Keep our retail markets open, says trade body

AN appeal to keep both indoor and outdoor markets open so that they can meet social needs and preserve livelihoods has been made by the organisation representing market traders.

The 20,000-strong NMTF (National Market Traders Federation) says its members are angry and frustrated because whilst throughout the crisis supermarkets have remained open and been able to sell all manner of goods both indoor and outdoor markets have been restricted in what they sell.

In emails to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Business Secretary Alok Sharma the NMTF points out that as the law stands in England indoor markets can be open for food and other goods such as hardware, pet supplies and flower and plants — but outdoor markets can only sell food.

On top of this an NMTF survey shows that more over 60 per cent of markets have been closed.

The recent reopening of garden centres had added fuel to the flames of discontent.

NMTF CEO Joe Harrison said: “This is a farce and the Government must do something to address this anomaly.

“There seems to be strange notion that social distancing is easier in an indoor market, but from our observations that is not the case.

“The scientists have said we are safer outside than inside so where it the sense in this legislation?”

He said the idea that garden centres had been allowed to reopen when many of them had similar layouts to outdoor markets was nonsensical.

“We are hoping traders in England can at least go back to work on June 1 when the Government is suggesting restrictions will be eased.

“But we are saying more traders should be allowed to go back now so that when the time for real easing comes everyone will know what to do.”

The survey revealed that around a third of the estimated 32,000 retail market traders in the UK expect to receive no financial support from the Government.

It is possible that they will be able to apply for a slice of the £617 million discretionary fund but this is being administered by local authorities and the application process will differ from one to another.

“One thing is clear — retail markets are vital both to the UK economy and the social needs of people living in many areas, so markets need to be fully reopened as soon as possible,” Mr Harrison said.