Support your local market
AUTHOR: DAVID PRESTON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF NABMA
Markets have been an important feature of many towns for over a thousand years. Currently, there are around 1,150 regular traditional retail markets, and almost 80% of them are operated or licensed by local authorities. But coming out of lockdown this situation might soon change unless local authorities support their markets.
COVID-19 has hit all town centres very hard and their future recovery is uncertain. My organisation, the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA), has recently completed a survey of markets which suggests we could see around 400 markets disappear in the foreseeable future through the impact of COVID-19.
With a large majority of markets being operated by local authorities, as a discretionary service, then the financial pressure on councils may see poorly performing markets close. For three months market operators have received little or no rental income, and no government support for the loss of that vital income. With the added costs of meeting in full the cost of social distancing and other COVID-19 measures then the closure risk increases.
In considering this potential loss it is important to remember what good markets are able to contribute to town centres. Not only do they offer a significant retail element which, in the last three months of restrictions, has played a vital role in supporting the food supply chain but they offer so much more in community engagement, new low start business opportunities, culture, history, colour and vitality. Indeed, a good market has recently been recognised as one of the top twenty-five assets of a successful town centre (Institute of Place Management).
Throughout the lockdown, a percentage of markets managed to stay open. Working in partnership, traders and operators supported their communities and kept the local food chain moving with great innovation. Click and collect; deliveries and setting up systems for online orders have changed market trading of the present and future.
The importance of NABMA has been fully demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic: acting as a voice for the industry; lobbying government, and providing a 24/7 support and advice service to the membership.
NABMA launched a five-point plan to help markets, with our campaign ensuring traders getting access to various compensation packages and operators having the opportunity to get grants from the Reopening the High Streets Safely Fund to successfully relaunch their markets.
Open markets received the green light to open on the 1 June and Indoor Markets will follow on the 15 June. NABMA will launch a social media campaign starting on the 22 June to raise the profile of these reopening’s and encourage as many people as possible to use their markets. We believe that this will be an incremental process as operators need to ensure their market is Covid-19 safe; traders will have concerns about their own safety and reduced footfall, and the public will need to rebuild their confidence to come out of lockdown.
As a national organisation, we can only do so much and we need the support of individual local authorities to ensure that the dreadful prospect of losing 400 markets does not become a reality.
How can you help? If you have a market you can make sure you are a member of NABMA. We have the experience and resources to help your market meet the challenges of post-COVID-19. Details of how you can get information about NABMA is given below.
Make sure your market is an important part of your plans for the future of the town centre and that is supported with a designated markets champion in the council. Consider whether the current management arrangements deliver the best results. Many local authorities now operate their markets with different management arrangements involving private operators, community and trader involvement and arm’s length company arrangements.
You need to act now otherwise in a few months your market might be listed among the potential 400 casualties. That’s something none of us wants.