Be inspired by street market traders

Whenever I want to kick-start some ideas for earning cash I head off to my local street market. It always gets my creative juices flowing.

Street market traders are hardworking people. They have to have their finger on the pulse of what the everyday shopper needs, be canny enough to source it at a price which will yield a profit, and then they have to come out in all weathers to make their sales pitch to all you lucky people.

They are usually an honest, down-to-earth bunch of people and some of them really are larger-than-life characters.

I must confess that I don’t usually have time to watch EastEnders, but I suspect that the portrayal of similar characteristics is the key to the programme’s success.

I visited my local market on Saturday and it was buzzing. The air was filled with shout-outs, usually from the flower, fruit, veg and meat traders: ‘Two for two! – Two punnets of raspberries for two quid’… ‘Luvverly rump steak, just the way your old man likes it darling… ’n’ I’ll even throw in a pound of bangers – can’t say fairer than that!’… ‘Lilies! Luvverly lilies – free parnd a bunch and wot an aroma!’…

I came away, after a little bartering, with a few bargains… some of which I actually needed!

A few of the faces have been around for many long years – one old fella has been trading at the market, man and boy, for over 60 years – whilst other faces are brand new; hopeful and expectant.

Some of these newcomers will prosper and continue, and some will drop away. The circle of market life keeps turning.

What I find most interesting as I browse amongst the market stalls is the sheer eclectic variety of goods and services on offer.

I am convinced that anyone thinking of working for themselves could learn from, and be inspired by, a visit to their local street market to generally absorb the vibe.

If you get the chance, get along and see for yourself. If not, then I wanted to give you a brief snapshot of just some of the ways which the traders at my local street market earn their living; be it part or full time:

  • Fruit and veg, flowers and meat – These are the staple bunch of traders to be found in most thriving markets up and down the country.
  • Vinyl records – Often these traders will sell online, but will have a regular following of local buyers who prefer to deal face-to-face, rather than online. Half the fun for them is the exchange of music and vinyl related trivia with someone sharing the same interest.
  • New and second-hand CDs/DVDs – A similar niche to the vinyl niche, but with far less knowledge required by the seller. This is simply selling on the margin. Buy in bulk online, or from car boots etc., add a small mark-up and you’re good to go.
  • Brand new paperback books, or very recent second-hand copies – The guy I saw on my recent visit was selling all his paperbacks at £1 per copy and seemed to be doing a steady trade. This has to be the simplest and easiest stall to set up. You really don’t have to work too hard to get hold of new or second-hand paperbacks for 50p apiece, or less. This is a perfect money-spinner in the months leading up to the long summer holidays. Not everyone now has a Kindle you know, and at a quid apiece, these paperbacks make cheap holiday reading.
  • Old and collectable books – This is the type of stall that I have run myself, when time has allowed. These traders will again probably be selling their books online, via sites like Amazon, eBay or Abe Books. If you have sold in this niche for any period of time you will appreciate that the more obscure books won’t sell locally: not for any money, but they will sell for good money online as they are exposed to a worldwide market. Conversely, the more popular books with larger print runs will be ten-a-penny online and not worth bothering with – especially with postage on top – but they will be popular and will sell for reasonable money when sold locally.
  • Tarot readings and sales of associated products – This is a strange one – for a street market that is; but it seems to work. The question in your mind probably is: ‘I’m not psychic, nor a medium… so surely that’s not for me.’ Well, I’m not saying that you don’t need to be sensitive to your clients, but as this particular stall states: ‘This is a tarot reading – the reader is not psychic or a medium.’ Therefore you literally just need to buy a pack of tarot cards and learn how to read them. (Not hard. I bought a pack myself years ago, and it’s strangely addictive!) Additionally, you can sell tarot paraphernalia such as decks of tarot cards, pendulums and books related to esoteric matters in general.
  • Model kits (trains, planes and aeroplanes) – This is a very popular stand on a Saturday, as kids often drag their dads along (or is it the other way around?) to spend their pocket-money.

If you are seeking a dose of inspiration, I urge you to get down to your local market for a browse.

These small business ideas are not just limited to street markets. They can be taken and run from home; possibly with local adverts or a simple website – as well as on sites like eBay, Amazon or Etsy.

However, if you are interested in trying your hand at running your very own market stall, then next week I will be adding to this list of interesting niche business ideas, and also showing you just how easy it is to get started and set up as a market trader.

It really is a fun experience.

Until then, have a great week.

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