How Markets Can Work
A review of the latest research and evidence locally in Suffolk on how and why markets can make a real contribution to economic and social life of a town or community.
It’s tough out there! The high street and the retail sector are facing a period of flux with tremendous pressures from local, national and global consumer trends, including rapid changes in the fiscal climate affecting local authorities. Town and city centres are complex places that serve a wide range of people and purposes. The importance of healthy vibrant town centres has been highlighted in recent years, in certain locations, due to the visible effect of vacant shops and a perception, among some, that their towns are not providing them with all the services they want or need, with a negative impact on their quality of life. Town centres, and those who operate in and manage them, are having to adapt to changing circumstances as global issues impact on local conditions. Similarly, local authorities are also having to adapt to rapid changes in the fiscal climate and increasingly challenging budgetary constraints.
Shopping has become an element of leisure outings rather than the sole purpose of visits to town and city centres, so towns need to provide and measure much more than retail. Not surprisingly, the manner in which our towns and cities are managed has evolved considerably from a purely shopping-centred tactical approach to sophisticated multi stakeholder strategic planning. This evolution has manifested itself in the creation of a wide range of town centre partnerships that include informal set-ups (e.g. Town Teams) as well as private sector-led partnership-based initiatives such as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), where a clear business plan with a strategic vision for the area is commonplace.
Markets, like events, can be a major motivating factor for people to come to a town centre. The presence of a regular (albeit temporary) traditional market can add diversity to the retail offer of a town centre and can act as a catalyst for other more specialist markets to come to the area, including farmers’ markets, artisan markets, continental markets, Christmas markets and night markets. All this can contribute to the area’s diversity of offer, satisfy a wider range of needs and attract local residents as well as visitors from a growing catchment area.
Markets matter economically
Markets have a significant turnover and notable multiplier. The total turnover of markets in the UK in 2008 was £7.6 billion. Studies from the USA and Canada have estimated the direct, indirect and induced economic impacts equate to a multiplier effect of around 3. This suggests the £3.5 billion turnover directly attributable to retail markets is worth £10.5 billion to the UK economy.
Markets increase retail sales, with significant numbers (55%-71%) of market visitors spending money in other shops. This is worth £752 million per annum to London’s shop-based retailers.
The markets industry is a significant employer nationally and at a local level. In the UK, 105,000 people were directly employed in the markets sector in 2008 with many others in support roles. 22% of those working in retail in Leeds City Centre work in the market.
With low barriers to entry, markets are excellent business incubators and support business formation. There are some 47,000 micro and small to medium sized businesses operating on markets in the UK. This not only supports local economic development and diversity of retail offer but also encourages individual empowerment.
Markets contribute financially to local activities. Municipal control of markets became commonplace in the late 19th century and 60% of markets are still run by the public sector. Income from markets supports wider local authority services.
Markets support inter and intra-generational economic mobility. Many market traders are family businesses and employ extended family members on either a part or full-time basis.
Markets provide employment and self-employment opportunities that are open to all. Markets provide entry-level employment that can assist relatively unskilled or under-capitalised individuals and have also proved attractive to immigrant communities.
Markets contribute to making other businesses viable. There can be significant earnings for farmers who attended markets with increased profit margins, whilst these and other markets offer income opportunities for local businesses that contribute to their sustainability.
Markets attract tourists. They are “unique, quirky, unusual and always a bargain” according to VisitBritain, with a distinct atmosphere.
Markets matter socially
Markets are places of social interaction. Used by all sections of society, markets are where people of different incomes, ages, genders and cultures can meet together and interact. They are the happy ‘third place’ of spontaneous interaction.
Because of the ease of becoming a trader, markets have traditionally been attractive to new arrivals.
They encourage newcomers to become part of the community.
Markets are crucial to the distinct identity of a town or area. From Downham Market and Bury St Edmunds to the ‘modern market town’ that Altrincham prides itself on being, markets are emblematic of many places.
They embody a community and set it apart from those without such an asset.
Markets animate vacant or underused space. Whether in street, market place or vacant lot, markets create vitality and animation, drawing customers and onlookers. Their layout can encourage exploration and discovery.
Markets matter politically
Markets promote sustainability. Environmental and ecological benefits arise from selling locally-sourced products, maybe organic or ethical and through serving local communities who mainly walk or use public transport.
Markets offer food security. The network of wholesale and livestock markets and the number of businesses involved in retail markets provides food resilience and a vital link between urban and rural life.
Markets promote community health. The availability of fresh and affordable food, opportunities for social interaction and participation in leisure activities enhance physical and mental well-being, especially for communities who would not otherwise be reached.
Markets are places of innovation, experiment and education. The low operating costs, smallness of scale, availability of stalls and the fluidity of markets encourage traders to take risks and try ideas and products that may not be viable elsewhere provide the opportunity to educate shoppers in how to use and learn more about different products.
