I cannot believe another year has passed. Perhaps it is a sign of increasing age but I swear this is one of the quickest twelve months I have experienced. The twelve months was put into a poignant context just before Christmas when I was asked, on behalf of the London Food Board, to present an award in memory of Krys Zasada whose premature death, early in 2014, robbed the markets industry of one of its most dedicated and enthusiastic advocates. It was wonderful to be able to talk about Krys at the awards ceremony and to see the great work that is being done to preserve his memory. He would have been delighted to know that Kingston Market were the first recipients of the award created in his name.
You can tell we are getting near to an Election because the last few weeks have seen lots of politicians visiting markets. Our own Minister for Markets, Penny Mordaunt, visited Leeds Market in early December and there were visits to Bristol, Kingston and other markets in the lead up to Christmas. While welcoming this interest in markets these visits have got to be worth more than just a photo opportunity for politicians and we need to make sure that we press our case for markets to be on the agenda of the next government whichever party is in power after May next year. How do we do this?
Well a starting point is to ensure that we have evidence to demonstrate the value of markets in terms of new start opportunities, economic impact and footfall numbers. I met Penny Mordaunt, in early December, to discuss how the government can help markets and she was clear that if markets are to receive help they must be able to produce data that supports their case. In 2015 we have got to do much better at data collection.
Every market should be able to produce figures to monitor its performance. A starting point would be to use the Nabma Retail Survey Form to compare year on year performance. A crucial element of Mission for Markets will be an assessment of the current state of the markets industry. This will involve getting data from as many markets as possible. Mission for Markets will be the document we use to promote the case for markets nationally so please ensure you get involved and support the collection of information about your market.
One of the key areas that we need to address early in the life of the new government is business rates. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement indicated that by Spring 2016 he hopes to be bringing forward proposals for a new business rates system. Currently market traders enjoy small business relief where their premises are valued at £12000 or below but this relief is transitional and we wait with baited breath every year to see whether the relief is to continue.
A new business rates structure needs to give certainty so that people can plan but it also needs to recognise the burden being faced by many market operators who are finding that business rates are undermining the viability of their markets. In recent months one of the main topics discussed at the government’s High Street Forum has been the future of business rates. Many have argued for a preferential system that helps to stimulate growth on the High Street. Markets are key players in this debate but we need to have the information to back up our case. Make 2015 the year when we support the collection of data about our markets.
At the close of the year Nabma presented its Annual Report to members. The Report demonstrated strong membership growth and a secure financial position. In many respects 2014 was probably Nabma’s most successful year with some outstanding events If I can pick out two memorable moments from 2014 they would be our Love Your Local Market fortnight and the World Conference in September. Love Your Local Market goes from strength to strength and in 2014 we had support from several European countries and Hong King and Australia. I would encourage you to watch Steve Pickering’s wonderful short video of the celebrations which you can watch via YouTube or LYLM website. This video catches precisely the action, the fun and the joy of what Love Your Local Market is all about. Bringing 31 countries to London in September to celebrate markets was a very special occasion and one of my best memories of my years with Nabma.
There was such a great atmosphere and spirit that you wanted the Conference to go on and on. What will 2015 bring? Who knows but Nabma will be there supporting markets.
Graham Wilson OBE,