Knowing what you are going to sell on a market stall generally comes easy to those who have a passion or create their own items, but what do you do if you have no idea? What’s my Niche?
Markets sell everything from the humble potato to the most expensive laptops money can buy. They vary from size and by customer base. Knowing your marketplace will help you to market to the correct audience!
We will be covering how to start your market research, asking who your customers are and what is available to you?
To find other lessons click How to Start a Market Stall.
This in itself will form a whole chapter later on in the course but for now we will briefly examine some basic concepts for doing market research.
To know your market is to be successful in your market!
It is that simple. It is also that complex! Primarily if you want to sell at the market, you best visit the market to find out what is being sold and who is selling it. That is the first step of market research.
If you have 3 or 4 markets you think you will be attending, visit them! Stay the full day, and notice when people come and go, what do people mainly walk out with, which type of stall is getting the most visitors!
Begin by examining the marketplace you are thinking about working in. Take a notebook with you and do a little research.
If you go to a spice market and you are thinking about selling underwear, you may find you are targeting the wrong market and your stall will end up with low sales and result in failure. However, if you are in a clothing market, then the underwear stall may be just what people are looking for!
Have a look around first. What do you see being sold? Is there more of one item than others.?
It gets interesting if there are lots of categories in one marketplace. Here you will still need to find what the ‘norm’ is. it may fall under household items or artisan foods, with an emphasis on the type of quality of product being sold.
Make your first Note:
- Marketplace name
- Marketplace type
Type of People
It is always interesting to talk about people as a category. There are those who will go to a marketplace believing that this is where the cheapest deal is. Others go for the variety. Some like to be able to haggle and others just want the buzz of being with other people in an exciting environment.
What type of people are attending the market you are looking at? Notice how they are dressed, the types of bags they are carrying and the age of the people.
This will focus your market research further by examining age and prosperity of potential customers. A person who has the means to buy expensive clothing and walk around with a poodle are not going to be buying cheap clothing from your market stall. They are looking for bespoke items, and quality food products organically farmed and well displayed.
Equally a person who attends a market for the best value fruit and veg will not buy from your stall with high prices, even if it is organically produced! They just do not have the budget to afford those luxuries. They may be there to find the best value for their money and that is important to note when marketing to different audiences.
- Type of people
- Value market or Bespoke/Artisan Marketplace
Time of Day
The time of day you attend a marketplace will vary greatly. Some marketplaces start very early with the bulk of the customers arriving within the first hour and a half.
Other markets see customers arriving mid morning to pick up some items and have a wander about.
You will need to spend the day at your prospective markets so you can see the way it functions. Get there just before the market opens and walk around to see who is there. Notice the way the Market ‘wakes up’. Does it start with a bang or is it slow, building to mid morning?
As the morning progresses keep noticing the times that it has an influx. Is there a steady stream of people? Talk to some stall owners and ask when they are most busy while you are browsing.
Another factor to consider is pay-day. This always has a drastic effect on who is buying and what is being sold. If pay-day is far away you may find people buying necessary items, while after payday they may be buying more luxury items.
- Note early, mid and late times and amount of customers
- Day of the month – before or after payday
Type of Stalls
As you wander around look at the types of stalls that people are visiting. Are they spending a long time discussing jewellery and yet are buying fruit and veg quickly?
The spice stall may offer samples and the burger stand may only get going after mid morning.
What is being sold in this marketplace you are in? Is it mainly food? If so, what type of food? Are people visiting all the food stands or are some being visited more frequently?
- Note the types of stalls are in the marketplace
- Which get the most traffic?
Having done this, visit the next marketplace you may be selling in and get a little more of a feel about it. Go through your note taking. Observe everything you can. Note down the stalls you are drawn to. What food stands did you buy food from and what drinks stand did you buy your coffee from. Note the stands which you avoided!
Once you have all this detailed information about your customers, marketplace and your own likes and dislikes you will be forming ideas about what you may want to sell on your own market stall.
What Niche should I choose?
Your notebook now is a wealth of market research and you will be able to focus on what you will be selling on your future stall. We now need to narrow down some of the options you have available.
Fruit and Veg
If you are thinking about fruit and veg, you must consider the necessary requirement of sourcing and storing fresh produce.
First, most fruit and veg markets open in the early hours of the morning to sell to trader for the marketplaces. You will be up at 3am to go and buy your fruit and veg and you will be on your market stall from 6am.
Second, this is a very quick turnover business as you need to aim to buy what you will sell in the day. The aim is to buy the exact quantity every day to sell out each day so you can buy fresh again tomorrow. No stock to carry back from your stall. No storage costs over night.
Remember, food ripens quickly in the sun and some fruits can be damaged by the cold! Aim to sell seasonal foods, and even wrap packs of vegetables for easy stew recipes or quick easy meals and fruit shakes. This is a fast way to get your produce moving fast. It’s about convenience!
If you are thinking clothing, you should note that this market is very competitive! You first have to compete with supermarkets who can sell clothing very cheap. Selling cheap clothing in a market place is really only an option if there is no other choice available.
Look at this from a customer’s perspective. A supermarket has a returns policy, multiple sizes, and changing rooms. They want to move a lot of stock fast and regularly have deals on. Are you able to compete?
Perhaps focus on necessary items that supermarkets don’t always offer. Jackets, fitness clothing that helps with training and looks good. You will need to have a passion for dealing with constant requests for different sizes and be able to talk about the latest trends.
