Memorandum by Darlington Borough Council
1. This information is supplied by their
Markets Manager, Peter Wilson who has been in post since early
1973, ie almost 36 years.
The Council took over the control of the Charter
Market from the Bishops of Durham in 1854 and can trace their
history back to 1003 and the present range of undertakings
A six-day per week Covered Market (opened in
1863) housing 73 stalls and 18 periphery shops (added
in July 1954),
A twice-weekly outdoor General Market held every
Saturday & Monday,
A bi-monthly outdoor Craft Market (second &
A monthly outdoor (FARMA) accredited Farmers
Market (third Friday),
A monthly outdoor Food Market (first Friday).
In addition, the annual calendar includes a
number of very large (ie up to and in excess of 300 stalls)
"event markets". Examples are the French & Continental,
Green & Eco, Summer Spectacular, Christingle & Winter
Wonderland. These can generate (evidenced) footfall in excess
of 325,000 (which is three times the Borough's population)
so there effect on the town centre is significant.
Darlington is also very proud to have been awarded
the NABMA Market of the Year (Special Attractions) 2008 title
and the UK's Northern regional title "Greenest Market"
by NMTF, again in 2008.
These demonstrate a market town where markets
are very much part of our rich heritage, yet they also represent
a strong feature of the modern day shopping experience.
I now turn to the focus of the Committee's inquiry:
How has the picture changed over the
past 10 years?
Are the numbers and types of markets
in decline? If so, why?
Are there obstacles preventing the creation
of more markets?
Are there obstacles hindering the successful
business of existing market operators and traders?
What has been the impact of specialist
markets eg continental and farmers markets, and do such markets
integrate successfully with older markets?
2. Markets have to compete with all other
forms of retailing, including the Internet.
Retailers have diversified (ie forecourt stations
now sell a wide range of produce) and some target market customers
(ie Morison's "market street", Pound shops, Wilkinson's
The growth in Sunday trading affects markets.
The growth of Car Boot sales affects markets,
much more so where they become debased and introduce new goods.
Transport policies and access to parking affect
Pedestrianisation can alter footfall patterns
in town centres.
Planning restrictions on signage affects markets;
particularly the smaller specialist types ie farmers.
Lack of finance, including re-investment has
left many markets starved of funding, even though they have been
a net contributor for hundreds of years.
The great majority of markets do not offer "cashless
There is no recognised form of trader training
with acknowledgement of transferable skills (then leading possibly
to licencing/registration) so to build upon the confidence of
Costs of travel including fuel, limit traders
access to markets.
Lack of (previous) cohesion from the leading
industry bodies has disadvantaged marketsthis is now addressed
through the RMA and its APPMGvery much welcomed and no
doubt partly responsible for this inquiry.
3. In Darlington, which indeed reflects
the national picture, the size of the general outdoor markets
has seen significant reduction (albeit the trend began over 10 years
ago), due in part to the above factors. Therefore account must
be taken of current shoppers expectations and the introduction
of the specialist markets, in all their guises has helped to reverse
this effect. They can be made locally to integrate very well but
do then require support from the Town Centre Manager. Many factor
in entertainment to extend the shopping experience and include
all demographic types.
4. There is a saying, "that in a shop
you buy something whereas in a market you are sold something".
Some people just seem to have the gift of selling and l have witnessed
some "ethnic minorities" display a natural tendency
towards this. However most traders (a good example of this is
diversifying farmers) either learn this critical business skill
or suffer throughout. One of the advantages of market trading
is that it is very easy to access, but this also works in reversemost
traders fail to put together a proper business plan, there is
(to them) no real access to retail training, support networks
etc. The basic question must also be asked, why do they want to
become self-employed as a market trader? Large-scale unemployment
in the past led to migration into this sphere of retailing but
unless the person has business acumen, they will not develop and
expand their business, if at all maintain it.
5. The success of any business rests not
with what they sell but with what they buy
the interest shown by customers and provides for the profit margins.
