Rosie Wilkinson and Myfanwy Taylor
Our survey of market users at our three case study markets is now complete! With the help of Fieldwork Assistance, their team of interviewers and local Urdu, Gujarati and Bengali-speaking interpreters at Queen’s Market, we have completed approximately 500 surveys each at Bury, Queen’s and Grainger Market, seeking responses from a representative sample of shoppers. Our survey will give us a more accurate picture of how Bury, Queen’s and Grainger Markets each bring value to their community and how the people who shop and spend time there feel about them. We’ll be analysing the results over the next months, and should have some early analysis to share at NABMA’s 100 year anniversary conference in September.
In the meantime, we’ve also been conducting background research and interviews with key local actors at each market. We settled on these three markets following a rigorous selection process, and have since been learning more about their specific economic, social and cultural value, as well as their history, context, governance, recent development and current issues. Once we’ve finished the data collection, we’ll publish a summary of the findings for each market on this website. In the meantime, the rest of this blog post provides a snapshot based on preliminary research.
Voted Britain’s Favourite Market in the NABMA Great British Market Awards 2019, Bury Market attracts visits from other market authorities hoping to follow its example, as well as shoppers who travel from across the UK. On its open market days (Wed/Fri/Sat), Bury Market boasts an impressive 300 stalls. The 58 units in the market hall, another seven in the dedicated fish & meat hall and the 28 shops on the perimeter also open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the Market Hall and the Fish and Meat Hall occupancy is at 100%, whereas it is 96% in the Open Market. The traders attract approximately eight million visitors a year, driving footfall in the town and generating a surplus of £1.1m.
As for the stats, according to research commissioned by Bury Council in 2014, its customers are 70% female and mainly white British. 53% are over 65 and 75% of Bury Market’s loyal customer-base have been visiting for more than ten years. Whilst 36% of shoppers come from the local area, the research showed that 41% are drawn from elsewhere in Manchester and 5% come by coach.
The market is operated under Charter rights by Bury Markets Management team, within the Property and Asset Management, Communities and Well-being Directorate of Bury Council. The Management team works closely with the strong and long-running Bury Market Traders Association as well as local shopping centres, town centre board, BID, local college, charities, community groups, police and ASB teams.
As with traditional markets across the UK, footfall and vacancies are both on a downward trajectory and churn is a particular concern. The Council is working to attract more local people and younger customers and is beginning a four-year capital investment programme to address backlog maintenance and refurbishment. A town centre master-planning exercise is currently underway to deliver more housing and grow the night time economy; we look forward to finding out more about the relationship between these plans and the award-winning Bury Market.
Our second case study is Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Grainger Market, whose 110 units are housed within a Grade-1 listed market hall, first opened to the public in 1835. Today, the market is open for trade six days a week, Monday to Saturday. Around 130,000 shoppers visit the market each week, helping to generate an annual surplus of £500,000 for the Council from an income of £1.3 million. Less than 10% of units are vacant.
For Christmas 2011, the management team and traders organised Grainger’s first night market, which attracted 11,000 visitors, and the precedent has been followed ever since. Units are occupied by a mix of long-standing traders and new additions, including take-away and street food traders. The market operator lets a stall for free to Newcastle City Food Bank and manages a small flexible open space for community activities and specialist markets.
As at Bury, customers are predominantly white British, and it seems that the city’s diverse ethnic groups prefer to shop and socialise in the nearby West End. The percentage of younger people, students and ethnic minorities visiting the market is relatively low but increasing strongly. Research carried out in 2014 for Newcastle City Council indicated that, at present, 72% of the market’s clientele are female, whilst 78% have been visiting for more than 10 years.
Grainger Market is operated under Charter rights by the Commercial Property Team, within the Operations Directorate of Newcastle City Council. It has a strong local NMTF group, which has developed good relations with the market management. Traders meet monthly, with the market management team attending bi-monthly.
The current focus for the management team is a refurbishment programme for the doors and the glazed, barrelled roof in the arcade. Although the market consistently returns a surplus to the city council, there appears to be very little scope to retain funds to pay for refurbishment work, which is instead to be paid for via prudential borrowing. This triggered a market testing exercise in 2018 to explore options for raising rental income in order to pay back the borrowing. We understand this exercise is presently on hold; we look forward to meeting with council officials to find out more about this process
Queen’s Market, in the London Borough of Newham, offers a number of contrasts to our two other case studies. The large market comprises 168 pitches, 10-20 kiosks and 78 perimeter shops. The vacancy rate on pitches is approximately 30%, with the empty pitches let to casual traders. Newham’s markets generate an income of £1.1m of which 80% comes from Queen’s Market. We are in the process of clarifying whether the market runs at a deficit or generates a surplus; there appears to be some disagreement locally between the market management and the Friends of Queen’s Market campaign group about this.
The market provides quality, affordable and specialist fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, groceries, fabric and many other commodities and services, which attract shoppers to the market and the wider area. Whilst there are no recent data regarding the market’s customer demographics, as at Bury and Grainger Market it is estimated that 70% of shoppers are female. White British and European shoppers only make up approximately 20% of the customer base for this ethnically diverse market. African and Afro-Caribbean shoppers are estimated to make up another 20% whilst the remaining 60% are of Asian origin. Queen’s Market is widely regarded as a working-class family market with regular customers.
Pitches are operated under the London Local Authority Act by the Markets Service within Public Space Delivery, Community & Environment Directorate of Newham Council. Kiosks and shops are managed separately by Newham Council’s Property Services Team. The roof, car park and lighting are also managed separately, in this case by the Council’s highways and cark parking sections. The range of different entities involved, combined with the constraints of the London Local Authority Act, raises significant challenges for effective market management.
In 2006 the threat of demolition and redevelopment mobilised market users, traders and the wider community, and generated evidence about the market’s unique economic and social value, in terms of its ethnic mix of people and produce, opportunities for entrepreneurship, employment density, social space and access to healthy and affordable food. This led to Queen’s Market being registered as an Asset of Community Value in recognition of its contributions to social inclusion, social cohesion and well-being. Although the immediate threat is no longer present, Friends of Queens Market continues to meet regularly and engage with market management, traders, local councillors and others. The market is part of a larger site listed for redevelopment in Newham’s local plan and a feasibility study is underway.
Queen’s market traders do not have a formal committee but do hold meetings, communicate through a WhatsApp group, recognise several informal leaders and participate in Friends of Queen’s Market. Concerns at present include issues around basic maintenance, cleaning and security; increased car parking fees; large rent increases on kiosks and shops; and a perceived lack of transparency and accountability in the running of the market. The election of a new Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, in 2018 has already improved relationships between market management and the wider council and traders and campaigners. We look forward to continuing our discussions with all parties, and exploring how our research can contribute to debates about the future of the market.