Markets shaped the world we live in and are part of our cultural heritage. The concept of a ‘market town’ is ancient and familiar and continues to have a profound effect on town and city centre performance.
Markets can breathe new energy into town centres
Markets have a significant impact on footfall. Towns and cities should be attractive and welcoming to all their citizens, not only the ones that intend to spend money. We propose a busy town is a healthy town.
Research provides the strongest evidence to date of a market effect. The operation of a market significantly increases footfall on each of the homogenous weekday shopping days by between 15% to 27%, when compared to locations without markets, on the same days.
NEF identified this effect with Marylebone Farmers’ Market and the High Street UK 2020 research has identified a similar impact in Altrincham. This is also evident in smaller centres as can be demonstrated by the visitors drawn from a wide area to Churchstoke on the Welsh borders by the Sunday market and car boot sale which is organised by a local supermarket precisely for this reason.
Street markets are also important tourist attractions. A study on reasons for tourists visiting the Victoria Market in Auckland, New Zealand has portrayed how the symbolic and cultural atmosphere of the market is delivering added excitement to the tourist experience.
Markets can also be integral to the main tourist- product of a town/city. In Montpelier, the municipality, in partnership with local producers, facilitates summer- long wine markets, Christmas markets, book markets, and flower markets that are operating in the city’s main tourist square and add to the tourist-product, as well as servicing the needs of the local community
So the case is clear.
The compilation of the most recent research provides convincing evidence that markets matter, both economically, socially and politically. As the longest-standing retail assets in many locations, their contribution may be somewhat overlooked, but essentially they are a key ingredient to a town centre DNA and can act as a visual barometer for the vitality and viability of a location.
In conclusion, markets are an important asset to a location, and their future cannot be left to chance, or undermined by operators who are not willing to adapt and change. This compilation of the latest research provides evidence not only of a market effect in many locations – but also gives clear direction for markets that need to ‘up their game’, to prove that they are still relevant to their location and catchment.
The recent Destination Plan commissioned by St Edmundsbury (Aecom July 2015) stated in the final report as part of the short term action:
All tourism destinations need to continually review the ways in which they engage with their visitors in a manner that will present a ‘unique’ experience and that would help deliver a greater sense of place or uniqueness to Bury St Edmunds:
A farmers/artisan market – the possibility of a regular farmers market and / or indoor market should be explored to augment the weekly market (and potentially help address the issues of quality of the regular weekly market). The produce should be distinctly ‘Suffolk’ in character.
Several councils are already supporting local food initiatives. Liverpool City Council has backed the Merseyside Local Food for Local People project and has part funded it. Kirklees and Calderdale Councils are backing a project to promote local Yorkshire food. Mira Kubula from Kirklees Environment Unit said “The popularity of the Holmfirth Farmers’ Market shows that local people want to be able to purchase local, fresh, affordable produce. The demand is there; we need to encourage our farmers, voluntary groups and individuals to satisfy this demand”.
Local evidence in Suffolk:
The local economy in two local areas has benefited from the markets transformations:
In Lavenham almost 1,500 people (Feb 2016 figures) visit the monthly farmers’ market of which 68% go on to visit the village, to shop on the High Street and to eat in pubs and restaurants. It is noted that in Lavenham on market days, local shops have reported an uplift in sales of 10-15% and some business especially open when the monthly market take place.
Likewise dwell time in the destination will rise with associated restaurants, bars and pubs seeing an uplift in visitors.
Footfall at all markets continues to increase – 1,496 people visited Lavenham Farmers’ Market in Feb 2016 (estimated 100% increase on normal Sunday) and at Sudbury farmers market the footfall in Feb 2016 was 972 people compared to 396 before Suffolk Market Events took over the management.
- Successful Town Centres, ACTCM/gFirst – 2013
- Markets Matter, Institute of Place Marketing,University of Manchester Metropolitan - 2015
- Destination Strategy, Bury St Edmunds + Ipswich, AECOM, 2015.
Awards and Accolades
Lavenham Farmers’ Market
Best Farmers’ Market
Suffolk Food & Drink Awards 2012
Runner Up, Enterprise
Countryside Alliance Awards 2012
Winner Best Food Market in Suffolk
BBC Radio 4 Food & Drink Awards 2015
Suffolk Farmers Market
Winner Best Business in Sudbury 2015 & 2016
Winner Business Growth in Babergh 2018
Registered in Top 100 Best Businesses in the UK. 2015 & 2016
Justine Paul – Founder
Fellow School for Social Entrepreneurs
Winner Suffolk Food & Drink Hero EADT Food & Drink Awards 2015
For further information please contact Justine Paul