Street vending has been a common feature of urban centres for several decades, with a relatively high proportion of developing countries’ populations depending on it for employment, income or survival. Taking a supply-side approach, studies have shown that urban planners’ responses to street vending have followed the modernism theory. In this paper, we take a demand-side (buyer-focused) approach to studying street vending, which to date has received little attention from the academic community. Employing data from Lagos state, Nigeria, we report four explanations underpinning the demand-side of street vending: formal economy failures, social/redistributive, financial gains, and multifeature. These are, in turn, explained by individuals’ marital status, level of education, and perception. Our findings highlight the need for urban planners to embrace pragmatic policies in addressing these demand-side drivers of street vending and use of urban space, rather than criminalising its actors.