Memorandum by St Albans District Council
1. St Albans is a city rich in heritage,
with evidence of the pre-Roman, Roman, medieval and the modern
forming a continuous link between the past and present. The town
first appeared as Verlamion, an Iron Age settlement whose name
may mean "the settlement above the marsh". The river,
still known as the Ver, runs through the city. The inhabitants
traded with the Romans for many years before the Roman conquest
of Britain in AD 43. Verulamium, along with the towns of Colchester
and London, was ransacked in the Boudiccan uprising of AD 60/61.
2. It was rebuilt with many fine buildings
including public baths, a theatre, temples, large privately owned
town houses with under floor heating and, from the 3rd century,
town walls. The town grew to be the third largest in Britain before
gradually falling into decline after AD 400. The site of the Roman
town of Verulamium lies beneath modern Verulamium Park. The ruined
buildings of Verulamium were exploited to build the new market
town of St Albans.
3. The St Albans of today is based on the
medieval town which grew up around the Abbey. The medieval street
pattern can still be experienced and many of the original buildings
remain. The market has continued in use since these early times
and contributes to the lively atmosphere. The Abbey was fundamental
to the layout of the new town. The economic basis of St Albans
in medieval times was as a market town, catering for travellers
and pilgrims. Many inns grew up around the Abbey. The Abbots created
the Market Place and St Peter's Street in the 12th century in
a deliberate attempt to create the economic heart of the new town.
4. St Albans market today is one of the
most colourful and vibrant street markets in the South of England.
With over 170 stalls on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it offers
everything from fish to fancy goods so customers are spoilt for
choice. Our market is steeped in History with a special Royal
Charter granted in 1553. However, the market is well documented
as far back as the 9th century.
5. The current day market is operated by
St Albans District Council and is firmly established in the city
centre and runs the length of St Peters Street offering an excellent
shopping experience to compliment the established retail stores,
such as British Home Stores, Next, T.K. Maxx and Boots plus many
6. The market itself is almost unique in
the diversity of goods it offers and attracts traders from as
far away as Nottingham, Birmingham, and the extreme Southeast
of Kent as well as closer to home. With up to 60% of our traders
being here for 20 years or more you can be assured that the
standard of service will match the diversity and quality of goods
available. At Christmas additional markets are provided, allowing
continuous trading for at least seven days in the run up to Christmas.
7. St Albans also supports a regular Farmers
Market, on offer as a 65 stall market each 2nd Sunday in
St Peters Street, as a 50 stall market in Harpenden on the
4th Sunday and 36 stall market in Wheathampstead on the 3rd
8. On occasions a continental market is
allowed to trade in the city centre to complement the Charter
Market. These are either traders from France or Italy. These are
normally for a three day period every three months. St Albans
has also run an Art and Craft market in conjunction with the Farmers
market. As part of the St Albans festival a Street market of over
100 stalls is created for all the local voluntary and sports
organizations to market and promote their activities. This is
done using the same layout and stalls for the Saturday Market.
The Committee's inquiry will focus on the following
How has the picture changed over the last 10 years?
Last 10 or more years, some markets have
become a shadow of their former lively, bustling selves eg Roman
Road market in Bow London, which in the sixties was a large bustling
market with a great selection of stalls, attracting people from
a reasonable area, and now consists of a very few and down-at-heel
that no-one would travel to visit. This may reflect the state
of the local economy.
In St Albans we have been able to maintain a
full trading Saturday market. The Wednesday market has been more
difficult to maintain the numbers we had 10 years ago.
Products have changed over time but the core
of almost any market remains fresh produce at great pricesoften
stock needing clearancein this sense markets help reduce
waste. It is noticeable that in times of economic downturn in
St Albans we are hearing reports of those who would have never
used the market now buying there. So markets also help those in
deprived areas get better value but also those who may be deprived
in wealthier areas. They are also a superb outlet for small entrepreneurs
who otherwise would not be able to afford a shop-front.
With the onset of Internet shopping and more
supermarkets offering a wider range of goods, the traditional
retail market has increased competition.
