Last month I focused on the NABMA Annual Conference and particularly the award winners from Conference. This month I want to pick out some of the important issues that we highlighted at Conference.

The Conference opened with a excellent presentation from Simon Quin, of the Institute of Place Management, who used examples from the UK and abroad to highlight how markets can maximise their asset. Getting the most from you market asset requires action and Simon highlighted a number of ways in markets should be addressing this issue. Simon’s address was supplemented by presentations from Cambridge, Stevenage and Enfield on how they are bringing about improvements to their markets.

These initiatives ranged from more effective internal procedures to better promotional activities but each market was able to report on how the changes had provided tangible benefits. An important part of the Annual Conference is the presentation of the annual retail markets survey results and although it can be argued that the changes from last year are not significant when you look at the incremental picture over a number of years you can see a trend emerging. In 2011/2012 around 24% of markets reported that they were showing an increase in performance on the previous year. By 2015/16 that figure is down to 17%. It is only when you look at results over an extended period that you can see the the results in context. There appears to be little change in the number of markets around the country with some 1227 markets being recorded in 2015/2016. What does concern me is that there is practically no change in the number of market days despite the finding that 39% of markets are reporting a reduction in the number of stall lettings.

This hardly seems the best way of maximising your market asset. Another interesting result is that local authorities seem to operating the same number of markets as they did at the time of Markets 21, published in 2009, and this against a background of severe financial pressure on all services. NABMA wants to find out more about the apparent reluctance of local authorities to embrace new management models so we have launched a short survey among our members and we hope to have the results by the date of our January Conference. A major part of our programme at Conference was devoted to young people and getting them involved in markets. We had presentations from NMTF on the National Youth Market and from Southend and Swansea on the youth events that they organised as part of Love Your Local Market.

It was great to her the stories from these events but we need to build a firmer foundation to link more effectively to young people. That is why I am so pleased to welcome the work that is being done by Kirklees and their local College to get market trading into the cirriculum so that there are academic and practical elements to the experience. We are looking to extend the example at Kirklees around the country and, since the Annual Conference, discussions have taken place between NABMA, NMTF and Kirlees with a view to identifying a number of locations where we might “roll out” a similar model. We have had a great welcome from the academic side with around twenty Colleges expressing an interest. We now need to link these Colleges with local markets. Hopefully we can report progress at the NABMA One Day Conference in January.

One of the highlights of the last two Annual Conferences has been the session with traders and this year we had three market traders, Sean Clarke, Ryan Davis and Katie Sergeant telling us about their experiences on the markets they use. They all come from different backgrounds but what was crystal clear was their love of markets and their desire to make a success of their respective businesses. They were very honest about some of the issues that are holding back markets and, in response to a question, suggested that existing traders need to be more welcoming of newcomers and talk up the market rather than expressing negative views.

The second day of Conference opened with presentations on Hebden Bridge Market and Glasgow Wholesale Market. Both winners in the Great British Market Awards 2016.Both presentations acknowledged the benefit of winners the GBMA but listening to these presentations provided you with inspirational stories of the changes that markets can bring about. In Hebden Bridge the contribution of the market to the recovery process in the local community, following the widespread floods and in Glasgow the fabulous work done with children and young people. You can read all about these markets and all the other winners by going to the NABMA website at and going to the publications section. One of the positive aspects coming out of the retail markets survey is the fact that markets are investing in their future.

At the Annual Conference we had presentations from Leicester and Warrington on their development projects. Leicester is already part completed with the award winning Food Market and there are exciting times ahead for Leicester with public realm proposals which will link to the market offer. Warrington are committed to moving their market and when completed it will make a significant contribution to the town’s overall retail offer. Of course there are other Markets we have featured at past Conferences where redevelopment is moving ahead. I recently had the pleasure of seeing some of the work undertaken at Leeds Kirkgate Market and while enjoying lunch in the new food area I could have tried my hand at table tennis, football, keep fit and other activities.Scarborough, who presented at our Annual Conference in 2015, are getting towards the final stage of their redevelopment and are looking for an improved market offer for the town.I could go on but what these examples show is that markets have a future. Unfortunately I cannot cover everything we did at Conference but I hope you get a sense of the subject matter and if you want more you can also get copies of the presentations.

Just contact me at Planning for the 26th January and our One Day Conference is already well advanced. Under the theme of Professionalising Markets we will again be covering the subjects that are important to you.Hope to see you at Birmingham.

Graham Wilson OBE, Chief Executive,NABMA