Agenda item

Market Consultation Outcome

The Panel will receive a presentation from the Head of Environmental and Operational Services.

Minutes:

The Head of Environmental and Operational Services and the Environmental Services Business Support Manager provided the panel with a presentation concerning the Market Consultation Outcome.

 

The update included consultation period feedback from stakeholders, market traders and other interested parties regarding: a new Markets Regulations handbook; a proposed new fee structure; the current and future position of the markets.

 

The six-week consultation period ended on 30 July 2021 and utilised a broad range of methods to obtain the widest possible response, including: in person consultation at market stalls which members also attended; consultation at community centres; postal and email surveys; information circulated to the press and social media channels.

 

207 responses were received of which 192 were survey responses and 15 were substantial written responses. 

 

Alongside the presentation, officers gave an overview of the survey responses, which included the following key points:

·         86% of responders were residents of the district, 6% were traders;

·         74% of those surveyed visited once per week;

·         Spalding markets were the most attended with 120 visits; 33 for Crowland; 45 for Holbeach; and 68 for Long Sutton;

·         The main reason given for visits to the market was the outdoor shopping experience but during their visit to town centres people also patronised other shops and socialised;

·         Saturday markets were the most popular;

·         Spalding market benefited from incidental footfall;

·         Visitors stated they liked to support the range of local traders but wanted an increased number and variety of stalls;

·         Other suggestions included pop-up stalls for prospective new traders; seating areas; and contactless payments;

·         Regarding the handbook update: the survey proposed the display of Food Standards Hygiene ratings for prepared food stalls: 73% of responders were in favour of this proposal;

·         A further handbook proposal asked whether traders should provide and set-up their own fit for purpose stall. The highest percentage had no response or opinion and a further 10% unsure. A quarter agreed and 16% disagreed. Concern was raised over what and who determined ‘fit for purpose’ and the impact this proposal would have on new businesses and disabled traders. These important points had been considered with mitigations in place which included opportunities for the provision of pop-up stalls and how public sector duties were met;

·         The survey requested feedback regarding the reduction of core market trading hours (from 9am to 3.30pm, to 9am to 2pm) which had been supported by traders. Feedback suggested that people disagreed with this proposal: 17% were in agreement with the reduction; 34% disagreed; 29% had no opinion; 13% felt it was the traders’ decision. Concerns were raised by working people who could not visit during restricted opening hours and those who scheduled visits which coincided with the collection of children from school;

·         Almost half of responders either agreed or strongly agreed that the council should engage with traders through their appointed representatives. The consultation results were to be discussed with the established traders’ engagement group for feedback and consideration of options prior to the report to Cabinet in October.

 

Recommendations to Cabinet would include:

·         Adoption of the Handbook;

·         Introduction of the new fee structure from 1 November 2021;

·         Consideration of stall provision and duties under the Equality Act;

·         Potential introduction of pop-up stalls; and

·         Book and Pay markets

 

Members considered the presentation and made the following comments:

·         Members thanked the officers for their work on the consultation and stated their commitment to the markets;

·         Members who attended the market consultations were also thanked for their involvement in the process;

·         Members questioned the plans for further development, specifically relating to engagement and growth of the markets beyond the current recommendations due to be presented to Cabinet.

o   Officers replied that the consultation was the first development step and that there would be further growth options within the upcoming Cabinet report, including: proposed investment to drive the markets forward; do nothing and maintain the status quo. Benchmarking opportunities with other markets were considered key for future growth, as was the continuation of the relationship with the National Association for British Markets Authorities (NABMA) which had SHDC member involvement.

·         Members asked whether demographic data could be retrieved from the survey results, specifically relating to which age groups had and had not engaged, to inform future activity.

o   Officers confirmed that age data was captured and a very specific age group of 50+ had responded.

o   Officers also stated that the markets consultation would contribute to the wider work carried out by the two Town Centre steering groups which served to strengthen the overall health of main towns in the district, including a focus on markets.

·         Members asked what work was being undertaken to attract under 50s to markets?

o   Officers advised that the market visitor data analysis was new but results would feed into future activity plans to engage a wider demographic, including relating to the variety of stalls. A package of further initiatives was being considered, including:

§  working with Young Market Traders Representatives;

§  a continuation of Spalding Steering Group discussions and planning with Boston College representatives who had expressed a strong interest for students to access pop-up stalls as an introduction to potential market trade careers;

§  a sharing of expert industry knowledge from a Small Business Federation representative who also sat on the Spalding Retail and Independent Offer Steering Group. This contact had been involved with a thriving young student market and SHDC was looking to set up an activity plan around this model.

