In addition to the extra revenue stream traders can bring to your event, you can enhance the event experience for attendees too, writes Rachel Harban.

Food vendors trading at an outdoor event

Inviting traders to your event can be an integral part of your business plan. They can add a revenue stream, create a buzz, cover your catering and overall enhance your offering and the event’s atmosphere. In this article I will share some of the NMTF experience on how traders and event organisers can work together.

The first thing to think about is which traders you want to attract – which will be right for your particular event? In order to answer this question, it is a good idea to seek recommendations from other operators to ensure those selected will fit with your event and enhance it. Request images of the stalls/units and images of products and look at traders’ social media. You can even ask for examples of previous events they have traded on or, if a food product, a sample menu.

There needs to be good communication between the trader and organiser, clear expectations set from both sides and preferably all agreements made in writing. Event organisers should have a rigorous selection process in place as it is, but the area where things can fall apart is when there is a lack of communication – ensuring communication is maintained will lead to a more successful experience. Remember, happy traders create a good atmosphere!

Insurance and references
It is in the best interest of organisers to ensure that traders have public liability insurance. This will protect the trader from any incidents that may occur by or at their stall/unit and also protect the organiser from claims potentially being passed to them if liabilities are not in place.

Employer’s liability is a legal requirement for traders who have staff or have anyone helping them out on the stand – this is included in NMTF membership as standard.

Traders should also be encouraged to have product liability and stock insurance. As part of their membership with the NMTF traders receive public, product and employers’ liability protection for claims up to £10 million.

Financial arrangements
Some events will charge a flat fee, some will charge a percentage of profits and others may charge both. Charging a flat fee guarantees the organiser a set income. Charging a percentage of the profits could be considered for hot food and takeaway vendors, as a rule of thumb they are more likely to sell out of their goods then and there whereas other types of trade may produce interest for future sales but may not sell as much on the day.

A percentage of the profits can work well – if traders have an idea of the footfall and how many other businesses may be there selling the same or similar goods, the more established businesses will generally know how much stock they will need to cover the event. With food traders, organisers could work out a predicted income based on their menu and how much they charge.

Charging a percentage of the profit also provides an incentive for the organiser to promote the event well. It is in both parties’ interests that they are honest and fair when applying this process. Organisers and traders must be able to trust each other in providing accurate information.

Example of a clothes vendor at an outdoor event

The answer to which business model to follow really comes down to what suits the organiser best – what resources do they have to manage the market area part of the event? Do they have an individual who will manage this and will have the time to do so?

Whichever route is taken, it is important that communication is clear between the businesses and the organiser and the final agreement is made in writing with any special agreements also noted. The NMTF strongly advocates transparency with agreements and good communication between both parties.

It is preferable that the organiser of an event gives an idea of expected footfall – we would encourage organisers to be reasonable with this and not to over exaggerate or make guesses.

Organisers could look into purchasing footfall counters or provide accurate information on ticket sales. Traders will decide whether it is viable for them by considering things such as the pitch fee, the costs of their stock for the event, how many other businesses there will be selling the same or similar goods as well as other outgoing costs they will incur such as staff wages, accommodation, travel etc.

Footfall counts are important in making these decisions. Over exaggerated footfall figures, in the worst circumstances, can mean the end of a small business. We ask that all organisers take this into account and be clear and honest with the information they provide prospective traders.

It is a good idea to have a ‘balance of trade’ policy in place. As opposed to restricting it to one business of each type we would recommend organisers take into account the size of the event, the type of customer they expect to have, and how many pitches there are.

If the market area of the event is expected to be quite large, it is impractical to have only one of a certain type of product. Having a policy allows the organiser to make a decision about the number of businesses selling the same line and they can justify why.

Offering exclusivity sometimes means traders will pay a premium but it can raise issues if the agreement is not honoured on the day. A good way to avoid problems that can occur from having the same or similar lines is to be open about the types of businesses at the event, apply terms determining how far apart the stalls will be i.e. three stalls between them or have an allocated area for same/similar lines. Also, we would encourage some form of differentiation between businesses selling the same lines to ensure diversity and choice.

Organisers can access policies of this type by looking at general retail markets around the UK. Many markets run by local authorities have these details available online.

Reaching traders
So, how do you find traders? Advertising in trade magazines or magazines specific to those types of events will get the word out. Traders who specialise in certain types of events will look for opportunities in these types of media.

Social media is also good for attracting both business and custom and of course word of mouth is a good way to get new businesses – traders who have stood before and had good experiences can help spread the word.

The NMTF can send targeted mailers to members by location and product line – should organisers be interested in this please get in touch!