Out of town shopping centres provide free and
easy access parking, existing town centre parking is usually paid
for at a premium rate or entirely prohibited. Free parking being
a major attraction to the public no looking for change, no time
spent backwards and forwards to the car to put the parking ticket
on and no time limit with £30 fine for staying later.
Are the number and types of markets in decline?
If so, why?
Yes although there are more different types
of markets being created in the development of local Farmers markets
over the last five years. Although the number of traders available
to undertake this type of business I believe is on the decline.
Not many people are attracted to take up market trading as a full
time living. Many who do take up market stalls are probably doing
it on a part time basis generating additional income through other
work, or using the stall as a temporary shop front for booked
worksuch as curtains, blinds, bespoke furniture or craft
Are there obstacles preventing the creation of
Are there obstacles hindering the successful business
of existing market operators and traders?
Success is usually defined by how much money
can be made from trading on the market stall and how the business
can be developed. Many years ago the market stall was the first
opportunity for business for such entrepreneurs as Allan Sugar,
Jack Cohen (TESCOS) and Marks and Spencers It is the Internet
which offers that opportunity now. Each stall holder has to ensure
the same level of Health and Safety, Public Liability Insurance,
returns policy and other requirements which are demanded of a
retailer in a permanent building. The significant difference for
the Market trader is having to bring in their goods and set up
their shop in the morning when they trade and take it down and
remove it from the market site in the evening when they close.
What has been the impact of specialist markets
eg continental and farmers markets, and do such markets integrate
successfully with older markets?
As long as there is a transparency as to what
the specialist market is being charged and the rules and regulations
are the same then the integration can be successful. It is about
widen the attraction of the Market, increasing footfall and creating
more "linger longer" time. The farmers market in St
Albans has been running for over seven years and continues to
prove to be very popular and interestingly attracts in a different
customer group to the normal street market. When there is an opportunity
to combine the two together then the traditional market is opened
to a new customer group.
What social and economic effects do traditional
retail markets have on their local communities?
Traditional markets are:
(i) A community focal point, creating a vibrant
(ii) Help with footfall in the City, increasing
traffic for other retailers and coffee shops and cafes
(iii) An opportunity for local entrepreneurs
to launch/test new ventures
(iv) A provider of low cost products often not
generally available in the shops
(v) Part of our heritage, many going back to
the Middle Ages. An established market can be a major attraction,
source of pride etc
(vi) They also involve walking in the fresh air
which is probably a health benefit
(vii) They provide an opportunity for street
(viii) Provides opportunity for special environmental
What qualities contribute to a successful market
delivering social and economic benefits, and are there examples
of best practice that have a wider application?
Qualities required are a stallholder-friendly
environment/management, a good catchment area in terms of numbers/spending,
a good space to operate on a reasonable scale, good public transport
links, and other local attractions if possible. The issues are
not massively different from those desirable for any retailer.
Our successful Farmers market has transferred
to other locations in our district using a tried and tested format
devised in the St Peter Street location. The stalls have been
used for Carnival and Festival markets for voluntary organisations
to promote their activities.
Does local government support markets effectively?
This Council supports the provision of Markets
very effectively and is keen to look at ways in expanding the
offer which is available.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of local
authorities having powers to operate markets?
In the right environment a good street market
is an asset to any town as it is a social day out for many and
also brings trade to the permanent shops as well as the market
itself. Local authorities have different priorities to consider.
Private operators are primarily concerned with profits and have
been known to turn a blind eye to illegal trades and bad practice.
Does central government support markets effectively?
If not, what additional support should be provided?
I am not aware of any central government support
for traditional markets. They are, however, part of our heritage
and some support/promotion could be useful.
Could central government make better use of markets
to achieve national goals, particularly with regard to social
cohesion, health and regeneration?
I am sure government could use markets to support
social cohesion and health (they are open-air and get people used
to wandering!). They might help regeneration, but successful markets
are more likely to be an outcome of a broad regeneration package
rather than a stimulus for it. They are commercial entities which
must be commercially viable, not some social enterprise.