The people behind Levenshulme Market and Grub have written a open letter to the people of Manchester today well as those people in local government/business to support the region’s markets and market traders to ensure that in the first instance they survive.
However beyond, that they are allowed to contribute to the “build back better” strategy by delivering the economic and social benefits that markets are capable of.
The letter says that:
“The current situation is that due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic the United Kingdom is very likely going to suffer from a recession leading to significant unemployment as well as a reduction in living standards across the board. At the same time the risk to public health is an ongoing concern for all individuals and businesses seeking to return to some form of normality which will quite rightly affect consumer and business owner confidence. The current advice suggests that outside spaces are a lower risk environment and as a result the demand for businesses to operate in outside spaces will increase. Markets are in a fairly unique position to be able to address both of these issues directly.”
Open air markets, they say offering huge opportunity to new businesses/entrepreneurs with low barriers to entry,provide environmentally sustainable models of retailing and generate funds for local councils to reinvest in communities.
Traditional markets supply basic/staple goods to people on lower incomes at an affordable price and act as platforms for community cohesion while a market visit is a social experience providing interaction and a positive environment for many people in the community as well as attracting visitors from outside the local area providing a boost to local businesses.
Spending money at a local market means more money stays in the local economy and markets can operate in under utilised spaces.
However, they say that Manchester does not currently have the thriving market culture you would expect of such a major, international city and this is in large part down to the lack of support for market operators and traders.
All markets are licensed by Manchester Markets who also operate the council owned markets such as New Smithfield Market, The Arndale Market and the Christmas Markets.
If you want to operate a market (with at least 5 stalls) then you need to apply to Manchester Markets and if your application is successful then an administration fee of £55 plus a license fee of £4.50 per stall per day is applicable.
This is, they say,a significant cost to market operators who on the most part already work on small margins (especially for those operators who already pay business rates for the property where the market takes place).
In return for their fees the market operator does not receive anything apart from the permission to operate and the profits from Manchester Markets (£160,000 in 2018) are paid to the council so it is to all intents and purposes a market tax. Another point to consider is that Manchester Markets’ policy is to avoid actively penalising those market operators in the area who fail to apply for a license.
“This means it is only those responsible market operators who apply for a license that are taxed and regulated. We feel that with a change of strategy and minimal re-investment of their profits Manchester Markets could do great things to support the market community of Manchester leading to increased economic and social benefits for the wider community at the same time as generating more income for the council further down the line.”