Survey 2016

  • The following data comes from the second Mission for Markets survey, collected by NABMA and the NMTF from May to July 2016 and presented at the NABMA conference in Stratford-upon-Avon on 19 September 2016. Click here to download the presentation by Colin Wolstenholme, Bradford Markets, and Chris Savage, NMTF.

  • There are 1227 traditional retail markets in the UK. 65% of traditional retail markets are run by local authorities and 18% are operated by private companies. The remainder comprise traditional retail markets managed by trader cooperatives, social enterprises and community interest companies.

  • 32,000 businesses trade on traditional retail markets in the UK, providing employment for 24,500 people. The majority of these jobs are part-time. There has been a huge change in the employment structure of the sector. In 2014-15, 33,000 businesses employed 21,500 people and most of these roles were full-time. NMTF is investigating.

  • In financial year 2015-2016, traders on traditional retail markets in the UK collectively turned over £2.7 billion. Combined with the turnover of the 26 wholesale markets in the UK, the annual turnover of markets was £5.95 billion. Turnover is gradually increasing year on year by around £200 million. 

  • The sector has been challenged by radical changes in the retail industry, notably the rise of the discounters and online shopping. Traditional retail markets are adapting to compete. Traders are specialising or diversifying their business models. Operators invested £51.6 million into improving their retail markets in 2015-16. 

  • It is estimated that there are 26 billion shopping visits to traditional retail markets in the UK per year. Operators of markets are reporting a decrease in footfall and profitablility since 2012. As traders are reporting a gradual increase in turnover, this suggests they are adapting quicker and more effectively. NABMA is encouraging operators to review management models. 

  • Traders on traditional retail markets have a mature age profile with over 65% having 50 years of age. Data on self-employment from the ONS suggests that older people make up the majority of self-employed workers in the UK. 58% of business owners are male. The sector is still above average for the amount of businesses run by women, demonstrating the inclusivity of markets.

  • The highest proportion of market traders is in the South of England (38%) and this gradually decreases through the Midlands (28%) to the North of England (27%). 9% of market traders are based in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales combined. Business owners prefer trade from indoor markets in the North, outdoor markets in the Midlands, and events are the predominant trading channel in the South.

  • Market traders are incorporating more events and specialist markets in their business models. 64% trade on events, 50% on outdoor markets, and 43% on indoor markets. In addition, 23% trade online. There remains a challenge for the sector to adapt to new technologies and engage with digital. 40% of market traders take cashless payments. 45% have a website. 55% use social media to promote their business.

  • In 2014-15, respondents were asked to identify lines that would go up and down. They were right. There has been an increase in food, entertainment/communications, and arts and crafts. There has been a decrease in clothing and children's goods. This year's hot line is speciality goods and, arguably, the most underperforming line is electrical goods. This year, traders expect a boom in hot food, alcoholic drinks, and vintage and handmade goods.

  • 75% of market traders are confident in the longevity of their business but only 53% have a business plan - the majority of which are only short-term. NMTF believes this is due to the preference to stay lean and adaptable, able to take advantage of trading opportunities as they arise. Traders expect to spend significantly more on stock, premises and pitch fees and travel in 2016/2017.


  • The two largest trade organisations in the sector, the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) and the NMTF, launched the Mission for Markets campaign in 2014 to support the sector to adapt to dynamic change in the retail industry.

  • The campaign has performed a health check on markets, including both the operators of markets and the independent businesses that trade on them, and is reporting gradual growth and tentative adaptation since 2012. Click here to view the results of 2016's survey.

  • A publication was launched on 21 September 2015 outlining six big issues the sector needs to work together to address: recruiting and supporting the next generation of market trader; developing the skills of traders and operators; structural change to local authorities; local, national and European legislation; and integration within the high street agenda.

  • This website will continue to be updated with resources and case studies for market operators and traders with aim of enhancing markets by sharing best practice and highlighting opportunities for personal and organisational development.

  • NABMA and the NMTF are consulting with their members to develop a programme of interventions based on the issues discussed and the recommendations forwarded in the publication. Members are encouraged to contact their respective trade organisation.

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