On being an independent market trader - the weather and footfall issues.

OK, I've moved away from craft fairs and have started to sell from proper town centre markets. The theory being that proper makets attract proper footfall and people willing to spend money, or offer constructive advice. My first was on Sunday 29th July in Epsom town centre. I was really up for this one, imagining loads of sales. Lucky I've got an imagination then....

Now for my rather lovely American readers, here Epsom is regularly voted as being the best place to live in the UK. Best schools, great access to London, lots of jobs, near to great countryside. For years I've been bemused by this as Epsom isn't actually that great a place to visit. Boring clone shops, super zippy one way system, and nothing to do for the kids at all. Well unless they like looking at suburban housing stock or stationary shops. It has some OK restaurants but for the main Epsom is as forgettable as they come. Really there is nothing there of any note; it's just rather bland suburbia. I'm guessing this is why the town council have started to host the independent market on the last Sunday of every month. To inject a bit of zest into what is otherwise a pretty dull place. My wife works there, but never gets to spend much time in town. Even she commented on how sad the place was. It's just bland. Epsom? Best place to live in the UK? Clearly not. I've known Epsom for twenty years and at no point have I ever thought it a nice place to visit, let alone live there. If you stop for lunch, have a look around the shops, you've done all the place has to offer in two hours. I don't dislike Epsom, just don't get it at all.

Anyway, we pitch up. One other trader there in an area the size of a football field. The organiser states that this is it, just the two of us. He also said that on the Saturday the town was dead thanks to the Olympic road race, so wasn't expecting much today. He was kind of depressive. Right, we're not going to do too well today, but I was still optomistic. My t-shirts look good and people like what they see, and are always impressed when they realise that I do actually design them myself. So I was bound to sell some.


After two hours trading we'd seen perhaps forty people walk by. And by that I mean forty people within a 200m radius of the market, or 300m of my stall. Man was it quiet. The organiser drove up, said there'd be no charge for the pitch and left. Right. My wife was all for leaving then and there, but we'd aranged to meet her sister for lunch, so it would be silly just to leave. I may sell something in the afternoon when it gets a bit more busy.

And then the big storm came and stayed with us all afternoon. Big black clouds began to gather at around 11:00 hours. Shortly aterwards we saw perhaps 400m away hail begin to hit the shops. We could see a wind whipping everything up, and the temperature dropped. It hit and moved our weighted gazebo a full metre. I had to move my t-shirts onto a table in the middle, and all four of us held onto the gazebo legs for twenty minutes. Lighting broke around us, the storm gutters failed, and we got soaked. The temperature dropped to single digit degree C. People stopped in the local shops just to watch us fight the storm. And laugh. We joined in as in a silly way it was so bad it was fun. The storm turned out to be the day's highlight.

In all it was perhaps the worst day possible to try and sell anything, and I didn't. I know as a trader you are supposed to present a happy face to the world, but today I just couldn't. Sorry.

So what did I get out of the day? Has to be something. Well my stall looked bad - as if I'd put no effort into the design. This was true - the storm killed putting anything on ground level! So stall design needs looking at. Moot point with Epsom and the lack of footfall. But really I think the main thing to come out of this is that event location and timing is absolutely key. Epsom town was actually quite busy inside the main zombie mall, but totally dead outside. Clearly the market location on a Sunday is very poor indeed. This is a pity as it should be good, but it does show not to believe any silly survey. I'd not been to Epsom on a Sunday to check out the site prior to trading, and had gotten sucked into the idea of trading from a town centre. I'd sold the site to myself against all notions of reality. My fault there.

And the weather? This is the UK, shit happens. At least it showed the bonus of having waterproof cover. But here I did learn that perhaps it would have been wise to listen not only to my wife, but my inner voice telling me just to get out of there. Go do something else - like ride a bike!