Selling at a Christmas market is a great way to expand your business. It helps you to reach new customers during the festive season and to increase sales. Christmas markets offer a big opportunity for small businesses to showcase their goods and services during a prime consumer spending season.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about selling at UK Christmas markets as a small business.
Accept Contactless & Chip + PIN Payments Easily with Square Reader
Order Square Reader for only £19 + VAT.
What are Christmas markets?
Christmas markets have a long history. Their roots go back to Vienna’s December Market which took place in the Middle Ages.
German Protestant reformer Martin Luther is believed to have encouraged the development of the Christmas markets that we know today. Back in the 16th century, the Lutherans encouraged gift-giving to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is said that churches encouraged merchants to sell near their doors to entice people to services.
Christmas markets are now hugely popular across Europe and in the UK. Businesses sell festive food, crafts and gift items from pop-up stalls in towns and cities. The more famous Christmas markets attract people from all over the UK and sometimes from overseas too. Even the smaller ones attract people from across the local area.
What to sell at a Christmas market
Christmas markets are known for offering unique and artisan gifts. Some of the best things to sell at UK Christmas markets include:
People come to Christmas markets to look for unique gifts that they can’t get on the high street. This could include handmade candles, paintings, pottery or jewellery.
Many people visit Christmas markets in the evening. This is both after offices close and when the lights come on. Vendors therefore have a great opportunity to sell food and drink (generally hot).
Popular, season options include mulled cider, mulled wine and typical Christmas market foods such as hotdogs, burgers and cones of chips. Sweet items such as waffles and strawberries coated in melted chocolate go down well too.
Books often make for popular Christmas gifts. Even though the likes of Amazon have made ebooks popular, there’s still a huge demand for real, physical books. Second-hand book stalls also go down well as many people are looking for a Christmas market bargain. Some people also like to look for an old treasure looking to be rehomed.
Your best stock
If you’re an established seller, a Christmas market is the best time to showcase a new collection.
This may seem obvious but no list would be complete without it. Christmas markets are a great place to sell Christmas-themed merchandise. It’s therefore always worth checking your stock to see what you have that fits in with the Christmas vibe. In particular, if you have old stock you’re eager to move on, see if you can give it a Christmas touch in some way. This can make it much more attractive.
Main Christmas markets in the UK
There are many very popular and established Christmas markets in the UK. In 2022, they include:
Bath Christmas Market
Bath Christmas Market will open on 24 November and its last day will be 11 December. It is a treasure trove of all things Christmas. Items range from handmade gifts to tree decorations to mince pies and mulled wine. The Christmas market stalls are generally run by local independent sellers. Many of these also participate in the regular Bath Artisan Market.
This market is considered to be one of the most attractive in the UK, due to its location around Bath Cathedral. It also puts on plenty of Christmas lights. This year is the market’s 20th anniversary so it will probably be even more of an event than usual.
Birmingham Christmas Market
The Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham opens on 3 November and its last day is 23 December. This is the largest German market outside of Germany and Austria. It’s home to over 80 tiny alpine huts where German vendors sell everything from handmade wooden toys to jewellery and unique decorations.
It’s also well known for its food, drink and music. There’s usually a bustling entertainment scene at evenings and weekends when locals have time to party.
Manchester Christmas Market
Spreading festive cheer since 1998, the Manchester Christmas Market 2022 opens on 12 November and its last day is 22 December. This Christmas market hosts over 300 tiny stalls that each provide something magical and unique. In addition to traditional German market stands, there are many vendors from France and some from even further afield. All offer an array of amazing Christmas products.
For those there for the food, some of the things on offer include hog roasts, paella and traditional Belgian hot chocolate. There’s also a host of exciting street performers, magic shows and musical performers.
York Christmas Market
York Christmas Market is better known as the York St Nicholas Fair. This year, it opens on 17 November and its last day is 23 December. York Christmas Market may be the most famous Christmas market in the UK, with multiple awards to its name.
The main reason York Christmas Market stands out is because it’s held in the stunning Mediaeval surroundings of York’s old town. The second reason is that York really pulls out all the stops for this event. That’s why it’s won so many awards.
In terms of merchandise, obviously, the emphasis is on Christmas – or at least winter-appropriate goods. Vendors of more general merchandise may still be able to get a place if their products are both high-quality and unique.
Chatsworth Christmas Market
The Chatsworth Christmas Market is an early bird amongst Christmas markets. It opens on 5 November and its last day is 23 November. Held in the grounds of Chatsworth House, the 2022 Chatsworth Christmas Market will run alongside the Christmas in the Garden event, and the latter will continue until the market closes.
