Selling at a Christmas market is a great way to expand your business, reach new customers during the festive season and increase sales. Christmas markets offer a big opportunity for small businesses to showcase goods and services in a prime consumer spending season.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about UK Christmas markets as a small business.
What are Christmas markets?
Christmas markets have a long history, with their roots in Vienna’s December Market that took place in the middle ages. German protestant reformer Martin Luther is associated with having a hand in the Christmas markets that we know today due to, in the 16th-century, encouraging gift giving to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is said churches sought 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. Recently published figures show that in 2019, 34 per cent of Brits planned to visit a Christmas market.
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 others won’t think of buying. This could include handmade candles, paintings, pottery or jewellery.
Many people visit Christmas markets in the evening when the lights come on and people are leaving work. This makes for a great opportunity to sell 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 tend to go down well too.
Books often make for popular Christmas gifts and while the likes of Amazon and Kindle have made ebooks popular, there’s nothing quite like holding a physical copy of a book in your hands. Second-hand book stalls also go down well as many people are looking for a Christmas market bargain or an old treasure looking to be rehomed.
Your best stock
Of course, if you’re an established seller then a Christmas market is the best time to showcase a new collection. Alternatively, if you have some old stock you need to get rid of, consider selling it off on your Christmas market stall for a lower price.
The main Christmas markets in the UK
There are many very popular and established Christmas markets in the UK. In 2021, they include:
Bath Christmas Market
Running from Thursday, 25 November, to Sunday, 19 December, the Bath Christmas market is considered as one of the most scenic in the UK. Stretching around the small streets that encase Bath Cathedral, the Christmas market stalls are manned by local independent sellers offering unique festive gifts from handmade gifts to tree decorations and much more. There’s also plenty of mulled wine on offer while you admire the stunning Christmas lights.
Birmingham Christmas Market
The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market 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 in which there’s usually a bustling scene each evening as locals finish work and particularly on the weekends.
Manchester Christmas Market
Spreading festive cheer since 1998, the Manchester Christmas Market hosts over 300 tiny stalls that each provide something magical and unique. Not only are there traditional German market stands, but there are also French and world vendors offering a huge selection of products.
For those there for the food, some of the things on offer include a hog roast, paella and traditional Belgian hot chocolate. There’s also a host of exciting street performers, magic shows and musical performers.
The benefits of selling at Christmas markets
There’s a whole host of benefits to selling at a Christmas market as you get to showcase your brand and products to a new range of people. If you’re usually based in a store, a Christmas market offers the perfect time to sell off some stock from last season that may not be on your shelves anymore or to introduce a sneak peek of a new collection.
If you’re an online seller, a Christmas market offers the perfect opportunity to mingle with customers face-to-face and introduce your brand to a new crowd too.
How to secure a stall at a Christmas market
To secure a stall at a Christmas market, you must get in touch with the market organisers in the town or city where you’d like to be. Christmas markets only have a limited number of stalls and there’s usually a lot of competition for them so it’s important to apply early.
By visiting the website of your local council or the organisers directly, you should be able to access an online application form that enables you to submit your enquiry and pay a holding fee for your stall. The prices can range anywhere from £90 to over £400, depending on the size of the stall you have, its requirements and the location you request.
Stalls are usually allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and bookings can even begin a year in advance. Most applications for a Christmas market stall end at the beginning of September in the year it is being held, although it’s advisable not to leave it that late.
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. You should consider how you will 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, allowing you to quickly take a payment 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.
In addition to this, you should also consider things like the design of your stand and whether you need to get any banners, table covers or other merchandise printed. 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, it’s important to 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!