Memorandum by Chris New, New Markets Solutions
I have over 40 years experience in the
management and development of traditional retail markets. This
includes working as an Assistant Director/Head of Markets/Chief
Officer with a major metropolitan district authority and in my
present role as a specialist markets industry consultant. You
have requested that I submit evidence to assist the Select Committee
and I am pleased to do so.
I trust that the NABMA and the NMTF will be
presenting you with much detail in response to your enquiry.
Suffice to say, therefore, that there are three
main strategic drivers of the significant decline of the traditional
markets industry, namely:
(a) The intense competition caused to the markets
industry due to the immense escalation in retail square footage
and the power of the supermarkets over the last 20 years.
(b) The public's desire for more qualitative
and wider forms of shopping that was met by big retail business
whilst local authorities left their markets services in a vacuum
of disinterest, due to the apolitical nature of markets services.
(c) The failure of national and local politicians
to recognise and bolster markets as a public good* in order that
they could withstand the commercial pressures of big business.
(*The public good is through the facilitation
of small trader entrepreneurialism, the contribution to the vitality
and regeneration of town centres due to the differentiation factors,
the support that markets give to social cohesion and to the culture
of local communities, the VFM contribution to healthy eating,
the self-sufficiency of many tens of thousands of individuals
in self employment who also provide tens of thousands of employment
Markets come in all shapes, sizes and types.
Most markets are operated by local authorities. Most are in severe
decline. The last two statements have connection. There are councils
where there are key exceptions of best practicewhere specific
local excellences have created notable, viable markets butgenerallytraditional
markets will not survive without governmental strategic intervention
because the decline is now deep rooted and endemic. Minor changes
to planning and licensing arrangements would be totally inadequate
to make a significant beneficial difference to the state of the
markets industry. There will be significant loss to society and
to the public good, therefore, unless there are governmental strategic
My key proposals to counter the serious decline
in the markets industry are:
Proposal 1: Government direction
requiring local authorities to actively promote markets as a key
driver in reactivating town centre vitality and viabilityand
as a support mechanism to lessen unemployment.
Without central direction to create a real raised
profile for markets services they will continue to be ignored
and will die.
Proposal 2: Grant-aided hypothecation
of capital and revenue investment in local markets.
Markets services have been used as a cash cow
so that their income and self-generated profits have been used
to support other council services rather than being reinvested.
Other services have not only been tax-borne but capital grants
have been available for their development, unlike markets services.
The development of markets services has fallen in between these
two financial regimes and without strategic financial intervention
of a hypothecated nature there is no future for many markets.
Proposal 3: A National Markets
Training Regime that would create:
(a) Strategic understanding/knowledge
of markets for local authority senior politicians and officers
responsible for town centre viability and vitality.
The downgrading of markets management following
local government reorganisations meant that there is a near-total
lack of understanding and appreciation by senior local politicians
and chief officers of the benefits of markets. There is a lack
of commercial understanding of the factors that can create successful
markets and no desire to understand as senior politicians are
driven to more politically attractive services. For markets to
have a future, this mindset needs to change.
(b) Tactical and operational training
in markets development and management for local authority market
officers and private sector markets management.
The decline of markets has greatly reduced the
availability of professional/specialist management training. The
training capacity to regenerate markets services is lacking and
would require strategic intervention to correct this.
(c) Market trader training in specific
markets small business operation and marketing, particularly in
small retailer skills, customer relations, good purchasing practice
Due to the fragmented nature of markets services
across the countryand despite there being many tens of
thousands in the industrythere has never been (unlike in
some European countries) any coordinated specialist/qualitative
training available for market traders and their staffs. Whilst
big retail business is well supported in professional training
methods, markets have "lost out" in not being able to
adequately compete due to this vacuum.
Proposal 4: Government-backed
subsidies to new market traders commencing self-employment in
the markets industry.
A 1970's government scheme encouraged people
from unemployment into selfemployment via a £40 a
week subsidy. Many traditional markets benefited from the added
viability this scheme created. The current government is providing
£50 a week employment subsidies to employers taking
on staff in the recession. A similar scheme should be payable
for market trader self employment, with the 1970's rate indexed
to current standards over a fixed three-year period in order to
give the necessary encouragement and confidence to new starters.
However, this scheme should be tied into active participation
in the trader training programme.
Proposal 5: The creation of a
National Markets Agency to monitor, research, encourage and direct
local authorities to support the implementation of the above proposals.
There would be a need for active central promotion
of such policy initiatives. Raising the profile of markets and
the benefits they create, supporting and initiating qualitative
markets activity, driving results at national level and coordinating
national markets representative organisations towards markets
regeneration, would be the means to making the difference so that
there is a realistic and sizeable markets sector in the future.
The alternative to these or similar high-level
strategic interventions is that for the next generation traditional
markets will simply be an interesting footnote in the cultural
and economic history of this country.