David Preston, chief executive of the National Association of British Market Authorities – or Nabma – says markets have been identified by the government-appointed High Streets Task Force as key to their vitality both as part of the recovery and adaptation to Covid-19 of the retail world as well as more generally.
He is urging people who are looking at start-up businesses to consider a market stall as a low price option of having a ‘shop window’ for their products or services.
Mr Preston went from a Saturday job on a market stall at the age of 15 to becoming the town clerk to Oswestry Town Council and now leading Nabma and is passionate about the value of markets.
“They provide access to affordable and quality food and other goods, provide opportunities for social interaction, and access to low-cost and accessible trading space,” he said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has threatened markets in new ways, placing operators and traders under extreme financial strain. But without doubt markets can play a huge part in first the survival, and then the renaissance of the high street.
“Shropshire markets have tremendous history. Oswestry’s stretches back over 800 years with various Royal Charters; Ludlow dates back to 1086 and Bridgnorth had a first Royal Charter in 1157. Into the modern times and the popularity continues with Shrewsbury Market Hall being voted Britain’s Favourite Market in 2018.”
Mr Preston said that retail markets had been the focus for retail and start-up businesses for many centuries.
“Traditional retail markets have always been a nurturing ground for independent retailers and nationally 42,000 small businesses rely upon their local market as their primary outlet for their goods and supplies.”
When the first lockdown was lifted people shopped more locally, he said. “There was a renewed trust around markets as past customers returned, and new customers tried their local market.
"Outdoor markets are being perceived as having a safer shopping environment and markets are now recognised by government to be in the top 25 factors that can influence vital and vibrant town centres.
“Sadly, employment will be lost due to the pandemic, but markets can be an important starting point to try a business with a low entry level and on a low risk and low-cost basis.”
“Markets have produced famous high street retailers of the past and present, and can now do it looking to the future.
"Many markets are reporting a growing local interest from potential traders interested in taking hobbies from garage and kitchen to try out on a local market.”