Setting Up A Successful Stall Part Three

We have covered the fundamental aspects of setting up a successful stall and legal obligations. Many thanks for the support and positive comments on previous articles. Today we will consider setting up the table and presentation.


Clearly, I cannot cover every product genre in the article. However, the basic ideas in this article will provide a real insight into setting up one’s table and how presentation can make the difference between success or failure. Financial aspects are considered in the next article.

Whatever you are selling, remember you are the wholesaler’s customer. And, wholesalers and suppliers will sell to anyone, there is no mystery in purchasing, if you have the money you can buy the goods, end of story. If you have plenty of money you may be able to negotiate a discount. However, there are good reasons not to become overstocked. In a competitive market fast moving lines and good turnover keeps you cash rich. I will write about this in next week’s article. Remember, a supplier cannot survive on a single customer, and their stocks will be available to your competition. There are some exceptions. Natural products, such as crystals do have a certain uniqueness, but a visit to a wholesaler will be eye-opening! If you’re expecting uniqueness think again. All suppliers have vast ranges of products, also available to all who can pay so how do you choose?

When looking at the wholesaler’s catalogues or visiting suppliers, review the goods carefully. And do not buy from your perspective! Think about the customers; they will not have the same preferences as you! Therefore, you have to buy a varied mix of products. Initially, you take a chance, but this means not buying vast amounts of any product. Yes! The original blue box Nag Champa is a top seller, however, the competition will carry stocks of the same. So, the key is to stock high-quality and different lines. Yes! This is a big learning curve, and you must be prepared to sell sticking stock at low prices, but lessons will be learned.

The rule is to buy a real mix of products. Buy items which can be sold in a reasonable price range. The stall which sells items from £2 to £200 will always make sales. Do not think about building a massive customer base initially. Think about providing customers with an excellent choice of products.

At the event…

It is essential to put stock into clear stacking plastic boxes. In the boxes, you keep the stock and if there are multiple’s of the same best-selling line, only put out one or two of the products on the table. Keep the excess stock in the boxes. When an item is sold, replace the vacant place.

This means a more varied and exciting stock can go put onto the table. Yes, there are cases where a varied stock of a similar product can be placed on the table. However, in the initial stages of start-up, there is a need to attain an excellent return on investment. It is all very well having a  splash of your favourite product line, but providing a good choice of products and a wide price range is better. Something for everyone is the phrase to keep in mind.

Think about this aspect before making final (or any) purchases. If the object is success, you’ll find it by drawing and writing lists of products. Get to know the stock before it is delivered. Buying stock without thought and care will have an inevitable result known as failure.


When visiting an event, no matter what the genre, look at the stalls. Now break them down into three groups. Tidy, indifferent, and untidy. Now watch, and watch with care, which tables have attracted the most significant number of customers? Work out for yourself why some are busy, and others are not. But there will be certain aspects, maybe the prices are keen, the smallholder has worked out his/her selling formula, and the presentation is exceptional. (Aspects of salesperson skills is covered in the following article).

There is one certainty, stalls with the best presentation have the best advantage.  Immaculate presentation, clean and tidy cloths, well set out products, and clearly price marked will always rule over the indifferent stall. Over the years, at various events, I have witnessed stallholders with smelly mould-stained cloths, no covers at all, or covers not symmetrical with the floor. I’ve seen large items at the front of the stall hiding the small ones behind. The small list provides an idea about how lack of care can ruin sales possibilities.

And there are different ways of presentation. I used to visit motorcycle auto jumbles. One stall was like a honeypot surrounded by customers. Once I could see the stall, the reason for its popularity was evident. Items have been sandblasted or cleaned; all are marked with identity tags and prices. People attempting to haggle are told there is no room for negotiation. I get to know John Hull very well, and his opinion is clean the items, list them correctly and sell them at a premium. He has an incredible knowledge of his field. John made an absolute fortune by daring to be different and having the best presentation. 

So, once you have assessed the way some succeed and others struggle, the choice is made to be the best. And this means using your plain notebook, pencil and ruler. Draw out your table designs from the front, back and top. Use your imagination, 


In general terms, every item must have a price tag. Customers do not like having to ask for a few reasons. One – They have a budget and find it more comfortable to keep their budget to themselves. Two – When customers ask and are disappointed by the item being out of reach, they can be embarrassed. Three – Customers are used to seeing prices and see price tags as professional.

Another reason for pricing is to help you, the vendor, in certain situations. And if there is a KNOWN profit margin, you can, on occasion, make a deal. I was once at a show selling old stock. The usual margins were X2 – which means buy at 10 and sell at 20. I decided to give 25% off, which means buying at 10 and selling at 15. The customers rightly saw real bargains to be had, and by the time Sunday afternoon arrived, I’d sold out, and when the account was settled a healthy profit was made.

Think about the reality of selling from a stall. Do you really need to get near high-street prices? Are overheads the same as a full-time shop? There is a need to consider the customer’s perception of the sales platform. If they can buy the same product at the same price in the high street, then this may be where they spend the money. 

The object of any stall holder is to accept the trading parameters. Are the products unique? Are you trading in a focused arena? Can you earn a week’s wage over a weekend? These are all the types of questions which should be asked. 

And to gain customer confidence, one has to demonstrate a great degree of professionalism, which is why the series of articles is written. Building customer confidence is paramount to success. Fair prices, contact details and appearance are keys to success. And to gain initial sales and profits, it becomes essential to price competitively.

I will cover ‘own brand’ products and expand further on financial aspects next week.

Many thanks for reading,

Ian Timothy

Comments Are Always Welcome

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.