Markets and the High Street



“Our markets are the hub of independent retail in the town. We have the big names on our high street but it’s the market that offers shoppers something different.”
Market Manager, Cambridge Roadshow


Markets have always been an important part of town centres. In many respects they anchor or are the focus point of town centres.


The recent research published by Manchester Metropolitan University and the Institute of Place Management, under the title “Markets Matter”, provides compelling evidence that markets are economically, socially and politically, an asset to town centres. The conclusion of the research sets out the following findings:


 “As the longest-standing retail assets in many locations, the (markets) contribution may be somewhat overlooked, especially if they are not being managed in a way that enables them to reach their full trading potential. Allowing markets to decline is never a smart move for a town centre, as markets act as a visual barometer for the vitality and viability of a location.


"Markets are also a useful proxy of the state of relationships between town centre stakeholders. If market traders are not cooperating with each other, or the Local Authority, is not cooperating with its market, or fixed retailers are hostile to the market, then it is likely that ALL networks and partnerships in that location are weak and/or dysfunctional, making it impossible to coordinate the type of change that is necessary to stay relevant to a 21st century catchment.”


Of course looking at the ways in which markets can make a significant impact on towns there is overwhelming evidence of the positive economic effects of Christmas Markets. We can now boast Christmas markets that can rival any held in Europe and the value and importance of Christmas Markets is not only the province of the larger towns and cities.


Supported by the Department of Communities and Local Government NABMA has commissioned research on the economic impact of markets that has been published in parallel with Mission for Markets.


By way of examples, Manchester and Birmingham are two of the most successful Christmas markets in the country. In Birmingham the Christmas market in 2014 brought around five million visitors who spent nearly £400 million at the Christmas market.


But it is not only the large towns and cities where Christmas markets make an impact. There are a growing number of Christmas markets all around the country with some innovative ideas being used to make the markets successful.


In Whitby, Scarborough Borough Council and Whitby Town Council, with local traders, utilised their beach huts in November 2014 to stage their first Christmas Market. Over the period November 27th to 30th around 7,000 people visited the seaside town to enjoy the attractions of the Christmas Market.






“Market days are the busiest for the whole high street. Shop owners welcome us because of the extra footfall our market bring, some even have a stall.”
Market Trader, online submission


Town centres have to be welcoming and perhaps there has been no greater evidence of this than some of the examples provided in the recent Great British High Street Awards, for example Belper in Derbyshire.


The evidence from Markets Matter and the success of the Great British Market Awards is that a town centre is more likely to be more successful if people are working together. And that is whether it is via a town team, town centre forum, or other stakeholder group. It is more likely that success will be achieved by sharing of ideas and responsibilities.


Shopping habits are changing and currently there is a great deal of work being undertaken to embrace the digital revolution. Markets need to be part of this campaign and perhaps there is no greater example than the Love Your Local Market campaign that is almost run exclusively via social media.


Love Your Local Market is about celebrating the role of markets and helping to attract new market traders. In 2015 Love Your Local Market was celebrated by 1,200 markets in the United Kingdom and also in 16 European countries and a number of other countries worldwide. 


Love Your Local Market has become the biggest markets event the world has ever seen and it is all down to the successful exploitation of the digital revolution.


People need to find out information about markets, be able to shop, when appropriate, online, and also take advantage of credit card facilities to buy goods. If markets do not embrace these simple requirements then they are going to fall behind other retailers.


Markets also need to be available when people want to shop. The tradition of markets serving a 9-5 shopping community no longer has the sustainability of 20 years ago.


We have seen the changes, particularly in London where a tradition of night markets has grown up, with a focus on food. A number of existing markets have adapted to meet the changing demands.


Brixton Village and Market Row has embraced the night time economies and has been described, by The Guardian newspaper“as the home to the most vibrant restaurant scene in London.” On most nights of the week you will find locals and tourists sampling a wide variety of food offers within a colourful and lively atmosphere.


Food has become the catalyst of many new markets and the locations of these events show the need for markets to be adaptable to where the consumer is to be found. KERB and Street Feast are both relatively newcomers to the UK market scene but are providing what customers want via an attractive food offer in the right location.


KERB, for example, can be found near King’s Cross Station in London and at other city locations. Street Feast specialises in night markets and quoting from its own promotional material, they have in the last three years used “car parks, breweries, warehouses, old tube stations, and builders’ merchant yards to create a unique haven for lovers of great food and drink.”


Retailing is all about location, location, location and markets have to consider being adaptable so that they can meet the demands of shoppers.


One of the most interesting developments in providing a market has been the Coventry Market Pedal stalls. Using bicycles that have been adapted to provide the market sales, the Pedal stalls allow traders to set up a market in one location and move quickly to another.


This is exactly the sort of initiative that brings markets to the right location. Of course markets have been assisted by the tremendous interest in pop-up stalls, but the ability to get markets established in the right location needs flexible procedures that can respond quickly to a particular need.


One of the proposals in the Mission for Markets Manifesto is focused around simplifying procedures to close highways and roads in order that markets can be held without a substantial lead-in time for the finalisation of appropriate Traffic Regulation Orders.


Markets cannot exist in isolation. In planning for the future of markets it is essential that they are part of a proper business plan and also part of the future strategy of the town centre.


An example of a simple but effective business plan is provided by Oswestry Town Council who include, within their planning for the future, a market service business plan looking at the performance of the market, considering its future place within the overall town centre offer, and also ensuring the market is resourced and supported.


Many town centres are going through changes with a view to improving their offer and during the NABMA and NMTF roadshows a visit was made to Stockton-on-Tees where the town centre redevelopment was nearing completion. Markets are a vital part of the redeveloped centre with an expanding programme of specialist markets to enhance the regular markets held each week.


Birmingham is currently in the process of implementing a city centre retail strategy and “the city’s vibrant retail markets are seen as an important part of the core retail shopping offer. Birmingham’s profile as a destination for market shopping will be raised by encouraging new niche and theme traders to compliment and extend the existing markets offer.”


But is it not only town centre strategies where markets need to be included. Reference has already been made to the growing importance of food and in the Bristol Food Policy markets play a key role in the achievement of the policy’s objectives.


Markets have the great ability to make a difference and contribute so much to what town centres can offer.


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