UK Government Ensures Survival of Retail Markets

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October 30, 2009

The UK Government is taking on the role of protecting traditional markets in the face of increasing pressures threatening their long term survival. Markets are a national tradition, but the growth of out-of-town supermarkets, along with discounters, internet shopping, and a difficult economic climate has caused prolonged decline in many places. To ensure the traditional market survives, the UK government is now taking action to support street, covered and farmers’ markets; in recognition of their significant economic and social benefits. It will champion the interests of all markets with a new body that will bring together key government departments, representatives from the retail markets industry, and the Local Government Association. The Group will meet 2-3 times a year and will report to Rosie Winterton, Minister for Local Government at CLG and Minister for Regional Economic Policy and Co-ordination at BIS, and to Jim Fitzpatrick, the Minister for Food at Defra. In announcing the news, Rosie Winterton informed that: “Lots of us enjoy a trip to the local market – almost every community has one. They are part of our heritage and bring communities together. Some traditional markets even date back to medieval times and are the reason why many of our towns exist. “Markets also play a vital economic role in the local community from providing jobs and business start-up opportunities, to often offering cheaper produce and attracting shoppers into the town centre. That’s why we have promised to champion the traditional market, raise its profile and ensure the industry has a voice across government policy.” It is envisaged that the new working group will: - Champion traditional retail markets and how they can contribute to the local economy, the character of the town centre and the wider community. - Work with the markets industry to raise the profile of markets with local authorities and highlight benefits through best practise examples and case studies. - Work with local councils to encourage them to use licensing powers positively to permit more markets in their town and city centers. - Give markets a forum to discuss and influence future government policy affecting markets for the first time. This includes planning and licensing rules. - Work with the industry to see how street markets can also be used to encourage healthy eating, flexible working for young parents, or as tourist attractions. The groups will also look at how best to communicate the varied benefits of markets. The UK Minister for Food, Jim Fitzpatrick noted that: “Street markets offer some of the best value produce around. Markets are filled with healthy, tasty food, and are also a great place to discover some of the unique regional and speciality foods that you might not have seen before. “I am delighted that the government, councils, and street markets are going to work together to preserve an important part of this country’s heritage which is also of great benefit for consumers.” Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of The National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) and spokesperson for The UK Retail Markets Alliance, added: “The Retail Markets Alliance is delighted with the Government’s response... and we look forward to working with Rosie Winterton, Jim Fitzpatrick and the inter-departmental working group to raise the profile and quality of markets. The Government’s support will enable us to enhance the contribution that markets already make to a number of important policy areas.” UK street markets have gone through a period of prolonged decline with the future of smaller markets particularly precarious a Communities and Local Government Select Committee concluded recently. Their report found that local councils have a leading role in owning, regulating and nurturing markets, but that a national champion working with the industry was needed. The Government agreed with the Committee that successful markets played a valuable social and economic role, including offering consumers good value fruit and vegetables; promoting town centres by ensuring a stronger retail mix and encouraging; consumers and added footfall for the whole centre; offering new businesses a more affordable way of starting off in the current climate; providing local jobs with flexible hours for people working part-time.