16 Jul My first column for Market Trade News
Just before heading off to the International Public Markets Conference in London at the beginning of June, it was a real delight to be asked to contribute to MTN on a regular basis.
I hope the weather has improved by the time you read this. Glastonbury and Wimbledon are just around the corner as I write and true to form it feels more like November. Just without any of the excitement of Christmas around the corner.
It was a similar story when delegates from across the globe descended on Southwark Cathedral for the start of the 10th International Public Markets Conference. The heavens opened but the splendour of the C12th setting meant that market and place making professionals gathered soon forgot about the British weather, as Sadiq Khan opened proceedings by cracking jokes about Donald Trump and organisers, Project for Public Spaces outlined the strategic role markets play in a global city.
We heard about the main challenges and the opportunities available to markets in London and I was particularly inspired by panel member, Susie Ma, the founder of Tropic Skincare, who started out at just 15 on Greenwich Market selling a single body scrub product, for which she took £900 on her first day. The company now has a net income of £22.5 million after Sir Alan Sugar took a punt of 50% of Susie’s, then seven-year-old business, when she appeared in The Apprentice in 2011. It just goes to show; the opportunities are still very much out there.
Lunch at the modern glass Market Hall at Borough Market kept us all dry as we sampled produce from the traders and delegates took the opportunity to catch up with each other after four years since the last conference in Barcelona. At the entrance to the Market Hall, we could top up our water bottles in newly installed water fountains, which made me wonder, if each location in the country where a market was held had this infrastructure installed: how many single use plastic bottles would be taken out of commission each year?
The following days were a whirl of presentations and panels at City Hall, with common themes uniting the nations: that public and private markets need to retain their authenticity; they need to attract and nurture the next generation of traders and customers; they play a vital role in healthy, vibrant communities; and that in partnership with wholesale markets, they hold the key to delivering sustainable food supply chains as we experience increasingly unpredictable weather patterns due to climate breakdown.
Over thirty markets were showcased to an international audience, first on the Friday exploring specific themes and then the following day in more general guided tours. In the evenings, we came together, first at New Spitalfields which retains its roots as a market but is now also a destination for multiples and key attractors. On the second evening, my company Marketti took a large party of visitors down the river on a Thames Clipper and spent the evening at Greenwich Market Vegan Vibes, which had us all dancing till late.
It was a wonderful experience to know how passionately operators and place makers care about markets across the world and recognise. Having helped write the bid to have the conference hosted in London over two years ago, it was also something of a relief when I was able to get back home…..even if it is a bit like November.
If you want to chat markets in the meantime, you can get hold of me on Twitter @MrsMarketUK or join in with @MarketHour each Wednesday between 8-9pm.