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

Bolton Market Strategy—Overview (MARKETS 16 BPa)

  Bolton's Market Service has reached a critical point in its ongoing development. Its primary site at Ashburner Street is poised to be the focal point of the soon to be developed Bolton Innovation Zone (BIZ). Its satellite venues at Horwich, Westhoughton and Farnworth are also the subject of interesting and ongoing developments as the Borough looks to stay ahead of its regional peers and maintain a prime position behind Manchester in the North West.

  Following the Value for Money Review (VFM) earlier this year, the Service has put in place a number of initiatives aimed at reducing costs, increasing occupancy and reducing arrears (these are critical success factors for the business). This will allow the Service to negotiate the short term. In tandem with this work, redevelopment and refurbishment proposals for Horwich, Westhoughton and Farnworth are gathering pace and will see changes in the way in which the Service is delivered at a more local level in these three areas in the medium to long term.

  To kick start this and in response to business need, the Service has been re-branded to reflect the community focus that is a local Market and has commenced a programme of awareness raising interventions designed to keep the current customer base and entice new shoppers and traders especially to the Ashburner Street site.

  Finally, the Service has commenced dialogue with partners both inside and external to the Council, to deliver added value to the Borough wide priorities as set out in the Bolton's Big Plan. These include working with the local PCT on healthy eating initiatives, looking at the use of the Working Neighbourhood Fund and Area Based Grant to kick start new, small retail businesses on Markets and working up a brief to enable the Service to deliver street trading consents, thematic markets and other events across the Borough.

  It is acknowledged, that this work needs to be brought together, articulated more strategically and that the Council be involved in that process. As a result, this report will outline, in broad terms, the actions and areas of work that are or will be undertaken, in the short to medium term, to help deliver added value against the Boroughs key priority areas these are:-

    — Safe, Strong and Confident.

    — Achieving and Prosperous.

    — Healthy.

    — Cleaner and Greener.

  The remainder of this report will highlight headline actions that will help to deliver against these objectives along with the reference list that will be used to underwrite the thinking behind the Markets Strategy for Bolton.


  There is a school of thought that describes Markets as a "Public Good". This concept is based on the heritage that surrounds the industry in that many Local Authorities have Market Charter Rights which were handed down centuries ago as an act of benevolence by the relevant Monarch at that time. These actions allowed for the development of commerce around the Market site that, over time, saw Markets and Market Halls being built as statements of civic pride.

  Bolton's Charter dates back to 1251 AD (the charter was granted during the reign of Henry III to William De Ferrers, the Earl of Derby, for the holding of markets & fairs) and gives the Council the legal right to control rival market style events within the Borough and beyond. This same heritage has seen Markets become the focal point of towns and cities throughout the UK and even today these venues give identity, pride and a sense of belonging to local communities. Markets are also an internationally understood brand/environment. They offer a backdrop for communities old and new to come together in an easily understood environment to trade, shop, experience new cultures, or just people watch.

  The social dynamic of a Market environment and its low barriers to business entry creates simple and understandable opportunities for local people and migrant communities to become economically active. Managed correctly, the product mix within a typical Market environment can reflect the diverse nature of todays social environment. For Bolton's community the market can help in promoting cultural education and allowing the Council to "Place Keep" as well as "Place Make". This helps to sustain communities and re-enforces messages of harmony through food, culture, lifestyle and music.

  Initiatives to progress these ideals at a strategic level will see a testing out of:

    — Soft loan schemes for the development of new businesses and those that add cultural value to the shopping repertoire on Bolton's Markets.

    — Social statement of theme days at Bolton's Markets such as International Women's Day which highlight national/international issues and demonstrate an awareness of "the bigger picture" as far as the local markets service is concerned.

    — Work towards making Ashburner Street a Regional Food Tourist Hub. This will include closer relationships with the restaurants (both existing and emerging) of the Borough and with organizations such as A Taste of Lancashire and the Ribble Valley Food Trail.

    — Aligning the re-development of out district Market venues alongside other community benefits such as post offices, building schools for the future (BSF), health drop-in centres (planned PCT developments for the Borough), libraries and local transport hubs to make it easier for those without personal transport or the older community to "one stop shop" at local level more often and more easily.

    — Delivering a monthly food demonstration calendar at Ashburner St Market that showcases community celebration and religion through food tasting and recipes. For example January 2009 will see a celebration of the Chinese New Year by demonstrating a healthy stir fry meal using ingredients from the market and delivered by the local PCT health/chef nutritionist.


  The Service currently nurtures over 300 small businesses and provides direct and in-direct employment for over 500 people at the Ashburner St venue alone. In addition it offers access to good quality, low cost food staples to the more deprived communities of the Borough as well as using local supply chains for fresh food and vegetables. There are a number of initiatives that will form part of the ongoing Service Strategy within this context. These will include:

    — Accessing Working Neighbourhood Funding to underwrite initiatives that will help to supply new entrepreneurs into the industry at local level. It is hoped that this will manifest in the creation of a Markets Apprenticeship Scheme at local level although funding will be an issue.

    — Working with national bodies such as the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) and the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) to lobby for Government and European funding to promote the Markets industry.

