MARKET CONTINGENCY PLANNING – CORONAVIRUS
NABMA provided general advice yesterday, and also practical guidance from John Walker, NABMA Consultant. Today more detailed guidance has been produced by Chris New, the NABMA Member Services Consultant.
At the outset, with decisions on the future of markets to be taken at Cabinet or Leader tier then the concern is that politicians may quickly countenance closure of all discretionary services, that include markets. It is important that decision makers therefore understand the commercial and social realities and benefits of markets and reflect upon them in their decision making.
The coronavirus pandemic means that some markets are already encountering loss of public footfall and lack of trader sustainability as the Government’s measures to counter the virus come into play.
With older people being told to stay indoors, with some people self-isolating, with guidance on not participating in events where there are large numbers of people, etc. what contingency planning-can market management put into place NOW so that your traders and your markets can survive the breakdown in trading activity? Government advice and instructions are changing as things become more serious, but as of now:
NABMA advises your urgent serious consideration:
- Involve your Members of Parliament NOW to lobby for financial support for market traders to sustain local markets and the community benefits they provide (see the NABMA draft letter). Push this serious initiative up to your Director/Chief Officer/Chief Executive to action.
- Councillors and top management may be considering whether to close council facilities as part of their contingency planning to counteract the virus – but the markets need special consideration rather than being part of a general edict to close all discretionary services. Push this vital concern up to your Director/Chief Officer/Chief Executive and Councillors.
- Ensure that your Council does not take action to close your markets unless absolutely necessary, as it will be very hard to restart from scratch. NABMA maintains that markets are as safe as – if not safer – than many other retail outlets, due to their fresher air atmosphere and the importance that individual self-employed traders give to their customers.
- With good operational management of markets there is every reason to continue their operation to serve the public. Inform the public by posting notices as to what measures you are taking. Having cleaning staff showing continuous presence by wiping down surfaces, sanitizing door handles, etc. is a demonstration that gives customer confidence in the market. Posting staff on market hall entrances to keep public numbers to Government limits may be necessary.
- People need to access their local markets not just for general goods but particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish and allied foodstuffs. Food sales are a mainstay of markets and their continuance will create sustainability for market traders and be the basis of your market recovery planning for when the crisis is over. Lost traders may never recover their business, which puts the future of some markets at risk. Make sure your top management and councillors understand that markets are commercial entities, not simply council service operations.
- Waiving or reducing stall charges/retaining fees/parking charges for market traders to enable them to survive the loss of trade. Other Councils are implementing this already. The immediate shortfall in market service income may well be better than having no market at all.
- How will you cope to keep your markets operating if members of your staff have to self-isolate? Can you put in place alternative staffing arrangements via other council departments? Be prepared, be sharp and be flexible rather than being suddenly faced with immediate staff vacancies and no immediate chance of replacement staff to keep your market open.
- Boost your publicity to tell the community that your markets are remaining open to support the public, who may think they should only go to supermarkets for their food, etc during the crisis period. Press releases to local newspapers, local radio and regional TV will be vital to keep people market minded.
- Advertisements in traditional press, raising your social media profile – and getting your market traders to boost their social media output will inform the public that your market is open for business.
- Work with your traders to give them confidence in their own future and in the future of the market. With older people being significant customers to market cafes yet having to stay at home, can your cafes keep viable with greater distancing between seating arrangements? Can traders offer a home delivery option via social media platforms? Can management provide a facility to support food order collections? Are your trader communication systems up to date so that you can quickly keep them informed of matters arising?
- Keep your traders informed as to what Government support schemes are available to them. Be familiar with Government actions. The NABMA homepage gives that information. At the moment www.gov.uk has guidance, amongst other relevant advice, on “Covid-19, support for businesses” that may provide financial assistance packages and other measures. Liaise with your own council (which will have central funding to allocate) as to how your traders may be able to access funds and knowledge to keep their businesses alive. Your support and information to your own traders may be instrumental in keeping them viable.
- Management will need to liaise closely with their suppliers and partners who sustain the operation of their market. Refuse collectors, sweepers from other departments, third party stall erectors, etc may have their own staffing problems during self-isolation periods. Keeping regularly in touch with operational partners may save you from emergency shortfalls in service and give you time to react.
- 150 NABMA members are already signed up to NABMA BASECAMP where you can see how – and quickly interact with – other market managers to see how they are coping with their issues and problems and to raise questions yourself and ask for advice. It’s easy for you to join BASECAMP by going HERE. Learning how others are dealing with the crisis is a valuable tool and part of your NABMA membership benefits.
- Those not able to be signed up to BASECAMP for any reason can email NABMA directly (email@example.com) to gain advice and/or to put an issue to all members via a NETWORK NABMA “email out”. You can also use our “Buddy” system by going to the NABMA website for the list of NABMA Colleagues who are happy to be telephoned to discuss any operational concerns. And you can ring Chris New, NABMA’s Member Services Consultant on 0789 0843 112.
Please keep NABMA informed how you are dealing with the crisis. Your good ideas can be circulated to colleagues. We learn from each other through the NABMA NETWORK.