NABMA held its Annual Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon this year and almost 200 people attended – a record for the organisation. We were delighted that Kirsty from MTN was one of the delegates. The event saw the end of an era for the organisation as we marked the stepping down of Graham Wilson, who has been the NABMA CEO for the past 14 years. However, I am delighted that there is no talk of actual retirement as Graham will continue his role as Legal Advisor and Policy Officer for us. I am sure that he will be writing for MTN again in the near-future.

Hilary Paxman, NABMA CEO

The conference was also a significant event for me as I formally took over as the new CEO. I know NABMA is in a strong place at the moment with a record number of members, but coming from my former role working on town centre policy in central government, I know there are significant challenges for markets and the wider retail industry in the years ahead as people’s shopping habits change, there are post- Brexit uncertainties, and as all retailers look to down-size their physical offer in town centres. Pressures on local government finances are also having an impact in some places including on the amount of money that is invested in the infrastructure and day-to-day running of markets.

However, I know that retail and wholesale markets play a key role in local economies, creators of jobs, as well as meeting the retail and social needs of a range of people and communities. Markets offer something unique to a place and are often its beating heart.

NABMA needs to work together with a range of partners that can help raise the profile of markets so that it is not a forgotten “add-on” when councils and developers are looking to regenerate an area, or on a day to day basis. I will be working to ensure that NABMA continues to engage with central and local government, as well as developers, investors, retailers and business organisations to ensure that the benefits of having a market are known and acted upon. I announced that I will be looking to create a new communications post within NABMA to help me do this, so you might be getting someone else writing in this paper in the not-too-distant future.

I helped develop and support the “Love Your Local Market” (LYLM) initiative since 2012 and I see this as an important vehicle to enable markets to be test-beds for new traders and for budding entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. I very much want to build on the success of the past six years of amazing campaigns and its powerful brand that is now recognised across the world to help ensure the next generation of traders. We will continue to work with the National Market Traders Federation on their initiatives to support new traders, and we are partners with them taking forward the “Pitch Up for Retail” idea with college students and skills networks.

I will be working to ensure that we help market operators with a range of support mechanisms and guidance on best practice, benchmarking and an enhanced programme of training and development for market managers. We will also be recognising and celebrating the many great things that are going on around the country in our markets, with the Great British Market Awards 2018 at the NABMA One Day Conference on 25th January. I look forward to working with everyone at MTN on that particular project over the coming months. Between Kirsty and I, we will keep you posted.

Hilary Paxman, NABMA CEO,