During the early weeks of coronavirus in the UK, there was an obsessive focus on supermarkets and how they were handling the pandemic. It was as if traditional retail markets and small shops didn’t exist. Many markets and traders, however, continued to provide essential goods and services during the lockdown, sometimes responding quicker and in more creative ways than larger stores.
But the importance of markets takes in much broader horizons. They provide affordable, fresh and healthy food and other products and services. They are also entry points into the job market for many and spaces for people to develop entrepreneurial skills.
Markets also employ more people per sq metre of space than supermarkets, distribute their economic profits locally and add footfall and vibrancy to high streets. They build local wealth and promote a more sustainable economy and society by reducing waste, shortening supply chains and reducing car-based consumption.
Markets are social hubs. They are important for the development of community ties and trust, particularly between people from different age, ethnic and social backgrounds. It is this aspect that we have focused on in our ongoing research project, which examines the value of markets to local communities.