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Survey 2017-18

The following data comes from the third Mission for Markets survey, collected by NABMA and the NMTF from May to July 2018 and presented at the NABMA conference in Stratford-upon-Avon on 17 September 2018. Click here to download the presentation by Colin Wolstenholme, Bradford Markets, and Chris Savage, NMTF.

Based on feedback from members of the NMTF, this year’s survey of business owners was expanded. Three separate surveys were developed for market traders, events traders, and street traders. Business owners were asked to complete one based on the main way they get their products in front of customers: Markets, Events, or Street Trading.

Responses were received from 235 market operators, 207 market traders, 225 events traders, and 29 street traders. Business owners provided 792 examples of markets, events, or street trading pitches. Unless otherwise stated, figures are calculated from this year’s survey, previous surveys in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and routine data collected by NABMA and the NMTF.

  • There are 1,173 markets in the UK, which includes traditional retail and specialist markets. 82 per cent of markets are run by local authorities and 10 per cent are operated by private companies. The remainder comprise markets managed by trader co-operatives, social enterprises and community interest companies. The figures signify an increase in markets run by the public sector.

  • 32,400 businesses trade on markets and 9,000 businesses trade on events in the UK. The number of jobs created by the businesses has been maintained at around 24,000. But the shift from full-time to part-time employment has continued. The number of apprentices has decreased from 1,000 in 2014-15 to 300 in 2017-18. This means the total employment generated by market traders in the sector is around 57,000 people.

  • In financial year 2017-2018, traders on markets and events in the UK collectively turned over £3.1 billion – an increase of £200 million year on year since 2012. This year, operators invested £50 million to improve markets. Of this, £37 million came from seven local authorities who are investing in their traditional retail markets: Barnsley, Doncaster, Leicester, Preston, Scarborough, Tameside, and Warrington.

  • 41 per cent of operators of traditional retail markets report a decrease in footfall, stall income and the number of traders. Occupancy levels across the UK are around 77 per cent. But 93 per cent of operators have maintained or increased the number of market days. This indicates there is an oversupply of stalls based on current levels of demand. Traders are specialising or diversifying their business models to compete.

  • Regarding the financial position of market operators, 46 per cent reported a surplus and 21 per cent reported a deficit in 2017/18. Of concern to both NABMA and the NMTF, 14 per cent did not know the financial position of their market(s). In 2017/18, around 66 per cent of market operators reviewed rents and licence fees. This review resulted in rent increases for 50 per cent and licence fee increases for 38 per cent.

  • 81 per cent of businesses who trade on markets and events are not VAT registered. Market traders are more likely to be registered for VAT than events traders or street traders. The application of VAT on rents is a mixed picture across the UK. It is common for markets not to charge VAT but indoor markets across the North of England have decided to charge VAT on rents. NABMA and the NMTF are addressing our concerns to government officials.

  • 48 per cent of business are run by women - well above the national average of 21% (UK Government, 2017). The sector continues to have a mature age profile with 70 per cent of traders over 50 years of age. Regions with most market traders include the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the South West. 25 per cent of events traders travel all over the UK, but the largest number are based in the South of England. 77 per cent of businesses in the sector are sole traders.

  • The trading models of businesses in the sector are diverse. For market traders, 35 per cent trade on indoor markets and 37 per cent trade on outdoor markets. 55 per cent of market traders also stand events. For events traders, 33 per cent trade on markets in addition to events. More events traders sell online and take advantage of street trading compared to market traders. 19 per cent of events traders stand events only.

  • Market traders are adapting to new technologies and engaging with digital. 52 per cent of market traders take card, which is a significant increase from 2015-16, in which 40 per cent of market traders reported to take card. A high number of business owners who mainly traded on events accepted cashless payments – 66 percent. As a group, 58 per cent of respondents take cashless payments at their stalls.

  • 53 per cent of business owners have a website. For market traders, this figure is 44 per cent, which is a slight decrease from 2015-16. For events retailers, this figure is 63 per cent. For those that do have a website, 58 per cent are e-commerce enabled and orders can be processed through it. 63 per cent of business owners have some form of social media. The most popular platform is Facebook, followed by Instagram and Twitter.

  • 31 per cent of businesses in the sector sell food, this has increased by five per cent since 2015-16. On top of food, the following lines have increased: Healthcare and beauty; arts, crafts, and gifts; and speciality products. The following lines have decreased: General household goods; textiles; ethnic and spiritualist products. Electrical goods were identified as the worst performing line. Business owners predicted most of these trends in 2015-16.

  • Respondents were asked to identify lines that would go up and down in 2018-19. Traders expected a boom in hot food, alcoholic drinks, and arts, crafts, and gifts. This has come true with the addition of more traders opening cafes. Personal goods are expected to be the worst performing category in 2018-19. Gradual decline is expected in general household goods, textiles, and ethnic and spiritualist products.

  • Market traders and events traders are confident in the longevity of their businesses. But only 52 per cent have a business plan – most are short term. Market traders and event traders expect their turnover to gradually increase over the next two years – market traders slightly more so than events traders. All business owners expect to spend more on pitch fees and stock in 2018-19. Events traders expect to pay more for travel.

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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