Measuring the value of Traditional Retail Markets: Towards a Holistic Approach

This report explores how decision-makers at all levels can measure the economic, social and cultural value of traditional retail markets in the UK, so that their positive impact on local communities can be best understood.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

There are 1,173 traditional retail markets in the UK, employing an estimated 57,000 people with a collective turnover of over £3.1 billion in the financial year 2017/18. They provide access to good quality, healthy and affordable fresh food, opportunities for social and cultural interaction and relatively low-cost and accessible trading, which is particularly important to lower-income, marginalised and vulnerable communities.

Despite the wide-ranging benefits that traditional retail markets can bring to a place, they remain under pressure from a number of different factors. These include cuts to local government funding, urban regeneration projects that displace existing communities, competition from the wider retail industry and changing consumer behaviour. It is important, therefore, to measure the economic, social and cultural value of traditional retail markets so that their positive impact on local communities can be properly understood.

This report brings together existing and new approaches to measuring the social value of markets, building on NEF’s landmark study of Queen’s Market in Newham, London in 2006, and builds on efforts by both NMTF and NABMA, developed over the last 10 years, to create an evidence base for the economic contribution of traditional retail markets.

The briefing also highlights important national-level research from the Institute of Place Management, which analyses available footfall data to identify a positive ‘market effect’ on footfall in towns and cities, and examines a strong body of work focused on London’s markets, both in the form of specific case studies and London-wide surveys.

It concludes by stating the importance of striking a balance between developing standard tools to generate national-level information and bottom up, participatory approaches which are informed by the particular needs of a market and the communities it serves.

Rather than providing a definitive statement, this briefing aims to open up a conversation amongst the UK markets sector and all those who are impacted by it, to explore how best the social and cultural aspects of traditional retail markets can be valued alongside economic aspects by decision-makers at all levels.