·         Members stated that their upcoming visit to the NABMA conference with the Town Centre Improvement Plan Coordinator would include knowledge sharing and discussions with experts in youth and specialist markets to help shape ideas for SHDC. It was stated that presentable and attractive stalls were important as they encouraged greater footfall and spend which in turn attracted more shops and traders.

·         Members asked what was being done to widen the variety of stalls as requested by survey responders.

o   Officers confirmed that they continually worked on trying to attract a variety of traders to the markets. For this work to progress further it was recognised that a consultation was required to understand the motivations of visitors and analyse footfall data. Now complete, the consultation feedback would inform future action to attract a variety of traders and increase footfall. The work with the steering groups in relation to markets was also key.

·         Members stated that pop-up stalls were discussed last year and asked what had happened during this period and why this had been delayed.

o   Officers advised that pop-up stalls were purchased and trialled, but implementation was strategically delayed for the consultation and essential regulatory work for the new Markets Handbook to take place. The consultation feedback captured strong local support for pop-up stalls and officers now hoped to move forward with this initiative with the aim of attracting new traders and micro-businesses without investment risk to them.

·         Regarding equalities and store provision, councillors questioned whether assistance would be in place for traders who were not physically able to set-up their stalls. Councillors stated that any remedy would be subject to additional cost.

o   Officers advised that The Equalities Act 2010 ensured that local authority public services were delivered to the population as a whole to ensure that no-one would be disadvantaged in respect of disability, age or gender. The market consultation included an associated Equality Impact Assessment to identify potential breaches of this duty. A few risks were identified and work relating to provision had commenced to ensure mitigations were in place for those who identified a need.

·         Members who attended markets during the consultation relayed observations and verbal responses from customers and traders: Regarding Food Hygiene Standards, councillors questioned whether this would add a barrier to new start-ups. It was understood that traders must comply with hygiene legislation, however this needed to be approached with a sympathetic view; new traders needed to be incentivised; traders and customers criticised the layouts of the markets specifically relating to the inconsistency of where stalls were pitched, including issues with traffic and parked vehicles; some of the issues had affected the return and retention of stall holders; the placement of markets in close proximity to car parks was beneficial; the signposting of markets could be improved.

·         Members commented that the sharing of best practice from Long Sutton Market would be beneficial as most responders had visited the town specifically for outdoor market shopping;

·         Survey responder bias needed to be considered when conclusions were drawn from the consultation feedback analysis. Opinions of non-visitors were also important to inform what would persuade them to visit in the future;

·         Members questioned the current incentives for traders: pop-up stalls were likely to result in an increased number and wider variety of stall holders; it was felt that the provision of free stalls had been counterproductive as traders were not committed to attend; suggested incentives included the provision of pre-booked and pre-paid stalls.

·         Improvements to the promotion of markets was needed including a public relations strategy across both digital and traditional formats.

o   Officers advised that a small element of marketing had been built into the new fee structure included in the consultation. Officers had recently worked closely with the Communications Team to obtain interviews with traders for social media but more work needed to be done.

·         Members reminded the Panel that previous changes had occurred to the markets due to the £77,000 per year cost, and that any future changes needed to be realistic;

·         Members asked what communications had occurred with traders who had not returned since the Covid reopening; and if none, for this to happen.

o   Officers advised that resources had been focussed on the current traders however they would investigate whether contact details were held for previous traders so this could be moved forward.

·         Members acknowledged that with competition from global online stores, markets needed to become relevant in the modern world with the offer of speciality products not readily available to the mass market online. Encouragement was needed, whether through free stalls or other incentives to avoid traditional market stalls falling away.

o   Officers agreed that whilst markets could not compete with online sellers, the benefits of the physical selection of goods and the social element attached to visiting markets could not be experienced online. A balance was therefore required. Incentives were important but they needed to be the right ones. Whilst free markets had improved traders’ attendance at some markets, it had not increased footfall. A better understanding of visitors’ wishes through the consultation results would help to drive this forward.

·         Members commented that young people did not consider that markets were relevant to them. To attract young people, stalls needed the offer of speciality consumables, such as cheeses, meats and breads and not items that were readily available online.

·         Members asked whether a Christmas Craft Market would be offered as this would attract new traders who may then book regular weekly markets.

o   Officers confirmed that a Christmas market was planned however attracting a variety of stallholders for Christmas markets was challenging as specialist crafters book months in advance at larger markets with higher footfalls.

 

AGREED:

 

That comments relating to the Market Consultation Outcome be noted, and approval given to be taken forward to Cabinet on 26 October 2021