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Trader- and community-run markets

Written by Paul Waley


A practical guide to setting up, running your market and accessing support

This handbook is designed to help and support traders and community groups planning to open a new market. Throughout the country there are a number of trader- and community-run markets, but we believe there is a potential and an appetite for many more. The Trader- and Community-Run Markets handbook provides a free guide on how to link up with local development and community-wealth building teams, source funding and find advice, and actually get the market up and running – all the processes behind setting up a third-sector market. It is also designed to show how local authorities can support these initiatives. The practical guidance offered in the handbook is illustrated by 21 case studies of best practice drawn from markets around the UK.

The handbook, put together with the collaboration of Power to Change and CLES, outlines the advantages of third-sector markets, in terms of meeting local needs, for example, or of offering greater flexibility and autonomy. It explains how traders and community groups can approach the task of choosing the appropriate legal structure for their market. It sets out details on the range of organisations, such as NABMA and NMTF, that offer advice on both specific and generic issues to do with establishing a market and obtaining funding. The handbook provides an accessible and non-technical overview of the key steps involved in setting up and running a market, including initial research work, deciding on contract status, developing a business plan and building strong local ties.

The handbook is an output of the 3.5 year Markets4People research project, a collaboration between researchers from the University of Leeds and the Open University, NMTF (the organisation representing market traders in the UK) and the New Economics Foundation. Building on the previous work of NMTF and NABMA (the organisations representing, respectively, market traders and operators in the UK), the project generated new evidence, tools and proposals for understanding and enhancing the community value of traditional retail markets (TRMs) in the UK. Through a survey of 1,500 users of exemplary UK TRMs, the Markets4People project produced powerful quantitative evidence of the community value they deliver for their customers, in particular for low-income and other marginalised or vulnerable groups.

Markets have been the subject of a twin narrative of decline, on the one hand, and gentrification, on the other. These are extremes and most markets fall somewhere in between, but the tension between the two poles has been present in most discussions about the future of TRMs in recent years. Through a wide range of interviews as well as survey work, the Markets4People project has shown that markets respond to many local authority policy areas and responsibilities and help create community hubs for inclusive economies. Third-sector markets specifically can identify and address local needs and contribute to community wealth-building and inclusive growth agendas. At the same time, they align well with shifts towards greater community involvement in high street and town centre recovery programmes. They should therefore be powerful vehicles for the promotion of healthy communities with thriving local economies.

The handbook was launched at the NABMA Conference in Birmingham on the 26th January 2023, where it was presented by Dr Myfanwy Taylor.

Read the handbook Trader- and community-run markets (pdf), File Download