Space rental opportunities, part 2: Three practical ideas to get you started

Last week we looked at shelf and other forms of space rental. This business idea works in many different ways and can be incredibly profitable and almost risk free.

This time we consider renting and subletting shelf space to our own clients, possibly the most profitable and stress-free area of space rental for new and inexperienced entrepreneurs. However, it may also more time-consuming than liaising with typically fewer clients for bigger self-contained booths and stalls in most shops and shopping malls.

Proportionately higher fees can be asked per foot of shelf space than for those larger spaces, and many more clients are willing to risk £25 each month – the average for a small shelf in static trading premises in medium size towns and cities – to paying hundreds or even thousands of pounds monthly for extensive selling space in heavy footfall areas.

Heavy workload is the price you pay, and it’s a small one, for high profits and few cash flow problems and communications and legal problems typically accompanying shelf rental.

Here are some ideas to get you started:


Book a stall, preferably a long one, at popular antiques and trade fairs, craft or other high visitor itinerant or permanent trading events. Country and agricultural shows and events like Crufts dog show are perfect for selling your own goods and sharing space with vendors promoting similar but non-competing goods, such as dog-grooming products at a dog show where you specialise in dog breed posters.

Most stalls sell by table length, such as one table or two or more joined, or six to nine feet or more. Place your own goods in the centre, from where you’ll get the best view of your own and other people’s goods and customers. Twelve feet is the maximum most people can handle by themselves. Any more space and clients and you’ll need help at the event.

Charge clients sufficient to cover your personal selling space and leave a good profit for you. Imagine you pay £50 to an organiser and cater for ten shelf rental clients and still have room for yourself.  You might charge £10 rental per client, totalling £100, making £50 profit for you and your selling space thrown in free of charge. On top of that you can charge a commission on sales made for your vendors.

Incidentally, charging a commission on sales is viewed as essential by many experienced shelf rental clients who claim it gives rental shelf owners the incentive to proactively promote other people’s products.

Quick Tips!

a) Add stand-up shelving at the back and sides of your stall to make more space available and grow your client base without paying more to fair organisers.

b) Turn up early at booked events and pay your fees when asked and don’t haggle. Try not to upset customers, even difficult ones and get on good terms with other stallholders and organisers. Then when a stallholder fails to turn up, favoured dealers are offered the available space, sometimes free of charge, frequently for a tiny fraction of the full rate. That space might not be alongside your own stall but you can take a helper to man the discounted space.

c) Do not promote your shelf rental business where you are also booked to attend: you’ll only alienate organisers and some stallholders too and word will quickly spread and get you banned from most similar events. Instead, distribute business cards at fairs with organisers you do not yet patronise, place cards under traders’ windscreen wipers. Try not to be seen or you will be asked to leave and could be banned as a visitor or trader in future.

d) Arrange deals with traders on eBay and Amazon and similar marketplaces, without using your own trading account or revealing your membership ID. Instead, trawl through sites, looking for potential shelf rental clients. Note down their contact details and communicate by email or telephone.


Many indoor markets operate daily and rent permanent space at reasonable prices. Most allow subletting but always ask first.

Each council-run market has a superintendent with an office inside the market or at the local town hall. Write or telephone or call in person to discuss possibilities for starting your own shelf rental venture from a permanent stall that’s locked up securely during non-business hours.

As for the earlier example, charge clients enough for their space to earn you a decent profit and free selling space for your products.


Rent space in established businesses or pop up premises and sublet space to your own clients. Ask permission in advance and most owners will agree.

This can be especially successful at busier and big spend, short term trading times, such as Christmas and bank holidays and when heavy visitor and tourist events are held close by, such as Whitby’s twice-yearly events when thousands of Goths arrive to celebrate their shared love of the dark side and spend heavily on souvenirs and novelty goods.

Ask local tourist board organisers for details of regular and one-off events.

Handy Resources

For information about pop-up shops and availability visit:

There’s an excellent guide to locating fairs and shows and other usually short term events, categorised by geographical location and event type. Find it

Get valuable start up and trading advice from rental space provider ‘Doodle-Noodle’ at

Doodle-Noodle provides detailed information about setting up a shelf rental venture and what to charge, as well as offering to answer detailed questions direct.

For information about cooperative retailing, not the same but having much in common with shelf rental, visit

That’s plenty of information for you to get started on a profitable new venture just weeks from now… Good luck!

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