Setting Up An Independent Market


Street markets are a great way for attracting footfall to an area and increasing turnover for existing shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels as well as for stallholders.

They are an essential tool in urban regeneration – attracting buzz and revenues, they bring a completely new demographic into an area which might otherwise suffer from quiet Sunday trading or from patchy footfall throughout the tourist season.

Prior to setting up the Independent Bath Market in Abbey Green, I researched markets in Frome, London, Cirencester, Stroud, Winchester and Marlborough in order to learn the procedures that needed to be put in place.

I created a document file and website for the Independent Bath Market which included a proposal outlining in detail the type of market it would be; times and dates; the traders and their stalls; selection procedures and criteria for traders; documents required; hardware required; costs incurred; benefits to the city; safety procedures and market stewards, PR marketing and social media; cleaning and closure.

Gavin Eddy, the founder of the Frome Independent Market, was very helpful in breaking down all the different processes – setting up a market is quite complex and time consuming, so do make sure that you have a dedicated person or team to carry out the requirements. Allison Herbert, of Bathnes Council, was also instrumental in telling me which people to refer to in the council for queries and how to pre-empt questions and overcome challenges.

The following is a synopsis of how the Independent Bath Market was set up in Abbey Green – but this model can be rolled out to any city because the same documents need to be filled in, irrespective of location.

Planning Permission

The holding of a market is covered under planning legislation.

A market can be held without the need to apply for planning permission for 14 days per calendar year.  As the Bath Christmas markets already use the land in question for more than 14 days any additional market requires planning permission.  The need for planning permission relates to the actual use of the land rather than any building or structures therefore temporary market stalls are considered a change of use of the land.

Street Closure

If any part of the site for the market is accessible by cars you will then need to apply for street closure and you will need to hire or purchase road closure signs and traffic cones. Abbey Green is mainly pedestrianised, but it is open on the Abbey Gate side of the square. You will need to email the traffic management team of your council in order to get the correct Road Closure form. The road needs to be closed for the duration of the market as prior to that time and after that time traders need to access the pitch site by car or van and then they need to clear their stall and wares at the end. Street closure costs £150 per annum.

Street Trading Consents

The Council Licensing Department will need to be contacted so that you can get a trader’s license for each stall – they will need a trader’s badge too. You will need to pay for an application fee, street trader consents and badges.

Public Liability Insurance

You will need £5 million public liability insurance and to ensure that all of the stallholders carry their own insurance too. We used insurance broker G M Imber & Sons Ltd.

Event License – risk assessment and event management plan

Contact the Events Department of the Council to make sure that your event is scheduled for a day when there are no other markets running at the same time in the city. The Events team will be able to guide you and send you documentation of how to carry out a public event safely, write a risk assessment and an event management schedule and diary. You will need to keep a contact record for key market team members, the market steward and traders as well as cover every eventuality. Ask for a meeting – face to face most issues can be resolved. Here is what our plan included:

Introduction – describing the event in full

Plan – a site plan of the streets, stalls, A Boards, closed roads

Event Contacts – a list of names of all the market staff, stewards, contractors and stallholders, telephone numbers, emails etc.

Programme of activities – times and descriptions from start to finish

Method Statements – including market insurance, any hardware installation methods

Organisational matrix – list of the organisation of any food stalls, loos, waste disposal methods, electricity needed, lost children meeting point, noise control, heritage road surface or tree control,

Licensing – Temporary Event Notices required

Risk, health and safety – emergency procedures, first aid, medical procedures, ambulance access

Crowd management – entrances and exits

Transport plan – if you encourage visitors to come by car, car parks, park-and-ride, bus, train, coach, foot etc.

Communication strategy – with residents, audience, staff etc – through emails, social media, fliers, meetings, door-to-door etc.

Finding traders

Put a call out for traders as soon as possible – keep an eye out for the best makers, crafters, artisans, growers, producers and traders at other markets and on social media. Instagram in particular is a very good place to find excellent artisans and it is very visual, so you can see the standard of the stalls. Decide what sort of criteria are important and stick with them – for example the Independent Bath Market only accepts applications for traders in the Bath and Somerset area, providing a sense of place and provenance is very important.

Creating a website, fliers, blog and photography

You can create a relatively cheap and simple website through – they have plenty of templates for you to choose from. You can upload photos and create an About page and a page for visitors, traders and for contacting you. Make sure you set out all the information – trading dates and times, car parking, stallholder information, where to eat and drink, whether there will be hot food vendors or not etc, etc. Every question needs to be answered.

Graphic designer Dina Carolina Espinosa and illustrator Eleanor Hardiman created tour market fliers respectively and Minute Man Printers  in Walcot Street did the printing for fliers and A Boards. We created really simple fliers to hand out to shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, bakeries, hotels and B and Bs throughout the city. I also contacted the Visit Bath office so they could display the market fliers in the Visitor Information Centre – we are members of Visit Bath.

To make sure that you get maximum press and PR exposure for the market you may consider employing a professional photographer on the day – this is important to create the sort of imagery that will attract future traders and customers. Pixie App did the digital payments for the market and  Guy Joynson and Hazel Joanne did our market day photography.

