Survey 2015-16

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 market traders provide employment for an additional 24,500 people. The majority of these jobs are part-time. The employment structure of the sector is changing; favouring part-time work. In 2014-15, 33,000 businesses employed 21,500 people and 37 per cent of these roles were full-time.

  • 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.

Click here to read the full results of the second Mission for Markets survey in the NMTF's bi-monthly publication, Market Times (December 2016, pages 23-26, requires Adobe Flash).

To find out more about this survey, contact Chris Savage, Projects Manager, NMTF, on 01226 749 021 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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