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Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Memorandum by Chris Hurdman (MARKETS 11)


    — It is my opinion Market trading is no longer an attractive proposition for entrepreneurs starting a business in the retail industry, and that in the present economic climate the industry will collapse and not be able to recover.

    — Those prospective traders will not accept the long and physically demanding hours.

    — The constraint of market rules make unacceptable demands on a work life balance and precludes trading for anyone with school age children.

    — Margins have decreased and expenses such as fuel and market tolls have increased making market trading unattractive.

    — Lack of security in respect of trading on a daily basis and lack of tenure both make the prospective retailer look elsewhere for their investment.

    — Local Authorities use their markets to raise revenue and do not recognise the benefits of their markets.


  Born in 1961, I joined the Royal Engineers in 1977 and left in 1985. I have been a Market Trader in partnership with my brother, trading on markets in Oxfordshire to date.

  I set up and chaired the trader operated market in Bicester and am currently the secretary of Thame Market Traders Cooperative. I am married with two children.

How has the picture changed over the last 10 years?

  Over the last 10 years there has been a reduction in the number of market traders, which in turn has seen the collapse of a number of private markets in Oxfordshire. There are a number of factors contributing to this decline all of which have contributed to a number of traders leaving the market industry. These factors, highlighted below, also contribute to the reasons why the industry is unable to attract new traders.

    — Lack of investment by local authorities. Markets on which I trade earn in excess of £60,000 per annum for providing floor space on a free car park. I am unaware of any reinvestment.

    — Local Authorities use their markets solely for revenue rental income; this is inextricably linked to monies authorities need to raise rather than setting a fair rent.

    — When market attendances fall, Local Authorities continue to maintain their gross revenue, which in turn makes more traders leave.

    — Individually traders are working long hours, it is not unusual to hear of traders working 18 to 20 hour days.

    — Local Authorities market rules insist on 8 hr trading days. As many traders are sole traders with no employees, their working day is extended by the setting up and dismantling of their stalls. Added to this is their travelling time to and from market as well as restocking their vehicles for the next days trading.

    — The majority of market traders are sole traders and do not employ staff the consequence of which means that traders work long hours without breaks.

    — The impact of specialist markets has had an effect on Traditional Markets where the specialist, continental or farmers market has been introduced on a day other than the traditional market day.

    — In some cases continental markets have been offered free rents to the operator of the continental markets, whilst the local authority charges tolls to the regular market traders.

    — There are benefits to both farmers markets and to traditional markets; when both markets are held in conjunction there has been a overall benefit to both the traditional and farmers market.

Their Social and Economic effects

    — The provision of retail markets in towns with limited supermarket competition benefits the local community by providing competition in the retail sector.

    — The social effects of local markets are immense, not just a meeting place but on well run markets they are a valuable addition to the local community.

Realising the potential of traditional retail markets

    — I am unaware of any local authority in Oxfordshire positively supporting their market.

    — The benefits of local authorities running markets are that local issues can be more easily resolved.

    — Local Authorities do not see the social and economic importance of markets, in strengthening communities and providing reasonably priced and healthy food.

    — I am unaware of any central government support of markets; this may be because of lack of local government knowledge of any such initiatives.

    — I consider that with central government support a healthy vibrant market on a designated market day can bring life atmosphere and trade back into town centres.


  I respectfully request that the committee to consider the following recommendations.

    — That central government ring fenced market tolls as street trader licences are then this sector of the retail industry could be saved.

    — That central government ensure that local government separate discussions of monies needed to be raised from their market tolls.

    — That Local Authorities are proactive in support of their markets and include market traders in decision making.

    — That market traders have right of tenure to protect both their investment and livelihood.

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Prepared 23 July 2009