The incidental but vital socio-economic role of Birmingham Wholesale Markets

Birmingham’s Wholesale Markets are currently based in the centre of the city with a turnover of £275m and providing employment to more than 1000 people, many of which live in disadvantaged communities.  Within the markets, there are 73 individual businesses, 71 of which are locally owned.  These businesses also support approximately 15,000 jobs in wider economy, including local retail markets, cafes, restaurants, delis and local businesses, providing them with a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.  The wholesale market’s proximity to the city centre and the Birmingham retail markets provides customers with ready access to a wide range of affordable produce. The markets serve a real diversity of the city’s cultural communities in terms of both employment and supply chains.

Future plans and their potential impact

The wholesale markets are due to be moved out of Birmingham city centre to an edge of city location to free up the site for development. An enormous campaign ensued bringing together wholesalers, their customers and suppliers, the retail markets and large numbers of the city’s people – including the largest petition ever received by the council. Whilst the markets are still moving, the local authority has responded to the campaign, understood the huge local multiplier value of the wholesale markets and come to an agreement with the wholesale and retail markets to ensure that supply chain disruption is minimal and additional promotion is employed to mitigate against ill-effects.  It remains to be seen how effective this will be, and whether the redeveloped central site can provide as high a local multiplier and social benefit under an ‘absentee landlord’ offering conventional prestige city centre activity.

Key features of this case study

  • Incidental social value: This is a pure private sector example with no social objectives, but vital social outcomes that should be recognised.
  • Local employment – Birmingham’s Wholesale markets provides meaningful employment to local people in Birmingham;
  • Support for locally owned businesses both directly through the market and indirectly through the wholesale trade
  • Local multipliers – a high proportion of locally owned businesses means that income, expenditure and investment is being re-circulated within the Birmingham economy, including those areas which are particularly disadvantaged.
  • Business clustering – businesses which share the same interests are located together which maximises choice for customers and encourages competition, collaboration and innovation.

To learn more

Localise West Midlands (2013) MCED Report

BBC news article: Plans to move the wholesale market from the centre of Birmingham confirmed