The UK’s thriving food markets – and how you can capitalise on the local shopping boom
A sharp rise in local shopping is one of the few positive effects of the pandemic. But will it continue? And if you are a local retailer, how can you capitalise on this surge in interest?
Before we examine this business opportunity, let’s look at the evidence for this trend, and explore one of the key venues for new businesses that want to test the waters before investing in premises: local markets and fairs.
Local lockdown revival
It’s always challenging to find the positives in a pandemic, but lockdowns did force many of us to change our behaviours, sometimes for the better.
One major behaviour change was an increase in local shopping. Of course, this was partly a limitation of lockdowns and being unable to travel. But, there was also a pushback against the dominance of online retailers, motivated both by an eagerness to spend locally and by a desire to experience the premium quality and local connections offered by vendors within our own communities.
Recent research from Deloitte found that 59% of British consumers have bought from local stores and services more regularly during lockdowns.
And global technology firm ThoughtWorks found that a year after lockdown, more people are still considering buying food directly from food producers or through online retailers. According to their ‘2030 Britain’ report, just 32% of Generation Z believe the future of food shopping will be centred on traditional supermarkets.
Just as some people have responded to the pandemic by slowing down and taking greater pleasure in life’s details, there has also been a degree of reaction against the monolithic online retailers. For some people, the origins of their shopping have become as important as quality or convenience.
And this leads us neatly into the world of local markets, where choice may be limited (when compared to the infinite shelves of virtual stores), but passion is guaranteed. Local markets allow shoppers to connect directly with local producers, the very people who are most closely connected to the local land, culture, and climate. By shopping locally, shoppers can learn how their products were made, who made them, and why. Compared to the cold convenience of online shopping, buying from local producers offers a sensory experience that also helps us connect with our community.
We’ve harvested the TripAdvisor review data to find the most popular food markets in the UK and then ranked the top 50 markets according to the highest percentage of 5* reviews.
You can browse the table below, but let’s look at the best of the best.
Food Markets – the Top 5
The UK has a rich tradition of farmer’s markets and village fairs, which create a golden opportunity for producers and retailers while giving shoppers a convenient hub to browse the best their community has to offer.
Here are 5 markets that have earned the highest average rating on TripAdvisor…
1: Deddington Farmer’s Market
What they say: “Come and join us at Deddington Farmers’ Market, in north Oxfordshire, one of the largest and happiest farmers’ markets in the country. Featuring over 40 stalls, it offers the very best in locally produced beer, bread, crafts, eggs, fish, flowers, fruit, meat, preserves, ready-made meals including international cuisines, vegetables and much, much more.”
What TripAdvisor says: “This is a great local market. Clearly, the stalls are local producers who come back to the market time and time again. It has a good range of local meats, veg, drinks and crafts. Mainly the food aspect is in the village square. There is a great mixture of food ready to eat and fresh produce. The inside of the Church, just off the square is the location for locals to trade crafts. At the core of the market is the concept of local producers. This is focused on local producers. The artisan bread is worth a loaf and similarly, the meat supplied is great.”
When: Deddington Farmers’ Market is held the 4th Saturday of every month except December (held on 17/12/2022).
2: Shrewsbury Market Hall
What they say: “Welcome to the multi-award-winning Shrewsbury Market Hall. A unique food, drink and shopping destination that offers a vibrant and eclectic fusion of the handcrafted and the hard to find. Over 50 traders, proudly independent and gloriously innovative. We’re ready to serve you!”
What TripAdvisor says: “Brilliant place to browse, buy fresh fish, meat, cheese, fruit and veg as well as cards and second-hand books. There are some amazingly good eateries. We had a stand-up takeaway from ‘Indian Street Food’ and an Indonesian rice bowl at ‘The Bird’s Nest’ – both excellent.”
When: Tuesday-Saturday 8AM – 4PM (limited trading on Thursdays)
3: Bury Market
What they say: “Bury Market was granted its charter in the 1440s and now attracts millions of visitors every year and thousands of coaches from across the country. It boasts 370 stalls on its three sites – the Market Hall, Outdoor Market, and the Fish and Meat Hall.”
What TripAdvisor says: “A day after visiting it has been named ‘Best Market in Britain’.
Well done to all the stallholders and staff! We enjoyed our visit, a chance to replenish our Black Pudding stocks and for my wife to buy more wool, material, buttons and more.”
When: Check website for details
4: Stroud Farmers’ Market
What they say: “Stroud Farmers’ Market is multi-award-winning and is well known as one of the biggest, busiest and most popular farmers’ markets in the UK. The market was awarded Best Farmers’ Market in the UK for 2013 for a second time by FARMA.”
What TripAdvisor says: “Lovely morning out at the Stroud farmers market, lots of lovely stalls offering a selection of foods/meats/jams/fudge/cookies/gifts. A great shout out to Katie Crunch that offered delicious fudge! It’s a must try if you are a fudge lover- great price and gift idea also! The only thing I’d say is that there’s not really drink stalls and limited hot food options. But we had a sausage and bacon roll from a local farm which was wonderful!”
When: Saturdays 9AM – 2PM
5: Borough Market (London)
What they say: “At Borough Market, we don’t just sell good food and drink, we celebrate it. We enjoy how it tastes and the way it makes us feel, but we also appreciate its ability to connect us to the people who produced it and the places it was made. Here, in this historic setting, you’ll find an incredible range of food from all over Britain and the rest of the world – and every item has a story to tell.”
What TripAdvisor says: “I love Borough Market so much, as do my 19 and 22-year-old sons. Always our first visit when we are in London. This visit we had a delicious warm, spiced lemonade from the juice people. Some cheese, a toasty from the raclette stand, and bread. Will be back in a few days before we return home. I always want to cook a grand meal every time I am here!”
- Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm
- Saturday – 8am – 5pm
- Sunday – 10am – 2pm
How to capitalise on the shop local boom
We know that more people are interested in shopping locally. What you can do to capture some of this interest? How can your local business respond to the needs of the customers on your doorstep?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Tell a great story. What are you selling, and why? People love to feel a connection to local businesses, particularly if their products have a local connection or at least a personal story they can relate to. This might be a story about why you developed a product, how you sourced a material, the provenance of a special ingredient, or your own reason for starting the company.
Offer a unique product. What can you bring people that they can’t get anywhere else? If you can offer something that isn’t just a click away online, then you give them another reason to get out of bed on a soggy Sunday morning.
Be reliable and consistent. Easier said than done, but consistency can take you a long way when it comes to local shops, fairs, and markets. If you show up regularly, you stand a greater chance of building a fan base and getting to know your customers. This is great because then you can…
Listen. Listen to what your customers say because their voice is something that ecommerce companies would pay dearly for. Your customers’ comments can help you optimise your offerings and understand where to focus your efforts. It’s priceless.
Rival the big players. Being small gives you many advantages over your larger rivals. You can change tactics quickly, develop and launch new products, offer additional services, and adapt to new customer demands. Use your size as an advantage to leap ahead of larger rivals – whether this is in your delivery options, product range, or customer service.
Diversify. The local shopping boom looks set to continue post-pandemic. But how long will it last? Rather than rely on a single marketing channel, consider how you can also expand your online activity. You may also find that some of your local customers would love the option to buy online – or even set up a subscription service.
Photo by Wendy Wei, published on Pexels