Memorandum by Western International Market
Tenants' Association (MARKETS 04)
Traditional retail markets have been in decline
for several years. We believe this is not in the public interest
and every effort should be made to rejuvenate them. The basic
cause of the problem, is that the number of customers shopping
at markets has reduced, to the extent that many stallholders are
not viable financially. We suggest that government could help
to make vendors profitable and sustainable through such measures
Development of a retail market's advocate.
"Market Health Check" surveys.
Promotion of market halls in southern
Encouragement of new entrants to the
Regulation of "scoop" trading.
The Western International Tenants Association,
represents the 50 or so wholesalers selling horticultural
produce from the Western International wholesale market, in west
London. Vendors at traditional retail markets represent a significant
part of the customers at Western International wholesale market,
so tenants are keen to see this sector prosper.
It is important to remember that running a retail
market stall is a commercial activity, which will only be sustainable
if acceptable profits can be made. Many factors influence the
business viability of stalls. In our evidence, we have tried to
concentrate on those that can be influenced by central and local
government. To do this, we have followed the basic layout of the
committee's "Call for Evidence".
2.1 It is hard to find anyone who does not
agree that retail markets are an important part of Britain's commercial
and social life. Despite this, they have been in decline over
the last 10 years, in terms of both numbers and turnover.
Stallholders selling foods such as healthy, fresh produce, seem
to have been hit harder than those in such sectors as, clothing
and fast foods.
2.2 We believe that the main reason for
this decline, has been the reduced numbers of consumers shopping
at retail markets. Key reasons for this include:
(a) They think supermarkets are cheaper.
(b) It takes longer to shop at markets than in
a supermarket, where they can get all their needs in one place.
(c) Weather conditions can put shoppers off (eg.
rain and cold).
(d) Car parking is often not available nearby,
or too expensive.
(e) Market business hours are not convenient.
(f) Some market traders have a poor image, so
customers fear they may be cheated.
(g) Concerns about food safety.
(h) Believe the quality of goods in markets is
lower than shops/supermarkets.
(i) Little advertising/promotion is done by street
(j) Many markets lack facilities, such as clean,
public toilets and good lighting.
(k) Street markets are not fashionable places
It is important that any interventions in the
retail market sector, seek to overcome one or more of the above
constraints and win new customers.
2.3 New markets are often hard to set up,
as people do not want them near their homes and business. It can
be done, however, as has been shown by the rapid growth of certified
farmer's markets and other fine food markets in recent years.
2.4 There are several obstacles hindering
the successful business of existing market operators and traders
with special reference to their interface with government.
2.4.1 A lot of stallholders believe that the
activities of Local Government often has an adverse effect on
trade. Not only is local government frequently the market landlord,
but its policies on re-development, planning, parking, environmental
health and trading standards, also have a big impact on street
markets. When councillors vote on these matters, we are sure they
do so with the best interests of residents in mind and certainly
do not intend to damage their community street markets. In many
cases however, we believe they are not fully aware of the impact
of their decisions on the retail market sector.
Many stallholders are not members of trade associations.
Where such organisations exist, they are commonly badly equipped
to represent stallholders' interests to local government members
To try to avoid these problems, we suggest a
Street Markets Advocate should be appointed. The advocate's main
task would be to look at government policies and identify anything
that could have an adverse effect on local street markets. These
areas would be brought to the attention of government, in the
hope that they can work with the advocate to resolve possible
conflicts, before the street markets are damaged.
2.4.2 The infrastructure of many street and other
retail markets is outdated. Government support is needed to improve
this in such areas as:
Electricity supply for lighting, refrigeration,
cooking food, etc.
Provision of toilets with washing facilities.
Dedicated parking for vendors' vans,
On site storage facilities for traders.
Many improvements of this type would benefit
food hygiene and encourage more customers.
2.4.3 Some Farmer's markets have used a form
of market research called "Market Health Checks". These
surveys have provided valuable information on which market development
can be based. We would like to see this technique tried in retail
markets, to see if it assists with their promotion. (FARMA have
considerable expertise in this field).
2.4.4 In northern England there are some very
successful retail market halls. We believe that this sort of venture
should be encouraged more in southern England. Perhaps local government
there, could try to persuade landlords to use some of the empty
retail space that they have available, as market halls.
2.4.5 We believe that there is a need to encourage
more new blood into the retail market industry. Government could
play a part in this by preparing a guide to profitable trading
in retail markets for new entrants. The provision of training
and a mentoring service, would also be valuable.
2.4.6 Scoop selling, sometimes called bowling,
has become a popular feature of fruit selling in retail markets
over the last few years. In this system, the stallholder displays
small bowls filled with a variety of fruit, all at a fixed price,
often £1. Customers can then select the bowl of their choice
at the stated price, without the fruit being weighed. There is
an urgent need for this practice to be regularised under weights
and measures legislation.
2.5 In our opinion, specialist markets,
such as continental and farmer's markets, have had little impact
on traditional markets. As each type of market relies on its unique
selling points however, we feel it is best not to try to integrate
3.0 SOCIAL AND
Retail markets are economic ventures and safeguarding
their profitability must be the main priority. In addition, however,
they can have valuable social benefits, including:
Providing access to fresh, local, healthy
, value for money food.
Assist consumers to eat five portions
of fruit and vegetables per day.
Act as centres for social interaction.
Provide outlets for specialist ethnic
foods, which supermarkets often do not supply.
Where markets are not owned by local government,
we feel these social benefits are more likely to be overlooked.
There is great scope for local government to
support retail markets more effectively, including the point outlined
in 2.4.1 to 2.4.6 of this paper. The main need is for
local government to regards its retail markets as important assets
of their area, to be embraced and nurtured. Traders feel this
is not always the case at present.
The licensing of markets is not an area where
we can claim expertise.
The licensing of individual stallholders varies
a great deal from local authority to local authority. It has been
suggested to us that it would be helpful if a license issued by
one local authority, was valid nationwide for similar trading.
This would enable stallholders to take advantage of opportunities
outside their own area from time to time.