Traditional markets have played a significant role in UK’s towns and cities for centuries and, in more recent times, have particularly supported deprived neighbourhoods by providing affordable food and start-up business opportunities as well as fostering social inclusion in increasingly diverse cities. However, they have been affected by radical changes in global retail trends and public sector cuts which are relegating them to the side-lines. At the same time, markets aimed at high income shoppers and tourists, specialising in food, local produce, fashion and crafts, are on the up. Research is urgent to understand the current situation of markets and their potential community value, which may be at risk as shown by the rise of campaigns denouncing the displacement of independent retailers and vulnerable users.

To respond to this knowledge gap and the need for policy advice, our study will provide a new way to understand the community value which traditional markets offer, whilst connecting existing academic and policy literature. We will begin by analysing the current national and international public discourse around traditional markets by reviewing industry, academic, community, media and policy publications. Next, we’ll be inviting a range of people with an interest in traditional markets, including policy makers, market operators and managers, traders and representatives from charity organisations and campaign groups, to take part in interviews and workshops, to find out how they understand their community value. Our third task will be to gain an in-depth understanding of markets users’ experiences through interviews, focus groups and a large market user survey in three case-study markets. Towards the end of the project we will produce publications and toolkits aimed at supporting the work of all of the groups we have worked with, who have an interest in the future of traditional markets. We will also hold practical workshops with traders, market managers and community groups to test and feedback on our findings.

We will explore the following ways in which traditional markets create community value:

  • Economic, as places that provide affordable food, products and services as well as creating opportunities for low cost business start-ups.
  • Social, as platforms for social mobility and the development of community ties and trust leading to better social inclusion.
  • Cultural, as spaces for experiencing a diversity of cultures and ethnicities and provide a sense of place for migrants, ethnic minorities and generally vulnerable citizens.

How can I get involved?

Whether you're a Trader, Operator, Campaigner, market user or Policy Maker, click on the links below to find out more about how you can take part. Contact us if you would like to be involved or follow @markets4people on Twitter to see our latest updates.