards and have your products on display and read to taste. You’ll be surprised at how far the smell of a fresh orange can travel!

Soaps and bubbles, why not have sponges, towels, rubber ducks for the kids and soap dishes with a twist. Maybe even have a spray with water in it to keep stones moist looking and to release the fragrances of your tester products!

Be creative and make sure it looks inviting. You will be rewarded and shine out from the crowd!

Now take a picture of your display!

Rearrange it and take a few more pictures. Add, take away and get something you like. Each time taking a picture.

When you finally settle on a ‘look’ take a picture from every angle. If you are able, ask a neighbour or friend to pop round and ask them for comments and what they are attracted to first on your setup.

The Packing Up

You now have a great stall set up, you have some feedback from a friend or two and you are happy with the look. Photos taken, it is time to pack up.

First consider where you are going with all your items. If you need to walk a long way then you must ensure you have boxes that are stackable and a little trolley to pull your boxes on. (Trolley like this)

If you can reach the stall by vehicle (a luxury usually) still box everything for easy unloading when you arrive at the marketplace.


I would always go with plastic boxes with lids that lock for ease of use. They protect your products from damage and rain and you can stack them too for easy transportation.

If you can only carry a suitcase to the market, then use one that is sturdy and has good wheels. It is not good enough to get a cheap case that will allow water in or damage to occur to your lovely items. Equally, if the case has poor wheels and they break, it will normally be from the farthest part from home or stall!

Buy quality now that you can trust in. (Something like this)

Packing away

Since you are now going to pack away your items, you will be doing it in reverse order to the way you want to lay out your stall.

Take big, heavy items and place them towards the bottom first and use packing materials or rolled up newspaper. You can always give away the newspaper as protective wrap to customers to save you taking it all back. If you are using bubble wrap the same idea can be applied.

Use all the space you can and then label the outside of the box. If you have 3 boxes, then label the first one 3. Then next one label 2 and the last one Label 1. This will also have your table clothes and other display items in it.

This way you know which order to unpack each box when you get to market.

You can apply this to food, bottle, jars, trinkets, glass. Keep everything in good order so you always know what you have and how to unpack it.

When it is all packed up, take a picture. Then find the stop watch on your phone, or use a clock and take note of the time.


Set up your stall just like your best picture was and note the time you are taking. When you are finished, pack up again, also timing yourself!

Do this a couple more times so you are familiar with the layout, the cloths, the displays and the products.

On the last unpacking, get some paper out for a list making exercise.

The Lists

There is nothing worse than getting to the market and not having enough stock or being sold out of what you brought because you forgot to restock.

As you pack your items away now, note what products are in each box on an individual list that will stay with that box.

When it comes to the end of market day, you will be able to easily tell what you need to restock from the list items missing from your box when you pack up.

It is also a mini stock take each time, a record of what you have and what you need to replenish.

I know it seems a little tedious at the moment, but if you are properly practised in the setting up and the small matter of paperwork, you are free to sell to customers knowing you are organised and confident!

As a side note, it will also help you know if anything has been stolen or damaged if you have a list and what impact that will have on your profit margin at the end of the week.

Anything lost, stolen or damaged is a loss to your profit and better to know about it now than when it comes to working out your finances.

Remember: Every penny lost to expense is longer you have to work!


Some market stall traders price their items, others don’t need to as they are selling only one or two products and can usually mark it up on a board nearby.

Those that choose not to list their prices for items on a large stall of many mixed items risk loosing customers though. There is a simple explanation, today we generally shop in a supermarket and we can clearly see the prices of all the items we wish to purchase. No prices makes people feel like they be scammed and they may lose out.

We then visit different competing stores to see which is the best deal and purchase that one. Normally because there is no staff member to talk to, and they also have no negotiating power over the item you are interested in.

The market stall is different in that you know the cost value of your items and can adjust your prices accordingly to make a sale. However, most people need a starting point and it is at that point you need to think about listing a price.

Far better to have you items priced and a sign offering a discount on buying two or more items than to have shy customers pick up an item and not see a price, expect the worst and wander off to the next stand!

Of course there are different thoughts on this topic for the marketplace, but on a personal note, being informed is better than being in the dark. Especially if you have lots of customers at one time!

A small sticker (buy a box of large labels and cut them up), stuck under your item is the best approach if you want to conceal you prices from the main display you have created.


You also might like…. The Market Nosh Show podcast


Additional Items to Remember

Take a chair!

Yup, as much as selling is about being on your feet all day, at some point it will go quiet and you will want lunch!

The chair is not for sitting in and playing with stupid Facebook posts, but is to give the old legs a breather in between sales pitches and chats.

It IS rude to sit and talk to a potential customer. Stand up, engage the person and talk to them. Stand sideways on to them, rather than facing them directly. This creates a friendly and open environment and doesn’t block their view.

Whats the weather like?

Take a raincoat and a jacket. If the market goes quiet for a few hours you may end up being still and get quiet cold.

Your shoes should be comfortable too. If you need to wear two pairs of socks, or buy soft gel insoles, get them before you go. Your feet can really upset your day at the Market!

I have also used stretch half leg compressing socks, to keep your legs feeling great all day. These help keep pressure around the calves and ankles. (something like these)

Take extra batteries

If you are displaying anything that requires batteries make sure you have backups. There is nothing worse than showing a potential customer a product only to have a flat battery. It shows poor organisation.

Take a backup battery for your phone too. You may need to take a number or make a call at the end of the day and your phone is flat. You may also want to show a customer a picture of how you use your product and just then your phone screen goes black and you lose a sale. (Example of phone Backup for more than one charge)

Do I need Lights?

You should always have a head torch at the very least. You may be setting up or packing away in dark or dim light and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared to have a little extra light.

Check with the market you attend if you need to provide your own bulbs for your stall. Some markets require you bring your own.

If you are using fairy lights that use batteries, make sure you have them charged up. Use little LED ones and have a set of backups available. (Batteries here and LED lights here)

Exact Rent


One thing you should have already is rent for the stall. Have the exact change so there is no need to mess about.

Time wasted trying to get the right change is time away from potential customers. Make sure you have it ready for when it is collected.

Lunch and Drinks

Remember to take something to drink and something to eat. You are all about the saving at the moment as you build your stall and although the food at a market will smell enticing, remember you can save on your expenditure by taking your own food along.


Yes it is important to drink while you work. Lack of water normally accounts for the slump in the afternoon because your system is running low. Keep hydrated all day. You lose a lot of liquid just talking.

A water bottle of 2 litres is great for the job, and you can easily refill it during the day if needs be.

Tea/coffee is great, but both will have you dehydrating during the day and needing the bathroom. Again taking you away from your stall and causing you to spend more of your hard-earned cash.


Being prepared is half the battle and also gets you off to a good confident start. Have your stall display ready and practise setting up and taking down. Keep good records of stock, so you can replace items and remember the little things that will make your day that much easier and cost-effective.

If you have enjoyed this lesson, why not tell others about it by either sharing it or just posting a comment on the Market Nosh Facebook Page. It is always great to hear from budding Stall Traders.

You can find out where I have been for The Market Nosh Show podcast by visiting the Instagram page or check out some of the pins on Pinterest.

If you are a market Stall Trader it would be great to have you on the Market Nosh Costers Facebook Page to share your experiences and thoughts with other traders too.


Quick Quiz

  1. How can mocking up your Market Stall help on the market day?
  2. Why should you pack up your stall in reverse?
  3. Name 3 items that will make your day easier and more cost-effective.


Similar Posts