Market traders now more than before require access to "wholesale"
goods and many of these have ceased to trade themselves as markets
have shrunk. Again a key skill of securing goods is required,
even to the potential of direct importing/internet purchasing.
6. In simple terms a market is a concourse
of buyers and sellers, all operators need is the skill and resource
to achieve this, so creating markets even now does happen but
the most important feature is to look after the customerbefore
considering the trader, then the operator. This establishes and
maintains sustainability because traders, despite their peripatetic
nature, rely on developing a relationship with customers who need
to have the confidence they will "be back" to make the
offer and deal with any refunds etc.
Local authority markets l would argue have additional
accountability/responsibility to all concerned but many undertakings
have gone or transferred into the private sector through lack
of fundingeither to maintain the resource or train their
Officer's to an acceptable level of qualification.
What social and economic effects do
traditional retail markets have on their local communities?
What qualities contribute to a successful
market delivering social and economic benefits, and are there
examples of best practice that have a wider application?
7. Why have markets at all? They pre-date
all forms of trading but now surely many of the goods on display
can be found elsewhere?
This is true in part but it is also true that
many town centres replicate each other (multiples can be found
on most high streets) but markets are individual to the immediate
locale. They provide many benefits, some of which are;
low level entry to developing entrepreneurial
skills without the constraints of leases, contracts etc,
trader's peripatetic access to a range of towns
markets and particularly the outdoor types are
fully accessible to traders and customers alike and so create
social inclusion. There have been "waves" of certain
trader groups ie Jewish, Indian & Pakistani and latterly Continental
& Eastern European,
retail diversity and added interest (to include
atmosphere, sounds, smells etc)the range and scale of goods
can be infinitely flexible depending on the mechanisms of management,
the scope of markets is flexibleinviting
farmers, craft persons, continental traders, auto marters, car
booters etc to engage in trading,
evidence reveals that a higher percentage of
revenue from these independent traders is retained for the benefit
of the local economy,
customers genuinely feel that they belong in
their local market and use the locale to maintain networking relationships.
Some traders report generations of customers and customers identify
with their own market town image,
our markets provide a free stall to all non-profit
making groups and a free stall to any local business (regardless
of type) essentially as a physical advertthus we engage
with all sectors of the community.
8. The difference between a small failing
market (that has little diversity of product, is uninteresting,
does not have "critical mass" etc) and a large successful
market (that has these good qualities) is sizebecause size,
properly managed overcomes these bad qualities. In previous times
general outdoor markets dominated and l believe they will not
return to that level so size (in terms of how all patrons of markets
perceive them) is achieved by a critical mass of all the markets
operated in that locale. Diversity is keytheir undoubted
popularity demonstrates they meet customer's expectations in delivering
a high quality of choice. In addition for farmers markets etc
they deliver on agenda's for local choice and access to food.
9. Best practice can be learnt through a
variety of mechanisms but the imposition of performance indicators
has not achieved this and cannot relate to the private sector.
Markets are very diverse and their unique local character will
not reflect the full type and range so comparisons are difficult
to make. However the Retail Market Alliance (which does include
all those connected with the industry) can introduce initiatives
to demonstrate best practiceparticularly where individual
elements can be taken back by individual operators, traders etc
to their own markets where they are "fit for purpose"
and relevant. An example of this is the NABMA and NMTF competitions
where the criteria submitted can be readily disseminated and if
feasible, applied locally. It is in effect an extended form of
networking, which layers on top of the NABMA & NMTF structures
that already have regional & national representationeven
to the APPMG. These organisations ought to have sufficient depth,
expertise and experience to deliver nationally applied agenda's.
Here l would as examples, proffer trader training and registration
through the NMTF and funding streams, consultations and management
(to include a national set of byelaws, regulations etc) through
NABMA. To achieve these and thus overcome many of the existing
barriers stated herein they require a national mandate from Government.
Does local government support markets
What are the advantages and disadvantages
of local authorities having powers to operate markets?
Does central government support markets
effectively? If not, what additional support should be provided?
Could central government make better
use of markets to achieve national goals, particularly with regard
to social cohesion, health and regeneration?
