The University of Leeds, England, are seeking a Research Fellow to work on a ESRC supported study starting in January 2018 on understanding and enhancing the community value of traditional markets.

The research team is led by Dr Sara Gonzalez in Leeds with co-investigators Professor Sophie Watson at the Open University, the New Economics Foundation and the trade association NMTF (National Market Traders Federation). The team combines critical urban studies scholars with retail geographers, practitioners in community economics and a national trade association. The team are seeking a Research Fellow who will be primarily involved in the collection, analysis and dissemination of qualitative primary and secondary data and the development of excellent academic and non-academic outputs.

The overall aim of this study is to develop an innovative methodology and analytical framework for the study of the community value (see below) of Traditional Retail Markets (TRM) in UK cities. TRM are indoor or outdoor, permanent or itinerant gatherings of sellers and buyers of which there are 1,227 in the UK attracting an estimated 26 billion shopping visits across the UK per year. TRM play a significant role in the economic and civic life of UK cities and towns. However, profound changes in international and national retail trends, the redevelopment of many UK central cities and public sector cuts are putting the central community role of TRM at risk. There is a reported decline of the traditional format of TRM, more likely to serve low income and vulnerable groups, and a surge in private-run, “upmarket”, foodie and event-based markets aimed at higher income customers. Research is urgent to understand the current situation of markets and their potential community value which may be at risk as evidenced by the rise of campaigns, particularly in London, denouncing the displacement of independent retailers and vulnerable users. 

To respond to this knowledge gap and need for policy advice, this research will provide a fresh, novel and holistic way to understand the community value, which so far has been evidenced in international academic and policy literature but remains disconnected.

For our research we will define the community value of TRM as constituted of three interconnected dimension: 1. Economic as places that provide affordable food, products and services and well as create opportunities for low cost business start-ups. 2. Social as platforms for social mobility and the development of community ties and trust leading to better social inclusion. 3. Cultural as spaces for experiencing a diversity of cultures and ethnicities and provide a sense of place for migrants, ethnic minorities and generally vulnerable citizens. 

By bringing together critical urban studies with retail analytics and local economic development approaches we will critically analyse the current situation of TRM providing robust evidence base upon which to evaluate their community value and suggest best practice.

More specifically the project has five interlinked objectives: 

  1. To critically investigate the key factors affecting the current state of TRM in the UK, including how TRM are valued in mainstream government, business and public discourses, and to evaluate the variety and often competing narratives around them.
  2. To advance a novel understanding of the community value that markets can bring to cities by powerfully combining concepts and methods from critical urban studies, economics, sociology and retail geography.
  3. To develop a mixed methodology that combines in an innovative way a variety of qualitative and quantitative surveying techniques with powerful industry-standard geodemographic analysis to capture the fine grain experiences of market users.
  4. To co-produce and co-disseminate with key sector stakeholders a set of alternative and more holistic value measures and policy evaluation tools that can evidence and nurture the community aspect of TRM.
  5. To offer opportunities for the development of new relationships amongst stakeholders in the TRM sector.

In welcoming the research, Chris Savage, Projects Manager at NMTF said: "The community value of markets is something that NMTF members are aware of and immensely proud of. But it is often taken to be tacit knowledge and is dismissed by many market operators and developers as unmeasurable. This crucial research will enable the NMTF to champion the social and cultural value of traditional retail markets with greater clout and credibility than has ever been possible before.”