The National Market Traders Federation (NMTF), the trade body representing Britain’s market traders, has joined Co-operatives UK as a federal member. With more than 25,000 members and a growing number of worker co-op markets, the federation brings new energy to the movement.
According to Co-operatives UK, the future of Britain’s traditional and specialist markets is increasingly in the hands of stall holders. As councils and traditional operators abandon markets, worker co-op markets, which are owned and run by stall holders, are stepping in to fill the void, it says.
Research from Co-operatives UK shows markets still hold a special place in the hearts of the nation. Almost six out of ten (59%) of adults have bought from a street or indoor market in the last year, with more than a third (34%) having purchased from a farmers market.
Over the last five years, the NMTF has seen a 24% drop in membership, but the penetration of co-operatively run markets has been steadily increasing. There are currently more than eight worker co-op markets including Andover in Hampshire, Thame and Bicester in Oxfordshire, Bridlington and Cottingham in East Yorkshire, Consett in County Durham, Newtownards in County Down and Whitstable in Kent.
Joe Harrison, chief executive of NMTF, said: “The traders themselves are becoming the saviour of their own markets. Over the last 20 years Co-operatives UK has helped us set up numerous co-operatives, allowing traders to own and manage their own markets.
“It is a kind of utopia where the workers themselves set the parameters and best working practises. There has been a recent drop in NMTF membership, but this is merely a reflection on the decline of businesses within the market industry. This has encouraged present traders to raise standards and conduct higher levels of professionalism.”
Both organisations believe interest in co-operatively run markets will continue to grow. Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: “We are thrilled to welcome the National Market Traders Federation into membership and that we can assist in the creation of more co-operative markets across the country.
“Co-operative businesses have a far higher survival rate than business at large. Where one in three conventional businesses go out of operation within three years of starting, this drops to just one in 20 for co-ops. That’s great news for newly formed co-op markets and also the thousands of shoppers who take delight in supporting their local market.”