The Majestic Hotel, Harrogate, which was indeed majestic, was the setting for this year’s NABMA Conference and AGM.

Delegate numbers were quoted as being the highest yet and there was a good mix of seasoned professionals and those cutting their teeth in the industry. It was pleasing to see that in a formerly male dominated environment, females were well represented.

The theme for the Annual Conference was ‘Mission for Markets’, which supports NABMA and NMTF’s joint manifesto which has been presented to Government. Unfortunately, the parliamentary representative who was scheduled to speak was unable to attend and so addressed the conference via a pre-recorded video message. Also presented were the results of the Mission for Markets survey which was conducted earlier this year by NMTF and NABMA. This was the biggest survey of traders and operators ever conducted and the results weren’t very promising, highlighting the fact that investment in markets was up but footfall was down. A more detailed survey also took place and the finite details are being analysed to give a more in depth assessment.

A wide selection of speakers across the one and a half days, offered expertise on a number of topics, some of which focussed on the success stories of the industry. These included a presentation on May’s Love your Local Market Campaign, which was rolled out across Europe this year. Since its inception in 2012, the numbers of markets taking part have continued to increase and it was discussed how to build from and continue the momentum with practical advice for those wanting to participate and case studies from some that had. Delegates were encouraged to support the Market Place Exhibitors that attended the event with a prize draw for completed cards that had been signed by each exhibitor during networking opportunities.

A common topic amongst the delegates and a prevalent theme throughout was the need to change with the times and one presentation which seemed popular with the audience was Traders of the 21st Century. It focussed on the advantages of using social media and having a website to draw customers to your business and Claire Swallow, a market trader from Barnsley, spoke of her achievements which were aided through these platforms.

The Gala Dinner was an opportunity to dress up and celebrate the successes of the industry with the presentation of Blancher Illumination UK Awards and NABMA awards for achievement and innovation. Next year’s NABMA AGM and Conference takes place 19-21 September in Stratford upon Avon.