  This work is ongoing and at present we are seeking to submit case study material to a national policy development project. The Service is also commencing work on a regional bid to create ambulant trading opportunities based on the European model of street trading using bespoke trailers as the selling unit instead of the more traditional stall.

  In addition, the Service networks across Europe to share good practice and is in early discussions with Barcelona's Market Authority to "twin" with them at some time in the near future. This is helping to raise Bolton's profile within Europe. Other local actions include:

    — Creating partnerships with local creative industries, Town Centre Management and local businesses to deliver themed markets and events designed to generate tourism footfall, increase civic pride and engender community involvement.

  The Service is already an active member of the Bolton Tourism Forum and has working links with Highways, Regeneration, the Economic Development Department and Corporate Property Services and is currently preparing a bid to release Area Based Grant Funding to help underwrite the work detailed above These business relationships and funding stream (if successful) will be developed over time to include meaningful input in the Boroughs Event and Animation Strategy, Public Realm Strategy and Property Portfolio Strategy especially in relation to the Borough wide market venues at Horwich, Farnworth and Westhoughton.

  Current examples of actions in this area include commencing dialogue with traders and businesses at Westhougton regarding future developments and looking at the options available around the "Nerve Centre" initiative which is a local website that connects the local creative industries to business (retail and showcasing) opportunities available.

  In addition the service is in the process of purchasing a number of demountable open market stalls to progress street trading initiatives in the Town Centre and for use showcasing opportunities for current and new small businesses. A photo of a prototype stall which was used at this years Bolton University Freshers Week to capture new customers is included below.


  This stall was used in the recent "Fresher's Week" promotion and Bolton University where over 700 new customer names/details were captured for future marketing campaigns.


  In order to maximise returns for the Council and its partners under this priority, the service will undertake the following actions during the course of this strategy document. These are designed to help narrow the health inequality gap that exists within the Borough.

    — Partnerships with the PCT and the School Meals service will be developed to work on and deliver a coordinated approach to health interventions for all sections of the community.

    — Ashburner Street Markets unique selling point (food) will be used as the focus for all future marketing campaigns.

  This work has already started with a joint collaboration using a national campaign (British Food Fortnight) as the backdrop for highlighting local food.

  To complement the healthy eating interventions within schools the Markets Service undertook the first of its monthly food demonstrations at Bolton market using local produce and ingredients cooked on site by the School Meals training chef. This will also form part of the overall marketing campaign for the venue as well as complementing ongoing initiatives for school meals within the Borough.

  Work will start early in the new year to create a demonstration kitchen in the food hall at Asburner St which over time should allow audience participation to take place for example by offering the opportunity to "have a go" or teach parents and children cooking skills together. This fits in with similar initiatives currently being developed by the PCT who are targeting deprived communities as part of their food education programme.

  Other Interventions will include prescribing the market as a diagnostic venue for helping to change the diets of overweight and unhealthy Bolton residents. To reinforce the theme, free to enter competitions designed to drive footfall will capture customer data and will feature healthy prizes such as "fitness" Wii computer games systems, bicycles and free trials at gymnasiums.

  Other ideas that will be employed are:

    — The fruit and vegetable voucher scheme.

    — School visits to Ashburner Street including talks on where food comes from.

    — A range of Market based "healthy eating" recipes driven by the website and by selected traders.

  In the longer term research will be undertaken to look at the feasibility of aggregating new market venues with other new build ventures particularly in terms of provision of older people, health centres and leisure activities such as libraries. These opportunities may be most appropriate within the outlying areas of the Borough, such as Horwich.


  These two priorities will be enhanced in the longer term by ensuring that the Markets Service gains accreditation in ISO 14001 (Environmental good practice). In doing so, various interventions will become common practice around such things as recycling targets for organic waste, cardboard, wood, shrink wrap and plastic. Alongside this work, the Service will begin work on detailing the provenance of its food supply chain by working more closely with local food hubs (wholesale markets and local producers/farmers) to quantify environmental good practice on Carbon footprint and CO2 emissions of the Service.

  This will automatically feed into the work currently being progressed on a Food Strategy for the Borough in terms of food security, local supply chain analysis and collaborating with our own School Meals Service and the Council Childrens Services to add value to existing initiatives designed to tackle food poverty and improve wellbeing targets. It will also explore ideas to join up issues such as community growing projects, the reworking of current supported employment models to look at (for example) a local bicycle delivery service and developing the Markets website so as to encourage some degree of "E tailing". As this develops and networking improves the Service fully expects to manage the current Local Farmers Market/Local Produce Market and develop additional venues around the Borough such as Horwich.

  The initiative that started with "Freshers Week", at Bolton University earlier this month to gather personal data from potential new customers will continue. This will allow for personalised and (where appropriate) electronic marketing to take place thus reducing the use of more carbon costly methodologies such as buses. Eventually it is hoped that various inanimate Council Infrastructures might be used to promote the Markets. This could mean, for example, using existing lamp posts for franchised "barrel" advertising and banner site advertising at arterial roadway junctions.

  Other advertising methodologies will include highlighting the reduced packaging used by market traders in comparison to the supermarkets and re-enforcing this message with free bio degradable bags and regular "food basket" shopping comparisons.

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Prepared 23 July 2009