Report from 10th International Public Markets Conference

In a clear indication of the importance the current administration places on markets, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hosted the International Public Markets Conference on 6 – 8 June 2019. Organised by the New York-based Project for Public Spaces (PPS), the conference was an opportunity for market operators to learn from each other and in particular, from the London example.

In creating the London Markets Board, which provides a layer of city-wide governance and integration that other locations are eager to emulate, the GLA has blazed a trail to become one of the first ‘Market Cities’. The London Growth Hub has also spearheaded an initiative called ‘Tomorrow’s Market’, supporting the next generation of traders to launch their businesses in markets across the capital.

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills who co-Chairs the Board, spoke of the growth in markets over the past decade from 162 to 300, their economic value to London, generating £250m GVA and their job creation potential, with London’s markets employing over 13,000 people.

In addition, the less measurable value that markets have as the centre of community life in neighbourhoods across London is appreciated, even where the challenges to their stability are as present as ever. Key among these challenges are the complex and varied legislative frameworks that local authorities use to manage markets.

The conference was an opportunity for PPS to launch the Market Cities initiative and for London to make the case for markets as a strategic economic asset. The Mayor of London also announced the reopening of the Good Growth Fund, which will consider market improvement and creation proposals.

A series of market tours and talks were organised to showcase London and provoke debates on specific themes including:

Some of the key points made at the conference included:

1) Markets are part of the resurgence of the independent retail experience. They are placemaking vehicles where supermarkets detract from the sense of place (Richard Upton, Development Director, U+I)

2) The use of the London Local Authorities Act, which prevents local authorities from being able to charge traders for any thing other than essential infrastructure and market management costs, prevents councils from being able to promote markets effectively (Helen Evans, London Markets Board)

3) The nature of the development schedule means that developers attempting to introduce markets to activate public spaces are unable to integrate them with the surrounding communities. The gentrification/regeneration debate is central to the development of new markets and the modernisation of existing ones. (Ben Rogers, Centre for London)

4) The market is environmentally sustainable against the supermarket model – markets produce little waste, use less packaging and encourage sustainable transport. Pedestrians buy only what they need to reduce weight. Mercato Metropolitano in Borough is an example of a zero-waste market. Market management trains staff on a monthly basis. (Andrea Rasca, Mercato Metropolitano)

5) Markets are also an efficient use of valuable urban space: “Market stalls are to shops what bicycles are to cars” (Ben Rogers)

Case studies

1) Mmfora Foundation Ghana – Playable Markets

In 2018 the Foundation worked with the predominantly female traders in the markets of Accra, Ghana, to develop on-site play and education spaces for their children, with significant success in terms of outcomes for both the children and the traders. The scheme is highly replicable and applicable to market environments globally. Contact: Namata Serumaga-Musisi, Design Conultant.

2) Link Hong Kong – Refurbishment of Hong Kong’s Markets

Link Reit manages a portfolio of 100 of Hong Kong’s wet markets and the approach to refurbishment has been forensic and thorough, using research techniques and technology to redesign spaces and improve the experience for shoppers. Apps, events, demonstrations, wayfinding, zoning and sustainability have all been introduced to reinvent the concept of the Hong Kong market to meet the needs of the 21st Century consumer, leading to 50% greater spend and a 30% rise in footfall. Contact: Myron Ng, Assistant General Manager

3) Sabor Local - Conversion of grey economy to support development in Panama City

Panama is Central America’s richest country, but 40% of the jobs exist within the grey economy. Many of these are food businesses supporting undocumented migrants, which  while contributing to a burgeoning food scene in the city, remain unregulated. Sabor Local, a city centre developer has been working with traders to design spaces and kiosks which meet their requirements and help them to legitimise their businesses with the local bureaucracy. This has connected new development with the surrounding communities. Contact: Betty Chemier, Sabor Local