Social media interaction

You can disseminate the information via blogs, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Follow the traders, the main influencers in your area-town-city, and try to create a sense of community and belonging on social media so that traders feel part of a movement and visitors feel welcome and included.

Be consistent about posting photographs and event information and create the buzz round the event. One of the trader selection criteria was that all traders should have a professional website and good social media platforms – this is important in such a visual age as the best ambassadors and announcers for your market are the stall holders.

Writing the proposal for the stakeholders and residents

In order to ensure residents, landlords, hoteliers and other shop keepers do not feel concerned about the market taking place, make sure that you have a well written proposal that shows you are in total control of everything to do with the market and you outline the financial benefits to shopkeepers and stallholders. The Independent Bath Market excluded any hot food traders because in Abbey Green and Abbey Street there are so many tearooms, cafes, restaurants and pubs selling breakfast, lunch and dinner, and their income needs to be secured. From noise, to mess, rubbish, opening and closing, make sure you have a document at the ready that shows exactly what you are going to do, how, when and where so that you can allay fears and encourage support amongst stakeholders at the click of a button. It’s not just the council you need to convince – there are lots of stakeholders in every street!

Hardware and spacing for the market

Having bespoke stalls made for your market can be very expensive so in the beginning you will need to ask the traders to bring their own tables and gazebos in the event of rain.

Walk the site so that you know exactly how many stalls you can get into which areas – allocate spaces for bigger pitches and also spaces for suitcase stalls {literally just a small table and a suitcase}. Positioning food stalls together can create a foodie hub. Perishable goods sellers are better placed in a north facing, shady spot. You might be able to create small areas for sitting down and sampling ciders, beers, juices etc. If you do commission tables and gazebos, in order to create a uniform aesthetic, make sure your specifications are totally clear: product design, waterproofing, materials used, ease of assembly, ease of storage, care and cleaning etc. Make sure the manufacturer is experienced at creating professional market hardware.

Registering the market company and getting a bank account

You will need to choose the directors and register your market as a Not For Profit Company or a Community Interest Company with Companies House. This means that any surplus funds from the market are redirected back into the market {maybe to purchase bunting, stalls, pay for advertising in a local paper, pay for a band or street entertainers or pay for PR and marketing}. The registration process is relatively simple – but we did ask our accountant for help and guidance.

You will need to go to your local bank to create a new bank account in the name of the market – take with you personal ID, the registration documents of your market, starting float or deposit monies, stationery with the market address and details. Decide who the designated signatories will be.

Financing the market

Costs vary widely according to where you are setting up and what skills are in your core team.

You will need to rally support and galvanise financial backing for the market – this might come from the local community, businesses, crowdfunding, philanthropists, the BID {Business Improvement District} or charities. Set out and list your costs clearly and plan how you aim to meet them or minimise them. Below is an average schedule of costs – you might incur more or less depending on how much you can DIY.

Ask local businesses {graphic designers, photographers, printers etc} if they can give you a discount – a Not For Profit Comunity Interest Company is helping the community and so the community might help you financially.

Estimated costs

1.       Estimated Council costs:

For the planning permission costs, road closure costs, street trading permits application fee {one off paid to the council}, street trading badges, street trading pitches fees, etc you should budget to pay roughly £800 for the first market, and then £500 thereafter.  Some costs are one off, and others are repeated costs.

Deposit for hiring the site-park-land for the day = £1000 {paid to the council as a hire fee bond}. These costs are approximate.

2.       Estimated additional  costs:

Market website and domain name, illustration and graphic design, printing for fliers, A Boards, traffic cones for street closure, closed road signs, advertising in local magazine, photographer for the website-PR-media etc may cost you approximately £1500. These costs are approximate because so much depends on your team’s capabilities, skills etc.

Creating the core team

Delegate responsibilities so that you have a core team to operate the market – from organising the traders on opening to making sure there is a First Aid Kit, putting up A Boards, handing out fliers, answering queries and promoting the event, call on reliable people in your community to help. Ensure everyone has a designated role and have a meeting to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing on the day and how to cope with eventualities.

There needs to be a Market Manager and several assistants – make lists and tick them off.

On the day

When the traders arrive make sure you have the numbered traders badges and site plan ready so you can show each trader where to go. Make sure you analyse the footfall numbers, keep an eye on any difficulties, make sure the traders are happy, go round and see that the traders have what they need {for example, we make lemonade jugs for hot days} and deal with any customer complaints promptly and politely. At the Independent Bath Market traders need to reapply every month – so keep a close eye on popular stalls because obviously you want them to come back! If the traders feel they have had a profitable and fulfilling day and the visitors feel that they had a fun experience, then you have a successful market! There might be seasonal changes: ice cream sellers in summer, roasted chestnut sellers in winter, wild greens foragers in spring etc, etc.

Never rest on your laurels

What can you do to improve your market? Every organiser needs to ask himself or herself this question, because customers will need a repeat reason for coming back. Have a meeting with your core team after each market day to ask how you can do better next time – make the necessary changes without losing the key ethos and concept behind your market. This is where your original market proposal plan comes in handy – this is the guiding map and lodestar behind the project that will keep you true to its aims, vision and mission.

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