It will soon be time to hand over the reins and NABMA will have a new Chief Executive. It has been a great honour to have been NABMA’s Chief Executive for thirteen years and in that time, I believe we have seen some significant changes that provide the markets industry with optimism going forward.

I believe we have become a more professional markets industry.

Central to this has been NABMA’s Diploma in Markets Administration which provides market officers with excellent training on all basic aspects of markets, including operational and management. But it is much more than this, as we encourage markets to be more aware of their performance and to compare performance with other markets of similar size and structure. NABMA has invested significant resources in helping markets with these issues and the NMTF has also played its part in providing excellent support resources for market traders.

We know much more about markets. When I first became involved with markets there was little research information available to help understand the trends within the industry. It was clear to me that you cannot argue for resources and recognition unless you have the information available to support your argument. We have therefore seen a steady but authoritative list of research publications ranging from Mission4Markets’ Survey of Retail Markets to the late Krys Zasada’s Markets 21, which provides so many ideas and good practice models for developing markets.

Others have also promoted the industry; The Institute of Place Management produced an excellent piece of research on the reasons why markets are successful in various towns around the country. It is vital going forward that we maintain this research focus.

Markets have been recognised for the added community value they provide. Of course, the prime focus of markets is business and we provide tens of thousands of people with a living, but markets do much more. They are often the heart of their community and it is no surprise that towns are often judged by the success of their market. We must make sure we assert the added value markets bring. Whether it is culture, food, creating new businesses, helping community groups and charities and staging celebrations markets are the place to celebrate.

The last ten years has seen markets enjoy increased recognition by governments of all political persuasions. NABMA has received over £100,000 from government to support our Love Your Local Market campaign. We have also received other funding to assist with creating a toolkit for market operators and a performance template to assist market operators in making decisions about the future of their market. But the benefits of government recognition go much further than financial support. We have been able to influence government policy on major issues such as planning, business rates and market rights. If our members query what we do, I point out to them the success of our working with government. I believe that if NABMA achieves nothing more it has put markets firmly on the national map.

NABMA has created the Great British Market Awards to recognise the good markets and those who are working hard to improve. These awards have been remarkably successful and provided many markets with opportunities to make the wider public aware of their existence and success. I hear many stories of the extra numbers of visitors coming on the back of getting an award but in some respects, more importantly, it gives the people involved with the operation of the market a tremendous feeling of pride that their hard work has been recognised.

Of course, it is would be wrong to claim that everything has been a success. I know the markets industry is facing many challenges. I go to markets which would probably be better closed than trying to survive. I also go to markets where investment has not worked. While markets must protect their crucial characteristics, they must move with the times. Social media, chip and pin machines, opening when people want to shop and being in the right location are all challenges that must be confronted in the years ahead.

I know NABMA is in safe hands going forward. We have been very fortunate to secure the services of Hilary Paxman who is passionate about markets and their potential, to add positive benefits to communities and town centres. Just as I could not deliver the success I have described above without the support of so many people, I know Hilary will need that same support as she takes on this important work. I have every confidence she will receive it.