Market stallholders want to sell food as a way of boosting business in the face of competition
Street markets, which at one time were extremely popular with shoppers, now appear to be fighting for survival. Hit hard by the drastic overall reduction in spending and by fierce competition, stallholders are calling on the Junta de Andalucía to allow them to sell different types of food, as a way of attracting more customers. They want to be able to offer refrigerated and even pre-cooked food to shoppers, as well as their normal products.
Figures issued by the sector show that there has been a dramatic drop in sales in recent years. The Street Vendors Association of Malaga (Avam) estimates that these have fallen by 70 per cent since the economic crisis began, due to strong competition and a lack of customers.
It also points out that every year about 20 people give up their stalls in every one of the principal markets in the city and on the Costa del Sol, which is remarkable bearing in mind that only ten years ago stalls rarely became available. Juan Rojas, the president of Avam, says that many traders are in a very difficult situation because they can no longer afford to continue in the business.
Rojas, who is well aware that the sector needs a considerable boost if it is to become competitive again, says he has spent two years holding discussions with the Junta de Andalucía to try to find a way forward for this type of business. Among other ideas, he has asked permission to sell foods apart from the fruit and vegetables permitted at the moment.
“In other parts of Spain they can sell ready-cooked foods, ham and different meats, so why can’t we?” he asks. “We would comply with food safety regulations. Nowadays there are vans which are more suitable for this type of product than any local shop.”
Evidence that market traders in Malaga are having a hard time can be seen from the fact that this year alone there are 17 empty spaces at the Sunday market in Cortijo de Torres, a benchmark for street markets in the province and one where there used to be fierce competition for a stall.
“Things are very difficult for us now because there is competition everywhere: from shops, the Chinese bazaars and commercial centres,” explained Rojas.
Despite everything, in general the markets are not shrinking in size because new licences are granted almost immediately to people who think a stall of their own could be their salvation. In Fuengirola, for example, 128 families are on a waiting list for a stall at the weekly market. “People always think markets are money-earners, but it isn’t easy. You need knowledge, you have to know how to sell and how to deal with suppliers,” says Juan.
Sources at the Federation of Commerce (Fecoma) agree that the street market sector has a right to offer more products, as long as hygiene standards are respected and there is quality control. They say the Federation is only opposed to illegal businesses, but that people who have all the relevant permits “are always welcome.”
Regional modernisation plan
Meanwhile the Junta de Andalucía is currently putting the final touches to a project within its Activation Plan for Markets which will encourage councils to modernise the temporary markets which take place in their municipalities.
The Andalusian Ministry of Commerce says this part of the plan should be put into effect by September and it will include grants for town halls which carry out works to improve the markets and make the sector more professional.
Suggested improvements include resurfacing the marketplaces and streets in which markets are held, improving access, installing water fountains, providing facilities so that people can try on clothes before buying, and setting up offices to help members of the public.
Figures from the Junta show that the street market sector provides work for 100,000 people, who run 41,000 market stalls in 703 municipalities around the region.source surinenglish