Meet the IPM: Interview with Luke Mirfin

Luke MirfinLuke Mirfin, an Associate Member of the Institute of Place Management, has worked for local government since 2004. He started as a Caretaker before transferring to the Markets department as an Assistant Market Officer, progressing to Market Officer and becoming a member of Hyde Town Team. Some of the areas he has been involved with include the complete redevelopment of Hyde Outdoor Market, launching a new Farmers’ market at Tameside Hospital, which has just won a 2016 national NABMA award for “Market Innovation Of The Year”, alongside the daily running and management of 2 indoor markets, 2 outdoor markets, 3 farmers’ markets and new speciality markets including Artisan and events.

Luke Mirfin, You currently work as Market Officer at Tameside Council. What does that work entail?

Luke Mirfin: My work is ensuring the smooth day-to-day running and management of 2 outdoor markets, 2 indoor markets along with specialist markets including 3 farmers’ markets and 2 artisan markets. My duties are very wide and varied and include anything from allocating stalls, arranging set up/dismantle of markets and events, being front line contact for traders and members of the public, to collecting rents, health and safety issues, updating social media and everything else in between.

“Farmers’ and artisan markets create a destination of choice, very much like how markets first originated”

What are the main challenges that markets in your area of responsibility face?

Luke Mirfin: The main challenge is attracting new traders, keeping existing traders whilst also ensuring the markets we operate continue to provide traditional market values of choice, value, and quality where people want to visit and shop.

How has the concept and practice of markets changed in the years you’ve been working in the field?

Luke Mirfin: Market trading is the second oldest profession in the world and has not really changed that much over the years. However since starting in markets I have seen a big change: from the traditional market held in fixed stalls on set days of the week – which has declined in popularity amongst traders – to an increase in specialist markets and events set up in gazebos and temporary structures. Such farmers’ and artisan markets create a destination of choice, very much like how markets first originated. Since the last recession, second-hand goods markets have also become very popular, because of the variety and value these stalls provide.

“We took our traders and started a monthly farmers’ market at the local hospital, which has now turned into a seasonal market”

Social media now plays a massive part in our market operations and is an area which I have seen really take off. When I first started, all that was in existence was a very basic web page.

We often talk about innovation in markets in our work. What does that mean for you?

Innovation is taking your existing product/offer and finding new ways to sell it or present it. So for me this has involved taking traders and setting up markets in new locations you would not normally find a market. For example local hospitals now feature facilities such as coffee shops, newsagents and restaurants. So we took our traders and started a monthly farmers’ market at the local hospital, which has now turned into a seasonal market. This allowed us to target new people who may not normally visit a market whilst working with new partners and extended our markets offer whilst continuing to support traders. The Tameside Hospital Farmers’ Market recently won 2016 NABMA award for “Market Innovation of the Year”

You are an Associate Member of the Institute of Place Management? How do you think the IPM can support your work?

Luke Mirfin: The IPM offers a wealth of experience and resources from a wide variety of people. It provides excellent networking opportunities and increases the profile of markets and their importance in the industry. If you desire to enhance your career development, the IPM offers professional qualifications.

The interview was conducted by Ares Kalandides