How to Start a Fish Market Business

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To start a fish market business you will first need to have a love of fresh fish and seafood and a strong understanding of supply and demand. With a fish market customer asking you “What's Fresh?” or "What do you recommend?” you have your work cut out for you when you open a fish market business. Knowledge, inventory, pricing and customer service will get your fish market off to a strong start, and obtaining and maintaining an excellent customer service rating will keep your fish market going long after you open the doors.

Fresh fish market display
Fresh fish market display (Image: David Ramos/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Step 1

Learn about the licenses and permits required to open a fish market business. The sale of fresh fish and seafood is monitored at the local, state and federal level. You will not only need to obtain the usual federal tax identification number for your entity choice and business license with an occupancy and safety certificate; you will also need to obtain the licenses and permits specific to retail fresh fish and seafood sales. Your local heath department will let you know what certificates it requires you to have before opening. Contact the health department for inspection and set up an appointment to review everything that needs to be done before opening.

Store worker on the Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA.
Store worker on the Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Step 2

Learn about your available product supply. Fresh fish is a temperamental product. Lobsters and the other shellfish need to be kept alive to preserve their freshness. Scallops need to be available in the shell or shucked and cleaned. What variety of fresh fish is available in your area combining freshwater and ocean waters? Seafood's freshness, storage, preparation and care is just as important as its price to your customer. Everything you can learn about your product and product sources will weigh heavy toward your fish market business success.

Live lobsters in crate
Live lobsters in crate (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Step 3

Set up a tiered pricing plan. To make a success of your fish market business, you will want to have at least five to 10 of your local chefs as your best customers. They will want to receive pricing that is lower than your storefront pricing. Determining the two selling prices for each delivery of fish is essential for obtaining a steady income from your fish market business. Discounted sales to chefs can increase your bottom line by volume if you price correctly.

Customer reviewing prices at fish market in Maine
Customer reviewing prices at fish market in Maine (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Step 4

Set up your fish market business with aesthetics and inventory temperature control in mind. Your storefront and kitchen need to be built for ease of use, cleaning and efficiency. Lay out both areas with the product sales and preparation in mind. Storing fish at unsafe temperatures or in unclean tanks for any length of time will result in spoilage and seriously effect your bottom line.

Seafood on ice display
Seafood on ice display (Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Step 5

Establish a solid marketing plan. Local advertising for retail sales is going to bring in the majority of your customers, but creative marketing to restaurants may bring in the most sales by volume. A perfect balance between the two and a customer service plan are what a great fish market business needs.

Man dressed in lobster costume walking in Portland, Maine
Man dressed in lobster costume walking in Portland, Maine (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Increase your sales by reputation. Give fish that is getting past its peak but still good to eat to a local shelter. Knowledge of your contributions will work as great community advertising.
  • Sales regulations are different throughout the United States. Be sure to contact each state you will be selling in.

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