Street Market: Quick Read Guide

Author Urban Foundry

This guide was commissioned by the Welsh Government to help local authorities and third-party market operators develop local street markets. It focuses on outdoor street markets, rather than covered indoor markets, and the content is drawn from experiences of establishing and running a series of successful award-winning street markets.

Date added 26 November 2021
Last updated 26 November 2021

This guide for market operators begins by stating the variety of benefits that the delivery of street markets can bring to a town centre including increased footfall, an improved local economy, greater employment opportunities, increased tourism and an enhancement of the area’s sense of community.

The first section explores how to properly plan your market and can be applied whether your operations are either for profit or not-for-profit. Regarding pitch fees, the guide states that this will depend on whether the market must recover all of its costs and also the likely trading circumstances – traders will pay a premium in high footfall areas, but the same product and trader will pay less at markets where footfall is lower. Pricing should be transparent for traders and a flat rate charge is usually the simplest and most workable approach. 

Ideally, the guide states, markets need to be located in areas of good natural footfall e.g. main access routes for town centres, sub-centres, high streets and in close proximity to residential areas. The market layout should also follow good urban design principles. Stalls should not block existing shops and should be laid out in ‘block’ format wherever possible with ample space between for circulation – and produce should face customers. When thinking about the framework for your street market, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Power
  • Toilets for customers and traders
  • Refuse/waste
  • Parking

If you are running a night market you will also need to consider lighting.

The guide then goes to explore the regulatory and licencing considerations you’ll need to make before running a market. It states you should check whether there are any covenants or byelaws related to markets in the local area, as these will usually be limited to a certain geographical radius from the market they apply to, but within that area they can be highly restrictive. It’s also likely that the local authority will have a Safety Advisory Group (SAG) or equivalent, which ties together the emergency services and other key parties that need to be consulted if you are delivering any form of outdoor event, and a Street Trading License is almost certainly required to operate a market on Council land. These will be issued and regulated by the Trading Standards team in the Council (or its equivalent).

When thinking about the content of your market, there are some key questions to consider. Is it food and drink only, or is it broader? Does it include crafts and/or street food? Is it a destination event? How often will you hold the street market? Competition is good but assess footfall and consider how many traders you could cope with that have the same or very similar products. Live music or performance can add to the draw of the market and create a great atmosphere but consider that crowds may congregate in front of performers, so consider placement.

One of the most important things you can do for your market is tell people about it, so you’ll need to think about marketing. It sounds obvious but you need a name – the simpler the better. Double check that the name isn’t trademarked, and even if not, see if there are other markets using that name elsewhere. Make the best use out of your social media channels, especially because they provide free marketing, but don’t forget that flyers, posters and banners still have their place – get to know local shops that surround the market location, particularly those for whom market day offers a clear boost to trade (cafes, for example).

Before running your market make sure that you have conducted adequate health and safety checks. Have a simple written risk assessment that all staff on duty must read before starting work and keep a copy on site. If an independent operator is managing the market(s), they will require public liability insurance. Market insurance is available from specialist insurers. Market traders should be asked to provide copies of their public liability insurance certificates annually. Remember that trading standards may wish to have sight of insurance certificates at any time.

Finally, remember to monitor the impact of your market using economic as well as social/cultural and environmental metrics. Gathering data can be time-consuming and expensive but you may be able to reduce the cost by asking students or local volunteers. If you can, use more than one method; for example, you could conduct a simple questionnaire and have some one-to-one discussions with key stakeholders. As with all evaluative work the important thing to do is to focus on what you need to measure and to tailor the approach to the available resources. It doesn’t have to be too detailed - it’s a light touch evaluation to see what your impacts are.