The theme of this year’s NABMA Conference is “Maximising Your Market Asset” and we have a wide variety of speakers who will be talking about how they go about achieving this objective for the benefit of their markets.
Of course you can adopt this approach in respect of any aspect of your markets management and operation and it can bring significant benefits. In recent years we have seen a massive increase in the use of technology through card payments and social media but the markets industry is lagging behind in embracing the use of technology. The findings from last year’s Mission for Markets are that only around one in three traders are using a card payments system and only about half of traders have their own website and employ social media. Operators are not much better with many still collecting fees through cash collection exposing market officers to potential safety risks.
While accepting that Markets have always adopted a more traditional approach and in many places cash is still “King” we cannot afford to simply sit back and let the rest of the world pass us by. At Conference we will be looking at Markets where change has been made and where benefits have followed.
Of course if you want to maximise your asset you have got to know how it is performing so you can make the right decisions about the future. We shall soon be producing the results of the Retail Markets Survey 2016 to demonstrate the health of the industry nationally but individual Markets need to know their performance and prospects. NABMA has set up a Performance Review Working Group. This Working Group has been able to use the Performance Template produced last year with the help of Government funding.
However the results from the Working Group are disappointing with currently only a couple of the original dozen or so volunteers having completed the process. Whatever the reasons, and I know Market Officers find themselves under more and more pressure these days, I believe it is a question of deciding priorities and if you cannot produce information about your market’s performance how can you make meaningful decisions about its future. Well done to Stockton-on-Tees Market who were the first to complete the Performance Template. There is nothing worse than visiting a Market and seeing rows and rows of empty stalls or shops. I have to confess that on some occasions, when visiting failing markets, I come away very disappointed and disillusioned because there is sometimes no plan for dealing with the situation. A market offer needs to be as attractive as possible and if you have to reduce the size of your market or organise it in a different way then you need to do it in a way that gives the impression that you are in control and are managing in a proactive way. You might be able to free up space for car parking or create an activity area. In a Market Hall you might be able to allocate a section of the premises for alternative use. NABMA can offer all sorts of help if you are wanting ideas.
From our health checks to our Buddy Scheme and the provision of a professional consultancy service through NABMA Market Place. Please do not let your decline continue unchecked ask NABMA. If you are a member you are fully entitled to our help. I still have confidence in the future of our markets industry but that confidence would be greater if I could see more evidence of operators and traders seeking to make the maximum use of their assets rather than just being content to rely on what has happened in the past and believing the future belongs to someone else. Just before completing this article I attended a meeting of the London Benchmarking Group where the main issue of discussion was the benefits/disadvantages of using the London Street Trading legislation as against market powers contained in the Food Act 1984. This might seem an academic exercise but you would be wrong in reaching that conclusion. It is very much about what is best for Markets in terms of how they are managed and operated.
The street trading legislation is very much focused on the individual relationship between the Council and the trader and the wider issues of a markets strategy and the ability to control other markets are of secondary importance. In addition the use of the street trading legislation means that operators cannot make a profit and they do not have the powers to license a private operator to organise a Market on their behalf. Southwark have led the way in London by moving their Markets from the London Street Trading legislation to the Food Act 1984 and the progress in Southwark is being watched with interest by several other London Boroughs. What Southwark hope to achieve by making this change is to ensure that there is a balanced markets offer within their area and also that a set of standards are applied to all Markets to ensure consistency and quality. Surely these objectives are the ones that should prevail throughout the country. Market operators have the powers to implement these arrangements and I would encourage more to follow the lead provided by Southwark. It is another example of maximising your market asset. I hope I have whetted your appetite in anticipation of our Annual Conference. Join us at Stratford Upon Avon from the 18th-20th September you will be most welcome. Full details on our NABMA website at www.nabma.com