Do local and national planning regulations
support or hinder the development of markets?
Do licensing regulations support or
hinder the development of markets?
What improvements could be made to
the planning and licensing regimes to aid the development of markets?
10. I think here you must begin with the
questions of why and how local government first became engaged
with market operations.
As previously stated, markets pre-date all forms
of retailing but such a strong force of economic influence quite
naturally required regulation and control. The power to hold markets,
regulate them and charge a toll was granted to achieve this (in
the early days usually by Royalty to a position of influence which
no doubt engineered reciprocal benefit). This also demonstrates
the existence (and continuing need) for such Charter markets to
have protectionotherwise the benefit (if freely obtainable
to a rival) was null and void.
The benefits later transferred to Local Boards
who were then controlling and regulating such aspectsmany
such as Darlington bought these rights. Without local (government)
involvement there would have been no regulation or structure to
the proceedings. Of course with control comes the power to levy
fees (much as any landlord imposes a rent).
11. Local authority managed markets for
many years enjoyed a position of influence and derived a steady
income stream from the tolls applied. They did in many areas seek
to improve the trading conditions for all, and examples of this
are the build of "covered in markets", cleansing, refuse,
weighing of goods, smoking, aisle clearance, meat and general
provisions to be fit to eat, and the separation of livestock sales
and butchering of meat into other areas to improve hygiene etc.
Other examples are local byelaws and regulations covering the
hiring of (farm) labour, sales of pets etc many of which were
later dealt with through nationally applied legislation. These
are all contained in a set of Byelaws that were sealed here exactly
100 years ago. It is true to say though that re-investment,
particularly in the covered markets did not reflect that income
and many now cannot offer a structure that can equally compete
with modern trading demands and customer expectations. Those that
have been "modernised" can, so all that is required
is the access to fundingthe refurbished markets demonstrate
they still very much have a place in the retailing sphere.
12. Equally political, financial and management
structures in the local authority must positively support the
markets. Managers must be trained to have the skills and traders
must be supported to become established and prosper. Local authorities
through their extensive networks, town centre managers, regeneration
units etc can act directly or as a conduit to bring about this
support. As an operator or landlord of a commercial enterprise
that influences the local economy, they accept political accountability
and moral obligations to the local electorate. The markets that
have transferred to the private sector have done so because these
attributes have been allowed to fail. A private market operator
will include most if not all of the local authority regulations,
even to include the "charter protection" to maintain
the markets. Remember also that the planning and licensing regulations
must be equally applied to them so there is no actual proof that
a private sector market must be better than a local authority
market; each can possess the resources and skills to operate successfullyfor
the benefit of the local area.
13. Local authorities are however more likely
to engage with the whole community, ie businesses, transport users
of all types, Town Centre Managers, Town Centre Partnerships and
Forums, Disability and other such stakeholder groups. Indeed in
Darlington a constant feature of all consultative processes is
the active use of the markets to engage with the community. The
NHS & PCT use the markets in a similar way and sponsor Food
Festivals (with food choice/purchase/cooking demonstrations et
al) to meet their agenda targets/aspirations. Local authorities
manage Planning, Licensing, Trading Standards and Environmental
Health Officers who can jointly contribute to a successfully managed
market operation. This can be achieved through local community
involvement in a transparent and accountable manner.
14. Markets are though a commercial enterprise
and the financing arrangements should reflect that. They should
be run on a financially independent basis with revenue being used
to maintain the business and access (in common with other qualifying
applicants) to external funding/capital injection. To use the
monies to supplement other uses and see the markets suffer from
a lack of investment would not make them sustainablethere
is sufficient proof of this already.
15. Mention has already been made to markets
positive contribution to social cohesionthey are fully
accessible to all users and the recent creation of farmers markets
promotes this further, in some cases linking the rural to the
urban. The presence of food stalls is increasing in line with
the demands of the customer and national agenda's too. To maintain
their unique role, markets readily adapt to promoting healthy
eating and access to local food/drinkassisting also the