Worcester Market Review

Worcester Market
Worcester Market
Project date
04.09.2012
Type
  • Strategy
  • Visioning
Location
West Midlands
Clients
Worcester City Council
Associated team members
Associated documents

DTZ and URBED were appointed in August 2012 to advise Worcester City Council and the Crown Estate (the landlord of Crowngate) regarding the future of Angel Place, including a review of market potential in Worcester; and options for use of the space in a way that meets the partners’ vision and objectives for Angel Place.  As part of the study we got very interested in the ecology and fragility of markets.

Angel Place is shopping street in the north of Worcester City Centre, immediately east of the City’s bus station, and its southern end forms a critical link between the two component parts (Friary Walk, to the north, and, to the south, Chapel Walk) of the Crowngate shopping centre, Worcester’s primary purpose built shopping centre.

Markets are an important part of the retail offer in the UK, and DTZ and URBED have experience of working with markets in many parts of the UK. Our overall impression from our experience is that markets across the UK are experiencing a long slow decline but that there are exceptions to this and some traditional markets are doing very well. 

This impression is backed up by the scant evidence that exists on the state of markets in the UK. In 2009 the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee select committee produced a report called Market Failure? – Can the traditional markets survive? This quoted the last national survey undertaken by the National Association of British Market Authorities in 2005 which concluded that there were traditional 1,150 markets in the UK providing 150,000 stalls a week and supporting 46,000 market traders and 96,000 jobs. The average vacancy rate was 75% and falling and the total annual spend was £1.1Billion. 

While there has not been a detailed survey since 2005 the select committee believed that traditional markets had continued to decline and that has chimed with our experience. The issues seem to be as follows: 

  • Markets are of course prey to wider market trends. They therefore suffer if footfall and customer spend in the town centre falls.
  • Markets are no longer cheaper than their competitors. The growth of supermarkets and more recently town centre pound shops and other value retailers means that markets can no longer compete on price.
  • Traditional markets are having to compete with other types of markets. The select committee estimated that 800 farmers markets had opened since 2005. This sector has gown rapidly offering a market ambience and an up-market product. At the other end of the scale there has been a growth in regular car boot sales so that traditional markets are squeezed both ways. 
  • The committee suggested that outdoor markets have suffered most because they are vulnerable to bad weather. This has not necessarily been our experience, certainly there are some wonderful indoor markets – but in our experience outdoor markets tend to have better atmosphere, are more resilient in that they can expand and contract, and are more popular with traders.  

There are however traditional markets that have bucked national trends and have thrived in recent years. These tend to be markets that have played on their unique market character by creating a sense of excitement and occasion and therefore attractors in their own right. There are two types of market that seem to have achieved this: 

  • Big markets: We have worked in places like Bury (see opposite), Dewsbury, Doncaster, all northern towns that have huge markets. Bury in particular, which is smaller than Worcester has an outdoor market with 250 stalls which attracts bus loads of people from miles around. The secret of Bury’s success has been to create lock-up units so that traders keep their stock on site. This however is not appropriate for Worcester.
     
  • Market Towns: The other type of thriving market is the market town which has a market 1-3 days a week and which has made market day into a festive occasion when the number of people in the town increases massively. Devizes in Wiltshire is a good example of this, as well as Ludlow, Nuneaton and Skipton (see opposite). These operate as part of a circuit with traders going to a different town each day. The stalls are normally demountable and while the market can often be quite chaotic, that is part of the attraction.