Our Stall in Spitalfields Market

Yesterday I organized a market stall in Spitalfield's Market, near Liverpool Street Station. A market has been operating in that area since 1638, when King Charles I granted a license for vegetables and meat to be sold in that area. In the 20th century the area became a haven for artists, and many now-famous artists and designers began their retail careers in the market.

This is what we at "Playroom Collective" hoped to achieve by organizing a market stall in the prestigious market. But, however glamorous it might seem to have a stall in Spitalfields, it certainly very hard work, for very small returns.

It seems that the economic downturn has hit craft and antique markets. In the past a recession usually boosted the trade of markets such as Spitalfields because consumers were opting to buy locally (and usually cheaper), rather than spending their money in the high street stores.

However, the most recent recession has hit particularly hard, and this might be due to a change in how people buy products. Now, many people would rather look for their bargains online, either buy searching ebay, amazon, and other large e-retailers, in addition to looking on publicly run sites like gumtree and craigslist.

I talked to many of the vendors at the market yesterday, and most expressed concerned opinions about how hard it is to break even on any given day of trading. The price for a stall on Friday is a mere £15; as a group we Camberwell artists sold only £13 worth of goods (that's RRP, not cost price, so no profit was made...). We did not break even, as a group, but it was a valuable exercise in retail management, so definitely worth the expense.

The vendors mentioned that trade usually picked up from September to Christmas.

The people I spoke to said that their presence in the market was a publicity and "marketing" effort. When customers saw them consistently (every friday, for example), they would be more likely to call or email them on other days to place orders or ask questions. If you are prepared to occasionally make a loss, then having a stall at Spitalfields might be the right thing to boost your business into the public eye.

Another thing to consider is the set-up cost of the stall. I arrived with a white table-cloth, but hadn't realized that one really needed a "modesty" cloth for the front of the table, as well as a backdrop. I was lucky, and my neighbour lent me some black cloth to dress the stall.

Signage and Branding
I printed several signs on A4 paper that advertised "Playroom Collective." These were sufficient for the first attempt at a stall, but in the future one would want a larger and more catchy banner or sign. You need something that will tempt punters to browse your goods.

Marketer beware: Spitalfields does not provide chairs for the vendors. I spent the entirety of the day sitting on an upturned carry-on case, which was (needless to say) rather uncomfortable and frequently precarious.

For a full list of other things to consider when operating a market stall click HERE.


  1. Markets are tough aren't they? I've been doing markets for a few months now in Melbourne (Australia) and some days you just don't make your money back. And when you're a very small-scale business, you can't afford to make a weekly loss just to increase your visibility.

    Finding a way to sell my stuff without exorbitant stall fees or wholesale discounts is an ongoing project of mine. Good luck finding the best way to sell your stuff too!

  2. Thanks for the comment. Markets certainly are tough. I've actually been making more money by doing custom orders for people, as well as selling in retail (wholesaling my items to larger stores). Once I get those two areas of my business streamlined I think I'm going to stop attempting markets. My number one reason for not wanting to continue is how exhausting they are!

    Anyway, all the best with your sales in Melbourne. Sometimes a lucky break comes at the last minute, just like your restaurant meal always comes when you get up to go to the bathroom! :-)

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  4. Hi Jane, I know it's been awhile, but I'd love to hear more from you about your Spitalfields experience. I'm looking into trading there in April, mainly to increase my brand awareness and just wanted some general insight into what to expect and how to prepare best. Thank you!

  5. Dear Jane,
    Thanks for the very useful post on your Spitalfields experience. I will be exhibiting for the first time next month and was curious to know how you have clipped your sketches on to the thread. Can you suggest the best place to buy the thread and clips as I needed one to hang my quilts.
    Thank you.


Hearing from you makes my day bright with sunshine. I try to respond to each comment on your own blogs. Who knows I might make a few new friends along the way! X Jane