Street Trading & Pedlars

Street Traders are individual on-street businesses licensed by the local authority under Schedule 4 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 England and Wales and in Scotland under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982)to operate at specific times and locations known as ‘consent streets’. Street Traders differ from Market Traders who need five or more traders to constitute a Market and usually operate under a Market Charter administered by the local authority.

Well presented street trading units offering great products add vibrancy, colour and interest to a town centre, provide local employment, and should compliment (rather than compete with) the surrounding retail offer. The type, style, and colour of their trading unit (often a customized trailer) can be stipulated by the licensing authority to ensure it is appropriate to the environment and image the town wants to promote. Street Traders pay an annual license plus a daily or weekly pitch fee which in many places provide vital income to s. They must carry appropriate insurances and adhere to employment regulations.

Pedlars on the other hand, roam from town to town selling their goods on the street. With outdated national legislation and a number of differing bye-laws across the UK, pedlars represent one of the most complex problems for local partnerships regarding on-street trading. 

Pedlars do not pay for a pitch and have no obligation to carry insurance. They must hold a valid Pedlars Certificate and follow the law as set out in the Pedlars Act 1871 and 1881. A Pedlars Certificate allows a Pedlar to trade anywhere nationally without interference from the local authority. Responsibility for the issuing of certificates and enforcement lies with the Police who rarely have the resources to deal with pedlars on a daily basis. This means, even in areas where pedlars are abusing the terms of their certificate, enforcement is the responsibility of the Police. Pedlars are not permitted to remain in a fixed location and must be continually on the move, stopping only to make a sale. It can be labour intensive to monitor their movements, but it's one of the only tools at a local partnership’s disposal to reduce their potential negative impact. If pedlars are suspected for selling illegal or poor quality goods then enforcement becomes the responsibility of Trading Standards.


The most common complaints regarding pedlars are;

  • unfair competition for legitimate street traders and shops who pay for their space

  • no power to control location e.g. a handbag Pedlar can sell outside a handbag shop

  • obstruction on the public highway, fears over public safety and blocking sight lines

  • here today, gone tomorrow, so no come back if the consumer is dissatisfied with their purchase


Some English local authorities have introduced byelaws to restrict the activities of pedlars and in Northern Ireland the Street Trading (Northern Ireland) Act 2001 has limited the exemptions enjoyed through the pedlars certificate. Whether UK wide legislation will be introduced is still unknown which leaves a number of local authorities unsure as to whether to push for expensive byelaws.