Become a market trader

Getting started is easy!Open market trader

Markets can be a quick way to start your own business and become your own boss. However, it is not always the easiest way to make a living but it can be lucrative and rewarding. In the end your success will depend to a large extent on your own judgement and initiative.

There are several types of retail markets, but the two main types of market for start-up businesses are the covered market hall, which are the predecessors to the covered shopping malls and out of town retail centres or open markets, where traders often provide their own stalls.

Choosing a product line

If you do not already have an established business then the first thing you must do is to decide which line you would like to sell.

Assess the competition

Your entire success may be determined by the line you sell and it may well be worthwhile undertaking some research into the likely competition you may be facing from established traders, both on your intended market and in that particular town centre.

Visit the markets to assess competition and customer needs so that you are able to identify a strong product line that is new and interesting and not currently being sold on the market.

Calderdale's markets service regulates goods sold and in some cases will limit the number of traders selling certain lines.

Seek advice from other traders

If you know other market traders seek their advice, especially in relation to where to source your goods. Established traders have had many years of experience and can often point out the pitfalls.

If you need further information or help contact the markets service on 01422 393585 or e-mail us at:

We will be happy to advise you on how the markets work and give advice on becoming a trader.

Opportunities for new traders

We have some great opportunities to help new traders:

  • Traders could receive up to 50% discount on rental prices for a fixed period, plus other reductions for continued occupancy and / or new unrepresented goods;
  • 'My first market stall' is a scheme for new traders from within the borough (subject to availability). Your rent is free for month 1, then discounted at 75% for months 2 and 3, 50% for months 4-6, 25% for months 7-9, and then full rental for months 10-12. There is also a package of support on offer including:
  • 1 to 1 advice meeting with our Business Enterprise Officer: learn about self-employment, starting a business, business plans and cashflow forecasts, plus what help is available, followed by a follow-up meeting after four weeks;
  • advice / mentoring service by telephone or email;
  • two months public liability insurance cover;
  • National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) advice on how to increase sales;
  • support and guidance on promoting your business.

National support

Operated by market traders for market traders, the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) was formed to collectively represent the interest of market traders.

The National Market Traders Federation can provide advice and information on any aspect of markets, market trading and business insurance. The federation also represents traders on a local, national and international level with the aim of enhancing the industry and preserving the livelihoods of its members.

Trader responsibilities

Yearly Accounts

By becoming a self-employed market trader you alone are held responsible for the payment of your tax and national insurance contributions. If you are a married woman, you have the choice to opt out. You can pay your contributions by stamping a card, or by setting up a direct debit at your bank.

You must also keep a record of all expenditure / income in order to complete your yearly accounts. Grants and training may be available through the Business Link Programme which can help with book keeping skills.

If your turnover exceeds £54,000 in any 12 month period or less, it will be necessary to register for VAT. This means that if your goods are standard rated, 20% (or the current prevailing rate) of your sales will be paid to the Customs and Excise.

You are of course entitled to claim the VAT you have paid on your purchases. After your first year of trading, you will be required to submit accounts to the Inland Revenue, unless you wish to receive a very high tax assessment.

Many traders choose to hire an accountant who will give advice on bookkeeping and taxation and often save traders more than the accountant costs to employ.

Public Liability Insurance

You will also require Public Liability Insurance, which maybe obtained from the organisations below (alternatively you may wish to consult an Insurance Broker):

  • National Market Traders Federation, Tel: 01226 749021
  • M Imber Insurance Brokers Ltd, Tel: 0207 231 5005
  • Combined Market Traders Insurance Association, Tel: 0208 500 8489
  • LRO Insurance, Tel: 079 0396 4838

Application forms are available from the Market Office.

Dealing with the law

As a market trader you must also be aware of the statutory legislation applicable to you.

If you are a food trader, particularly one that sells perishable products, you should make yourself aware of Food Hygiene Legislation such as statutory temperature controls when selling and transporting foods. If you use your own stall it will be necessary to register the address where the stall is kept. Consumer legislation, such as the Sale of Goods Act and the Trade Descriptions Act must also be strictly adhered to. For further advice contact your local Environmental Health Department.

If an article is brought back that is faulty or not fit for the purpose for which it was sold, then you must rectify the matter either by exchanging the goods, issuing a credit note or giving a full cash refund. It is the customers choice over which method is used.

Often goods may be returned that are not faulty but the customer has found the product was not really what they wanted, or in the case of clothing, it does not quite fit. In this case there is no obligation to make the matter right, but if you feel the reason is genuine, then in the long term it is better to do so. You may lose a sale on this occasion, but you have built some goodwill, and the customer will most likely return again and again. By adopting this attitude you may occasionally be taken for a ride by an unscrupulous and dishonest customer, but the good reputation you will build up completely justifies it.

You must always adhere to the Trade Descriptions Act. Don't sell counterfeit goods, and don't describe your goods incorrectly. If you are selling seconds don't describe them as perfect. If you are selling Egyptian new potatoes, don't describe them as English. If you do, you will eventually fall foul of the Trading Standards, and apart from the fine you will be facing, your reputation will be harmed.

Market trading can offer a long-term opportunity of self-employment and a springboard to greater things. Many casual traders go on to become permanent but this is not a guarantee of success. However if you have the right product, at the right pricing structure then with a bit of luck you will go far. Take a look at JJB Sports, Marks and Spencers, WM Morrison and Richard Branson to name but a few.

For additional guidance on a trader's responsibilities, see: Guidance for commercial tenants .

See also