Visitors can enter the market for free. They only pay if they want to enter the main grounds, and many people do exactly that. This is actually a significant boost for vendors, since it means they can capture people who are mainly tourists as well as regular shoppers.
As you would expect, there is a high emphasis on unique, high-quality seasonal goods, food and drink. Vendors with more general merchandise may be accepted provided that it is genuinely high quality and unique.
Edinburgh Christmas Market
This is scheduled to open on 19 November and its last day is due to be 3 January 2023. The longer running time is a reflection of the market’s history. It started as a German Christmas market, then it opened up to non-German vendors. Then it became a winter market rather than just a Christmas one.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Market has long been one of the biggest festive attractions in the UK, not just in Scotland. This year, however, there are significant question marks over whether it will take place at all. The private contractors who were due to run it recently pulled out. Alternative contractors have expressed an interest in taking over, so there is cause for at least cautious optimism.
The Edinburgh Christmas market has great opportunities for vendors of all kinds. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on developments. Glasgow has already confirmed that it will not be holding a Christmas market this year. This means that if the Edinburgh Christmas market does go ahead as planned, 2022 could be a bumper year.
Cardiff Christmas Market
Cardiff Christmas Market will open on 10 November and its last day will be 22 December. Wales is full of enchanting Christmas markets, and Cardiff Christmas Market stands out for a few reasons.
Most of these hinge on the fact that Cardiff has both excellent transport links and many attractions for tourists. Unlike some of Wales’s other scenic destinations, it’s easy to visit on a short break. It also has lots to see and do, even in the depths of winter.
Benefits of selling at Christmas markets
There’s a whole host of benefits to selling at a Christmas market. Most of them relate to the fact that you get to showcase your brand and products to a new range of people. Mix up items you want to move quickly with items you plan to stock over the longer term. Also take the opportunity to encourage people to connect with you on social media.
How to register and sell at Christmas markets
Larger markets generally have their own websites. These have a section on what you need to do to register for them. Generally, this is to submit an application to the market organiser. Christmas markets in the UK are usually organised by project management companies. It’s therefore likely that you’ll be directed to the organiser’s own website or given an email from their domain.
Submit your application as soon as possible after the application window opens. With the biggest festivals, this can be as early as a year in advance. Even with smaller ones, it’s usually at least 6 months in advance. In general, the official closing date for applications is around the end of September; realistically, however, places are likely to be taken long before then.
If you are unable to submit your application early, you can still try putting it in late. Organisers may operate a waiting list of people who will stand in if someone else drops out. If not, ask them nicely to notify you if a place becomes available.
If you want to attend a smaller Christmas market that doesn’t have its own website, check the local authority’s website. This almost always has the necessary details. Smaller local markets are more likely to be organised by volunteer groups, which means that their response times can be slower.
No matter what type of Christmas market you want to attend, you usually have to pay some kind of fee. With commercial Christmas markets, this can be anything from about £100 to £400. With non-commercial Christmas markets, fees can be lower but so can the level of supporting infrastructure. For example, you may need to bring your own mobile internet connection instead of connecting to supplied WiFi.
How to prepare your stall
So you’ve booked your stall, now what? While it’s incredibly exciting, there’s a lot to prepare before the Christmas market opens.
First of all, check what infrastructure is available at the Christmas market. In particular, find out if the organisers provide an internet connection for you to use. This determines what essentials you need to bring.
Secondly, consider how to take payment and whether you require a payment terminal. Square Terminal or Square Reader are popular options for Christmas markets as they are fast, reliable and intuitive. Having one of these allows you to take payments quickly and get back to serving your customers. Both card machines accept a range of payments, from chip and pin to contactless, which is ideal during the current climate.
Also consider the design of your stand. Decide whether or not you need to get any banners, table covers or other merchandise printed, and order them as early as you can. It’s also important to market your stall early to ensure people know you will be there. One of the best ways to do this is through social media.
As there will be many other stalls at the Christmas market, make yours stand out. Consider what products you will feature to draw people in and whether you could hold any demonstrations or examples of how your products work, to draw attention to your stall. Bright lighting is also a great way to invite people over as well as festive smells.
Now that you’re clued up on Christmas fair ideas to sell, it’s time to spring into action booking your stand and preparing your festive gifts! Christmas markets are an incredibly exciting time and offer a huge opportunity for your small business, so make the most of them!