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The small business guide to festival and event trading

30 January 2018 Small Business Advice

Festivals and events can expose you to a huge captive audience of potential customers with money to spend. Hitting the right event with the right product can be highly lucrative for small businesses looking to grow their profit margins. To top it off, they present the perfect opportunity to raise your brand profile by exposing it to the masses.

London-based fast food chain MeatLiquor came from humble beginnings, as a burger van with a Twitter account, and now own a string of eateries across the UK. Competition in the industry is tough though, and when you pitch to the likes of Glastonbury as well as Reading and Leeds Festivals, you’ll need to ensure your proposition stands out.

We’ll help you get to grips with everything from the pitching process to preparation for the day, so you can make the most of the opportunity and capitalise on the exposure.

Know your audience

Draw up a shortlist of potential events you wish to target, making sure the expected audience is in line with your product. Think about the size of the event and the sort of budget that attendees will be sticking to, to work out whether it’s something that will suit your business offering.

The big pitch

Competition is fierce when it comes to pitching for space, and bigger events will require an even bigger pitch. Consumers come to events to experience new things, and the food they eat and products they buy are just as much a part of that as the main feature.

It’s in a festival planner’s best interest to secure the very best vendors that will satisfy their target audience, so make sure you present yourself as someone who’s offering something that will make visitors’ festival experience that much better.

It’s also worth noting that the pitching process can sometimes begin the year before the event itself and planners will wait until the application closing date to assess all applicants. They won’t want multiple stalls selling the same thing either, so make sure to clearly communicate your unique selling point (USP).

Your pitch should include accurate details about pricing, stock, target audience, and a contingency plan. Think about the questions they’re likely to ask and prepare your answers ahead of time.

The price of success

You probably won’t be the only stall at the festival, and so getting your pricing strategy right is very important. If prices are too cheap, you run the risk of not being able to cover your stall fees (which can be around the £10k mark at the big festivals). And if they’re too expensive, your target audience might go elsewhere.

Factor in the cost of hiring extra staff, transport, accommodation, and any items you might need on the day. Try and put yourself in the shoes of your audience and ask yourself – what would I pay for this?

Create a buzz

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, especially when spread via social media channels. Think of ways you can present your product so that customers are keen to share it on their profiles. If your product itself isn’t especially Instagram-worthy on its own, make your stall stand out using eye-catching signs or cardboard cut-outs for photo opportunities.

You can encourage customers to share content across Twitter and Instagram using a unique hashtag, or even run a competition that asks them to display your product, whether it be a hat, t-shirt or foot-long hot dog. If you’re selling food, you might want to also want to consider tempting visitors with a free sample.

If people get behind it you could pull in more people over the length of the event and even have people head straight for your stall weeks later if you have a few events lined up.

Taking payments

As we move closer towards a cashless society, providing a variety of payment options is essential. While most festivals will have cash machines onsite, the hassle of queueing to withdraw money is perhaps becoming less and less appealing to people. If you can provide contactless or a chip and PIN machine it could give you a serious leg up on the competition.

A contactless card reader is not only good for your customers, but great for reducing queues and therefore making more sales. And by using a mobile card reader, you can accept card payments, Apple Pay, and Android Pay from anywhere. Ultimate flexibility.


Selling your brand at a big event is tougher than it looks, but done the right way it can take your business to new levels. For more tips about trading at festivals, check out our beginner’s guide for how to become a vendor at festivals.

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