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


Annex 1: Summary of online consultation


BACKGROUND

1. For six weeks, From Tuesday 17 March 2009 until Tuesday 28 April 2009, the Committee ran an online consultation to obtain the views of market traders on issues of relevance to the inquiry. We invited responses to three specific questions:

This annex summarises the response. Individual responses can be viewed at http://forums.parliament.uk/market-traders. [238]

2. The site was viewed 1,928 times. A total of 32 responses were posted and accepted onto the website, from 12 people, of whom 10 described themselves as market traders. This is too small a sample to draw wider, representative conclusions. However, their posted views add weight to some of the other evidence we received during the course of our inquiry, and we quote from some of them in our report.

WHAT MORE COULD BE DONE, AND BY WHOM, TO IMPROVE MARKETS AND ASSIST MARKET TRADING??

3. A total of 15 comments were posted in response to this question, which was viewed 614 times. The key issues raised were poor decision-making with regard to the location and relocation of markets, their under-utilisation as a wider community resource, under-investment, a need for greater protection for markets from supermarkets and large retail centres, and a lack of consultation with traders. Responders wanted local government to do more to protect and develop markets, including by engaging more with market traders. Some also wanted central government to take a more active role. These themes also re-appeared in the other two threads.

4. Andylever, market trader at a specialist market, stressed the importance of location:

The problem of location can surface when a historical market area, once the centre of town, becomes isolated due to developments within a town, moving the centre to a new area. In some cases the council will just let the market die without moving or assisting in regeneration, or suggest sites that are, while large enough, may be as badly located as the original. In my experience the councils are reluctant to mix the large chains on the high street with market stalls. A market within a town centre can invigorate a town centre and give it a bustling, friendly feel and make a centre different from the normal run of the mill town or city centre.[239]

He urged local authorities "to see the importance of the resource they have in their market and use it to their advantage," stressing that "we won't mind being used." Street Market trader urbtaf similarly noted the importance of location in relation to the success of and threats to Bury market:

Look at "the world famous Bury market" in Greater Manchester, possibly the best northern market, 300+ stalls all occupied, mostly by profitable traders, employing staff. Positioned next to the bus and tram stations, visited by many coaches every week thanks to the masterful marketing by John Ayres (the toby). A new development "the Rock" is being built and marketed as boasting a new town centre, they have bought up all property between the "new" centre and the old, allowing it to decay! On its opening late this year I will predict a decline of trade in the "old" centre. The new centre's massive car parks will give the excuse to put the existing car park sites to a more profitable use. Then the practicable thing will be to move the interchange to the Rock as that's where people want to be. And so the decline of the market will start, 5 maybe 10 years down the line I predict Bury's world famous market will be a memory.[240]

5. Jane52, an indoor market trader[241], Charlies[242], a newcomer to street market trading, and Marion.g[243] were all concerned about council underinvestment. The latter two were also concerned about council over-charging, with Marion.g stressing what she felt was an unacceptable attitude to markets shown by councils in London.

6. Lineflight, a street market trader for some 20 years, felt that the negative impact of supermarkets needed to be better reflected in planning decisions:

We own a country and equestrian store in Cambridgeshire and still trade at 3 local markets per week which is getting harder and harder by the week. Our large Sunday market has just been refused a license to renew its planning permission because the entry and exit roads are classed as dangerous, this market has had the same roads for as long as I can remember. today we have learnt that Tesco has been given permission to build a new store on the very same site. 9 Tescos, 4 Somerfields, 2 Sainsburys, 2 Asda,s within a 7 mile radius of us and 2 more Tescos being built, is there any wonder no other trader has a chance of survival. Where is the monopolies commission ??? I'm afraid in my opinion no street trade will ever recover properly until the giants are taken to task.[244]

Finally Ray, a street market trader running a stall on the "newly refurbished" Norwich market, had wide support on the web forum with his plea for market managers to "listen to the trader's points of view and then act in a reasonable time frame" and his further observation that "trying to talk to a deaf council is frustrating and does nothing for the landlord/trader relationship."[245]

IS IT BECOMING HARDER TO RUN A MARKET STALL, AND IF SO WHY?

7. A total of 9 comments were posted in response to this question, which was viewed 658 times. All, including the 6 market traders who posted, felt that it was becoming harder to run a market stall. The most frequently cited reason for this was a lack of support from councils. JohnW, for instance, posted the following message:

I am a market trader, trading in East Street Market, Southwark. I have been a market trader for over 6o years, my father before me and my son following me. I mention this as way of introducing myself. Market trading is a way of life in my family.

I have some knowledge of Street Trading and Markets in London.

Are street markets in London declining? The answer is a definite Yes, they are. Why are they declining? There is in my opinion and in the opinion of many street market traders across London one major problem. That problem is that the Borough Councils are ignoring the value of street markets to not only the community in their boroughs but also to the effect on the loss to the tourist industry and to cultural integration.

East Street Market in Southwark has been in its present situation since 1880, having been removed from the Walworth Road. It still has some 200 stalls, it once had many more- it has traded continuously through both the First World War and importantly through the Second World War. It has had many famous people working in it. It has been the focal point of many authors in their novels. Many generations of Londoners have appreciated it.

However, Southwark Council seem to ignore this fact. The Council have not invested in the ambience of the Market. The whole road surface needs replacing. Holes appear in the road and pavement and are only patch repaired, a constant health and safety problem. What high street supermarket or store would let the very fabric of their premises run down in a state of disrepair to such an extent they become tatty or an eyesore?

