As non-essential retail plans to return on 12 April, the latest NABMA survey suggests that the industry is heading towards some £200 million of lost income for market operators.
Throughout the last 12 months market operators have had little or no financial support from government. This despite being regarded as a key influence for the future revival of the high street and a long-standing part of retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. With the majority of markets being run by local authorities then some operators are reporting losses of in excess of £1 million. This, in the continuing absence of government help, may have significant longer-term impacts on local council finances.
The latest survey also highlighted the continuing worries around the future of many markets. Concerns are voiced as to how many non-essential traders will return after many months of limited, or no trading opportunities. It is also the most difficult time for local authorities with immense budget pressures and markets, for many, being a lower priority in local service delivery.
Despite the financial worries the message from operators is one of guarded optimism. During the last 12 months many markets, having led the return of the high street in May, report many old and new customers returning to local shopping. They have experienced a huge groundswell of community support alongside a growing interest in food provenance. Many markets are also reporting interest from new potential traders.
Markets and market trading have also demonstrated great diversity during the pandemic with partnerships between traders and operators to offer deliveries, click and collect and on-line services thereby providing outstanding service to local communities, the elderly and vulnerable.
NABMA Chief Executive David Preston acknowledged that:
“The lack of government financial support to recognise the importance of markets within local communities during the pandemic has been frustrating.
“Sadly, as a result, the future of some markets may continue to be in doubt.
“Markets have provided amazing service to their local communities during the last 12 months and now have a vital role to play in helping the recovery of local high streets.
“It is encouraging that many markets across the UK are reporting a renewed trust and returning and new customers. Importantly they offer the ideal low risk, low-cost opportunity for business start-up.
“Despite the lack of government support we are confident that markets can continue to be the focal point of local communities into the future, as they have been in the past”.