Five-year rescue plan for Northumberland’s struggling market traders

The Saturday market in Alnwick.
The Saturday market in Alnwick.

A plan to reverse the decline of traditional markets across Northumberland is set to go before the county council’s cabinet later this month.

The final draft of the Markets Strategy 2018-23 document was considered by the communities and place committee and will set guidelines for the future development of markets in Alnwick, Amble, Ashington, Bedlington, Berwick, Blyth, Hexham and Morpeth.

The document contains a number of recommendations aimed at helping revive and improve markets.

The previous plan enjoyed some success in launching a markets webpage, tackling illegal street trading and introducing a standard set of trade rules.

However, it failed with efforts to harmonise stalls or get traders to develop business plans.

The new plan will focus on the need for more promotional work and the building of local partnerships.

Day markets in towns and villages across the country, not just in Northumberland, have started to struggle to different extents in recent years and if the downward trend continues the viability of continuing Northumberland markets could come into question.

Among the threats facing market traders are: The rise of discount retailers; large supermarkets and on-line shopping; poor promotion of market days; not enough young traders coming through to offset the number retiring.

The new plan will look to address those threats over the next five years but also look to ensure individual markets are a good fit for their local community and that fresh ideas for improving them are developed.

The council wants to improve the profitability of markets and the revenue the local authority generates from them.

But in his report to councillors, Greg Gavin, head of neighbourhood services, also pointed out: ‘It should be noted that markets should not be evaluated solely on their financial performance.

‘They provide a wider economic and social contribution to their communities in respect of jobs, attracting visitors to the towns and providing business start–up opportunities.

Markets draw in visitors to the main shopping centres and are part of the county’s history and culture and any changes are of interest.’

Graeme Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service