The costs of trading in street markets are far too high. Why should traders in Southwark have to pay for the upkeep of two small public toilets to the sum of £70,000 per year, and have been paying for the last 12 years with an explanation remark of a Council officer, "if the market was not there, the toilets would not be needed, so you have to pay for them".

Yet another consultancy prepared review has just been published, a Strategic Review of Southwark Markets & Street Trading Service. Published January 2009, this review states amongst many others. "Southwark markets are unloved". "They exist in isolation". "Communications with stakeholders is poor". This report states what is already known. In 1998 there were nearly 700 market traders in Southwark, in 2008, 10 years later, there are under 300.

The answer to the rapid decline and possible demise of markets, particularly in London must [lie] high on the agenda of Borough Councils. This decline could be reversed particularly with the involvement of the stakeholders in markets, i.e. the traders. [246]

RobVH, a young trader at an indoor market, similarly observed that "our local council invest very little time and effort into modernizing or enhancing the market. Structurally, we have a leaking roof. We have a cold building in winter to the point where the public won't enter unless they have to. We have a faded and out dated paint scheme and lots of other superficial decomposition. The council seem to be happy letting the market slide into oblivion. Power needs to be delegated to councillors with an active interest in making the markets thrive."[247] Charlies also complained about "council officials who do not really want the markets anymore […]",[248] whilst Marion.g observed that:

part of the London councils' agenda in having the London Local Authorities Act removed from the statute book is to prevent street traders from passing their businesses to their children. Removing traders' rights to keep their designated pitches will expose them to councils' every whim. If the proposed 'reform' goes through, traders will be in an even worse position than they are today. Market traders are micro businesses; more are desperately needed to add value to every aspect of city life.[249]

8. Jane52 felt that supermarkets, offering good, cheap food and free parking, were making it harder to run a market stall:

As supermarkets have grown in size and quantity they have also adopted all things that customers like about markets,10 years ago, if you wanted fresh fish, you had to go to the local fish market. Supermarket meat was pre-packed, as was the veg. To ask for certain size or portions markets were the only place. This has now changed to suit the needs of the customer. Most market customers would still use the markets apart from the obvious . Supermarkets will win every time until markets are run in towns that realise the demise is mainly through over-inflated parking prices. Also pedestrianising the area around the markets causes the carrying of purchases to be a problem. When buses were surrounding the markets they were thriving. It is difficult to see how to encourage people to drag their bags of food shopping through pedestrianised streets to get to their mode of transport.[250]

Finally, RobVH also felt that markets needed to be promoted better[251] and Ray pointed to higher costs and "a 35% drop in trader over the past four years."[252]

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL MARKET?

9. A total of 8 comments were posted in response to this question, which was viewed 556 times. For Jane52 a "successful market is a friendly market where the customers feel safe and secure. An eclectic mix of businesses and quality produce will bring people back every time. Confident happy customers send out the message "word of mouth" works as well as any advertising. If you are good people will find you. If you provide the service they will come back."[253] Urbtaf agreed, whilst also reinforcing the importance of location:

the successful trader needs a successful market to trade on, all the 'good' markets I have worked in my 38 years of trading have been at the heart of the market town. The moment the market gets pushed into a less prominent position, then its the start of the end of that market. The better or more experienced traders move to a better market. Time after time I have seen the redevelopment of town centres where the repositioning of the market appears to be done as an afterthought. We truly are a problem to developers or appear to be.[254]

Ray stressed the role played by market traders[255]. Delicarr11, an indoor market trader further stressed the importance of a collaboration between market traders and council officials, but lamented the absence of such a partnership in his town centre (Darwin):

Our Market Hall dates back to 1880, and was specifically built to house an indoor market. We as the people of the town are very proud of this , but it's not reflected in the budgets and grants from the local council. There is a redevelopment plan but work seems to be but back every month. We need more modern facilities in and around the town centre, if we are to encourage shopping by locals and to attract businesses from other areas.[256]

Finally, Charlies, picking up on the partnership point, observed that investment without consultation could also be unhelpful in the longer-term:

Our market has recently been refurbished at great expense by our local council, unfortunately there was little consideration given to views by the traders themselves. Only 4 years old and it is already showing signs of the old market, dirty, smelly, a hanging about place for druggies, and drunks, which in itself stops people coming onto the market. The council does not seem to be interested, the new stalls are forever having faults which we have to pay for, even though they admit some materials used are not fit for the purpose .[257]

10. The Committee would like to express its thanks to all those who participated in the online consultation.


238   Committee on line consultations remain on the Parliamentary web site for 18 months after the close of the web forum, in this case until 28 October 2010. Back

239   Andylever 24 March Back

240   Urbtaf 29 March  Back

241   Jane52 05 April, Back

242   Charlies 16 April Back

243   Marion.g 25 March, 06 April, 23 April. Back

244   Lineflight 29 March Back

245   Ray 10 April Back

246   JohnW 31 March Back

247   RobVH 05 April Back

248   Charlies 16 April Back

249   Marion.g 31 March Back

250   Jane52 22 March Back

251   RobVH 05 April Back

252   Ray 10 April Back

253   Jane52 29 March Back

254   Urbtaf 11 April Back

255   Ray 10 April Back

256   Delicar11 14 April  Back

257   Charlies 16 April Back


 
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Prepared 23 July 2009