The bespoke stall is one of the reasons people visit marketplaces. Your personal items make it to the hands of people who want something different from the mass-produced items on the shelf.
Be prepared for customers who want to always reduce your price. Remember your hard work is worth the effort for selling the items. Again focus your energy on the marketplace you are in. Selling specialty blown glass Christmas decorations in April may not be what the marketplace is for. You will have to note the price points of other bespoke items in the marketplace.
From there you can gauge what price your potential customers will be will to spend on your handmade products. I know my mom makes amazing embroidery pictures, but to sell one based on the number of hours one small picture takes to create would not be suitable in a marketplace selling cheap phone chargers.
However, in an artisan or bespoke marketplace, this may just be the correct customer to market too.
This can be very hit or miss. In my experience it is the smaller electronics that win here. Headphones, charging cables, chargers, batteries, screen covers, value external hard drives, FM radios etc, seem to be what people are looking for.
You are competing with Amazon here. They are the main leaders, but one thing you can offer that Amazon is currently unable to offer is immediate availability. The customer is there and you have the product ready for them to purchase.
The downside is your stock needs to be varied and you will be required to carry it backwards and forwards to have it available where ever you are. Layout will be vital, as will the slightly exotic. Flashing lights, novelty telephones and the talking bin are all fun and if the price is right, great for presents.
Selling DVDs and music CDs are really something that has passed by and unless you are an absolute enthusiast it will be difficult for you to make much on this type of stall.
If you are going to specialise then it will be rare records or memorabilia that will make it here. This will present you with challenges in the way of protecting your precious items. Equally you will need to consider insurance and will more than likely have a large outlay initially.
Think about buying from visitor too, to increase your fan base and market yourself as the go to person for that unique find!
People need to eat! What they eat depends on where you are. From your research you will notice what types of foods are on offer. You’ll need to fit in so no point marketing a New York Style hamburger as the same guy on the other side of the marketplace. You are not going to make friends that way.
Do your own version of a burger. Perhaps have a handmade bunless burger with fries, and your own signature sauce. If you are going veggy, you may need to bring pre-prepared foods to the market place to sell.
Everything you decide to do here is dependant on hygiene though. DO NOT neglect the fact you may kill people with poor hygiene from a growth of bacteria that can quickly spread through your whole stall.
If you are cooking, take note of the rules associated with the marketplace. Check if gas canisters are allowed or is it electricity only? If you are cooking with boiling hot fat, do you need to secure the equipment in a special area of your stall?
Hot or cold? Some days it’s great to have a hot cup of coffee, but if it comes from a cheap jar, forget it. I would rather buy a fizzy drink or bottle of water. Other days a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice is just perfect. The smell causes all the senses to go off in your nose and the refreshing feeling gets you started for the day.
Will you be selling liquor and if so, you will need a licence? Also make sure of the time of day you can sell liquor from? If the market is going to be near closing when you are only just opening up then you will not be successful. Choose this niche wisely.
There are plenty of options available for this niche, and it is easy to get set up and selling immediately. Think of the health drinks you could offer, or vitamin enriched drinks to take away. Special recipes or even the competitions you could run for the best flavours.
You only have to look at how Innocent fruit drinks started and how they have progressed as a fresh fruit drink supplier.
Another area that you may find at marketplaces are kitchen utility stalls. They have the odd items you always need in the kitchen and never remember to buy or replace. Wooden spoons, timers, dish towels and jugs.
If you are going into this niche, think about the marketplace again. Does it already have one or will you be the only supplier? How will you market you items? Are they quality items that may even be great as a gift or a better replacement? Do you have cheaper alternatives?
You will need to carry your stock around too, because with variety comes weight, but there are a number of ways that you can market in this niche.
This to me is the “odds and ends” stall. You want a 5amp fuse, this is where you find it. A glove mitten for the oven and a snow shovel, no problem. Anything goes here, and these stalls can be very useful to market goers. Be prepared for lots of stock! You will have boxes with all sorts of items all the time.
It is also the type of stall that needs to follow trends relatively closely. To be successful, knowing that a freak snow fall is coming may just be the right time to sell your snow shovel and sleds.
The best laid out stall I have seen was where every category had a box. They were stackable and well labelled. The stall was not thrown out but very organised and the owner knew where everything was.
Great fun to have but can become a nightmare once there are many items and no clear access to your stall! You will probably need a lock up to store your stock so consider the extra cost here if you you do not have your own garage.
The title, “What’s my Niche?”, suggests that there will be a magic answer here in the conclusion!
Sorry, no such luck! You still have to make the decision about what to sell, but by following the steps above you will be a lot closer to getting a market stall that sells to people who are looking for particular products.
If you really don’t know where to start, buy a box of oranges and sell them! Sell them in juice, bags or as tasty vitamin C boosts to ward of the winter flu. Main thing is you will certainly know what you want to do pretty quick after you get out there.
Looking forward to seeing you on the Facebook Group, Market Nosh Costers, to discuss your thoughts and ideas on the topics mentioned above. It would be great to know what market stall you run and how you decided on it.
We start the next Chapter next week – Know your stuff! Looking forward to seeing you there.
- What is market research?
- Why do the type of customers matter to what you sell?
- What is vital to running a food stall?