Markets 21

This landmark report provides a snapshot of the markets industry in 2009, following the impact of the financial crash. It attempts to provide and gather information about an industry that has historically lacked evidence and data to demonstrate its impact on local communities and economies.

Date added 6 October 2021
Last updated 7 October 2021

The Markets 21 report begins with an overview of the contribution that markets make to local communities, including the important role that they play in providing residents of towns and cities with access to affordable fresh food and other commodities.

It builds on this to provide evidence of markets being a key source of retail innovation, having created many of the nation’s multi-national retailers including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons. However, the report notes that these very supermarkets are now threatening the viability of the traditional markets they once operated from and work is required to better understand the role that markets play in the 21st century.

To understand the contemporary role that markets play in local communities, and address the historic lack of research into the sector, the report set out to conduct a national survey which evidenced the cumultive impact that traditional retail markets have on the economy.

The study revealed that, in 2009, there were;

•  1,124 traditional retail markets
•  605 farmers’ markets
•  26 wholesale markets
•  Over 45,700 retail traders
•  An estimated 95,000 people directly employed on retail markets
•  1,000 wholesale businesses
•  An estimated 10,000 people directly employed on wholesale markets


The study also revealed that the total turnover for retail markets across the UK totalled over £3.5 billion a year and wholesale market turnover totalled £4.1 billion a year, demonstrating that markets play a huge role in generating revenue for the public purse.

Despite this optimistic outlook, a much more mixed picture was reflected in the findings of a survey questionnaire conducted by Julie Smith, as part of an Economic and Social Research Council PhD project based at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, in partnership with the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA).

A sample of market operators were asked for their impressions about current trends on their markets since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 and it revealed that 38% showed a decline in trader numbers, 42% reported a decline in shopper numbers and 53% reported a decline in average spend.

Against this declining economic backdrop for traditional retail markets, the Communities & Local Government (CLG) Commitee launched an inquiry to determine whether traditional markets are in decline and, if so, whether the implications are sufficiently important to warrant greater consideration by local authorities and government.

Following their report, which concluded that “the situation as regards traditional retail markets in England today is complex”, the government announced that they would create a new forum for retail markets which would work in partnership with the industry to raise their profile and highlight their benfits through best practise examples and case studies.

This new forum would also give markets the ability to ifluence future government policy, including planning and licensing rules, and work with the industry to see how street markets can also be used to encourage healthy eating, flexible working for young parents or a tourist attraction.

The Markets 21 report notes that this potential for markets to perform a ‘public good’ lay behind the development of the Markets Policy Framework 2007, produced by the Retail Markets Alliance, and launched by the All Party Parliamentary Markets Group (APPMG), which identified that successful markets contribute to the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of the nation, by:

•  Providing a sense of place
•  Being part of the nation’s cultural heritage
•  Remaining an important element of the economy, particularly in relation to independent retailing, local employment and business start-up opportunities.
•  Offering local access to fresh produce and other commodities
•  Reducing environmental impacts e.g. by eliminating excessive packaging/waste

The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including that local authorities implement the recommendations of the CLG Commitiee Inquiry and explore the range of different management models available to determine the most appropriate one for their markets. It also suggests that more research is commissioned at a local, national and international level to better understand the performance of wholesale and retail markets and their contribution to delivering sustainable communities.