Use Traders to Add A Revenue Stream to Your Event

trader stall

Rachel Harban, NMTF

Ticket sales are just one way you, as an event organiser, can earn revenue – another is by allowing traders to sell at your event.

In addition to being able to charge for the privilege, pick the right traders, and you can actually enhance the event experience for your attendees.

Meanwhile, by inviting food vendors to come along, you can also solve the problem of event catering. Planners can eradicate the need to stump up cash for food and drink and yet still earn off sales.

Sound good? We asked Rachel Harban, Deputy Projects Manager at NMTF, an organisation representing market traders, to tell us all about engaging with vendors to sell at your events.

What do traders look for when choosing events to trade at?

Traders will look for some of the following when choosing an event to trade at:

  • 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?

How should event organisers go about choosing traders that will enhance their event?

Organisers could seek recommendations from other operators to ensure the businesses that are selected will fit with the event and, as you say, enhance it. However, we would suggest that operators request images of the stall/unit, images of the products, review their activity on social media, provide examples of previous events they have traded on and potentially provide a sample menu if the product is food.

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 tend to have a rigorous selection process in place as it is, the area where things may fall apart is a lack of communication – ensuring communication is maintained will lead to a more successful experience and should enhance the event. Happy traders will create a good atmosphere.

What do event organisers need to look for in terms of insurance and references from traders to protect themselves and their attendees?

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.

Traders should only be responsible for the area of land that they pay for, anything outside of this is the responsibility of the organiser. 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.

How does it usually work financially? Do traders pay a flat fee to attend or are there other 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 is usually suited better 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.

An organiser 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. The potential issue here is the businesses providing accurate accounts. Most will, however, if what an organiser receives is significantly different from the expectation then questions may be raised.

The answer to this 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 done in writing, any special agreements should also be noted. The NMTF strongly advocates transparency with agreements and good communication between both parties.

Does the organiser need to guarantee footfall or marketing spend?

It is preferable that the organiser gives an idea of expected footfall to the event – 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 providing accurate information on ticket sales. The businesses who stand at these events 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 in they will incur whilst being at the event 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.

Do they need to offer exclusivity i.e. you will be the only trader selling XYZ?

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 they have.

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 means traders will likely 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 crop up from having the same or similar lines is to say that there will be so much space between those businesses i.e. at least three stalls between.

Organisers can access policies of this type by looking at general retail markets around the UK. Many Local Authority running markets have these details available online.

What’s the best way for event organisers to reach out to traders to let them know about opportunities to trade?

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 our members by location and product line – should organisers be interested in this please do not hesitate to contact us.

What should they do to try and keep these traders coming back to future events?

It’s simple really, treat your traders fairly. Have someone available at all times during the event to deal with any enquiries/issues 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 – 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!”

What are the common issues experienced by both traders and organisers and what’s the best way to handle these?

Common issues experienced by traders include:

False/exaggerated footfall figures being presented – organisers should present as accurate information as they are able to in order for traders to make informed decisions about applying for events.

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 – A big problem for traders is 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 the 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 whilst 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.

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.

Common issues experienced by organisers include:

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 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, in this case, should be laid out clearly and agreed upon by both parties.

Credit: Phil Sofer

How can traders and event organisers work together to create better events? i.e 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 and emphasis should be made to both sides on this fact.

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.

The NMTF has a facility to form NMTF Groups who work with organisers. We currently have an NMTF Fairs Group and an NMTF Historical Traders Group. Organisers are welcome to contact us for further information.

If you have more questions for the NMTF, please contact them by phone on 01226 749021 or via email and they will be happy to chat with you. You can also join the discussion about working with event vendors on the EventTribe forum.

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Bel Booker

Bel is an experienced journalist specialising in events. Formerly deputy editor at leading trade magazine Meetings & Incentive Travel and its website, she now writes for a range of publications on a freelance basis.

Interested in contributing to a future article on the Eventbrite blog? Connect with Bel on LinkedIn: or Twitter: @BelBooker