The National Association of British Markets (NABMA) has published the findings of its latest, comprehensive National Survey of UK markets. It has revealed that the industry faces major challenges in the years ahead.
Whilst the overall number of markets (including outdoor street and indoor markets) has remained approximately the same (since these surveys began 15 years ago), the survey reveals some worrying trends.
Whilst some markets continue to operate successfully, stall occupancy (the percentage of stalls rented out to traders) has fallen from an average of 77% in 2018 to 72% in 2022. This needs to be viewed in context, as many markets have also reduced their overall capacity over this period too, demonstrating there has been a substantial reduction in the number of traders on markets.
In 2009, it was estimated that the number of market traders stood at around 46,000. By 2018, this number had dropped to approximately 32,000. The 2022 occupancy figures suggest a further reduction, which may be as low as 17,000 traders.
The survey has also revealed that only 8% of traders are aged under 40, which would suggest that markets may have a problem in terms of occupancy in the coming years, as older & more experienced traders retire from the trade.
Most markets are still operated by Local Authorities, with 84% of markets being run by councils, with a major element of these being Town & Parish Councils.
Fewer markets are operating with a Financial Surplus
Of great concern to many operators is the financial sustainability of their operations with only 40% of markets reporting a financial surplus, a significant decline since 2018.
Whilst markets are still recovering from the impacts of the COVID pandemic, this reduction in “profitable” market operations is a trend of great concern to NABMA, particularly with the substantial pressures on Local Authority finances and priorities.
Call for Government Support
David Preston, Chief Executive of NABMA, said:
“Markets are recognised as a major force for High Street Regeneration, but our survey reveals the need to address the real challenges faced by markets across the country.
“Many markets saw a resurgence of support during the pandemic, as the importance of local produce and community spirit, demonstrated the true value of markets to our villages, towns and cities, but our survey indicates some difficult times ahead.
“We need to address the challenges highlighted in the 2022 Survey and NABMA is looking to the Government to support its work and hopes to bring forward a more detailed plan for markets in early 2023.”