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Managing a market as a front-line service and community asset

The success of Bury Market lies in a collective understanding within the Council that the market is a front-line service which must reflect and support the community it serves. David Caterall explores how this traditional market creates community value.

Bury Market stall. Credit: Markets 4 People

Bury Market stall. Credit: Markets 4 People

Bury Market, located in the north of Greater Manchester, first started operating in the 1400’s. Boasting over 350 stalls with an impressive 150,000 visitors per week, it is known as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Bury Town Centre.  

Bury Market was recently awarded £20m of Government Levelling up funding to build a flexible events centre and replace and improve the Market canopy roof to enable modernisation without gentrification.  

The market is a key driver for footfall into Bury Town Centre attracting 20 coaches per day from across the country. It is integral to the recently published Town Centre Master Plan produced by Bruntwood and Bury Council in a joint venture to regenerate Bury Town Centre to make it fit for the future.  

The success of Bury Market is because there is a collective understanding within the Council and wider Town Centre that the market is a front-line service that must reflect and support the community it serves. What underpins this is the understanding that markets have a social value as identified in the Leeds University / Markets 4 People report.  

Management arrangements matter

Following a top tier restructure of Bury Council’s leadership team in 2020, Market Operations was moved from Property Services section to Operations, where the management culture was purposefully changed from a transactional landlord-tenant model, to a more people focused approach which identified the benefits of the market and how it could be used as a cultural asset as well as a front-line service.  

Using the Leeds University / Markets 4 People report, Bury Market’s management team developed a service strategy which identified what Bury Council could do in the market to meet its strategic aims.  

The aims link to an overarching corporate plan to improve quality of life, improve and develop skills, support economic growth, carbon neutrality, improved educational attainment, improved early years development, and improved digital connectivity.  

Footfall generation is a key part of a successful market, but as a front-line service, using footfall generation to deliver the key corporate aims is what makes Bury Market different from others across the country.  

Traditionally, using a landlord / tenant model, market managers concentrate on financial management, enforcement, operational needs, and ongoing maintenance. This is obviously important to ensure the market is sustainable and viable, however, using resources such as culture, arts, learning and development and wider services, as well as understanding the benefits of social spaces to expose the public to information and experiences that they would not usually be exposed to, supports wellbeing and quality of life, and adds value to the market experience.  

Markets are not just a simple transactional experience, it involves a public space, multiple personal contacts, familiarity, and social engagement.  

What is different with Bury Market is that the management team understand the significance of being a front-line service and the purpose of holding and promoting events, which creates wider buy-in from the market team and by some extension, the traders.  

Using multiple Council-led teams, many of the strategic aims are addressed as part of these activities, which then leads to opportunities through other initiatives.  

Market initiatives

Linking strategies enables and supports several events to take place, using the market as a facilitator. One example is as simple as a cooking demonstration with a view to help use leftover food in a ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ Campaign.   

The campaign’s purpose may appear to be a Love Food Hate Waste initiative, but it supports the anti-poverty agenda by using low-cost store cupboard staples purchased on the Market. It increases footfall into the market to support economic growth, improve skills and education by advertising Adult Learning Cooking Courses and finally, by reducing waste, it supports the decarbonisation plan. It also advertises the quality and diversity of the offer within Bury Market and how to access it.  

These events promote the diverse offer and supports the communities within Bury to support equality and inclusion, which impacts positively on wider community cohesion.  

Another example is the use of the Healthy Start scheme, an NHS and Public Health initiative to support people who are pregnant or have children under the age of four, offering help towards milk, fruit, vegetables, pulses, and formula.   

By promoting the offer within Bury Market and highlighting that Healthy Start vouchers can be used, aligns with the market strategy to increase footfall and sales for the traders, but also supports those who need to access quality products, to improve quality of life and increase the health and wellbeing of children and young families.  

Securing the market's future for generations to come

Although these are just a few of the examples used within Bury Market to serve the community, Bury Market continues to focus on the delivery of the corporate plan and the strategic aims of the Council for the benefit of residents of Bury.   

The ongoing plan through the development of the recent £20m investment via Levelling up, plans to use culture and inclusive growth to further develop the offer to ensure and protect the future of Bury Market for generations to come.  

Originally published by Markets 4 People.

Published Friday 3 May 2024

Good Food Local: Good Food Local supports local authorities to prioritise good food and commit to action on a breadth of food issues.

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Initially starting a career in 1994 in Hospitality and Catering, working both internationally and nationally, David moved into local government, working for Bury Council from 2009.  Starting as a civic venue manager, David has built a successful career and is now Head of Commercial Services with a workforce of over 600 people.

David Catterall
Head of Commercial Services, Bury Council

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