Couple attending trading event

Keep them coming back
How can you ensure traders will support your event in the future? It’s simple really, treat your traders fairly, always have someone available during the event to deal with any enquiries traders may have and be open to negotiation. Traders who have a good experience with an organiser will likely return to those events and will encourage others to do so as well.

In a lot of cases, the ‘market area’ of events is not considered to be a priority as there can be a lot of others things going on. However, done right, it can be a real pull for the event and an income generator.

Traders tend to be self-employed small business owners or staff of larger companies and an organiser who has this in mind and works with the traders to create a positive working relationship will have more success in bringing those businesses back again and again.

Recruiting and maintaining good quality traders becomes easier when they are treated as partners. As our chief executive, Joe Harrison, says: “a market is only as good as its worst trader!”

Potential problems for traders

Issues experienced by traders can include:

> False/exaggerated footfall figures being presented – Organisers should present accurate information so traders can make an informed decision to apply for an event

> Changes to contracts – In some instances contracts have been changed after deposits have been paid which traders do not agree with. Organisers need to be transparent with the terms and liaise with traders about any changes first

> Lack of a sitemap or changes to trading position – Two big problems for traders include being unaware of the layout of the event and where they will be placed or, being moved on the day after agreeing to trade based on information previously given. Again, it is key for the organiser to give as much information as possible prior to traders agreeing to stand

> Lack of on-site staff solely responsible for the traders – when issues or questions arise it is important that traders are able to reach someone who will be able to answer any questions or potentially resolve issues

> Cashless payment systems (NFC bands) – there have been a couple of occasions where festivals have used this technology and have then gone bust, resulting in the traders on the event losing all takings. This is an extreme case scenario, however it can be devastating for a small business. There should be policies in place to protect businesses from this eventuality

> Location of parking for vehicles – traders may prefer to park as close to their pitch as possible so that they can reach it if needed while trading. Walking miles to retrieve something can be arduous and time-wasting, especially when trading

> Severe weather policies – we can never guarantee good weather in the UK and it is as much an issue for the organiser as the trader. However, when a business has paid a large sum to attend and then the event is cancelled due to the weather it can leave them suffering the consequences. We encourage organisers to put in place a severe weather policy which outlines the steps taken in those circumstances. We would recommend, as good practice, that if the event or market area of the event is closed that traders receive a partial refund of their fee to stand or a gesture of goodwill i.e. reduced fee to stand at the next event

> Special requests from the organiser – if an organiser has requested that traders have specific set-ups i.e. particular stall covers, types of shelving or decorations that a trader has to purchase, we would recommend this be taken into account when setting the fee to stand.

Signpost at an outdoor event

Potential problems for organisers

Organisers should be aware of the following:

> Traders unhappy with the amount of trade during the event – there is a responsibility on the organiser to advertise the event and they should be seen to do this, however there is an equal responsibility on the part of the trader to do so as well. If the organiser has produced the footfall as promised, then it is up to the trader to get these people to shop with them

> Building out – traders may build beyond the licenced area to try to produce a better ‘flash’. It should be made clear from the start whether this is acceptable or not through the agreement made between the organiser and the trader

> Traders unhappy with pitch allocation – ensure that traders are aware of the layout of the event and where they are likely to be positioned prior to making an agreement. The organiser generally has the right to move a business if necessary (terms dependent) however, if the pitch is in a less desirable location for the trader then a form of goodwill gesture may be suitable i.e. reduced pitch fee or a reduction should they trade at the next event

> Traders breaching the terms of a contract – organisers should have in place rules and regulations which lay out the responsibilities of traders and of the organiser clearly. What will be considered as breaches of the terms, and the next steps if a breach occurs, should be laid out clearly and agreed upon by both parties.

Joint marketing initiatives
Traders and organisers should use social media to promote events. Organisers should create a hashtag or link and encourage the traders to use this when saying where they will be trading.

It is key that organisers advertise the event but there is equally a responsibility for the trader to promote their business and encourage people to visit them. Emphasis should be made to both parties regarding this.

Traders could also be encouraged to offer incentives for people who see an advertisement from them i.e. a discount on goods if they should see a Facebook/Twitter post.

If an event is a regular occurrence (monthly or weekly) perhaps a steering committee could be formed of regular traders that the organiser can liaise with to promote the event.


What you need

In order to decide which events they want to attend, traders will want to know the following about your event:

Is the event well promoted?
Is it recommended by other traders?
Is it affordable?
What would be the risk for their business?
What are the previous footfall figures?
Does it have good press reviews?
Does the organiser have a good reputation?



Rachel Harban is deputy projects manager at the NMTF. Formed in 1899, it is the only national trade association for market and street traders, events retailers and mobile caterers in the UK.

The NMTF has a facility to form NMTF Groups who work with organisers. Organisers are welcome to contact us on 01226 749021 /

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