Market and street trading: a conceptual framework


F. Y. Tse

TitleMarket and street trading: a conceptual framework
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateMarch, 1974
Keywords:Peddlers and peddling

Retail trade

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

Market and street trading is a feature of low level retail development. Its relative importance in overall retail distribution diminishes as the economy advances. In a spatial context, the process of retail development can be viewed as parallel with the rural-urban continuum characteristic by market and street trading prevailing at the urban end in contrast with a formal retail system dominating at the urban end. It is at the intermediate stage of economic development that the rural-urban contrast becomes most striking; i.e. the “traditional” and “modern” retail systems intersecting each other in urban centers.

Apart from market trading, street trading itself can also be viewed as one continuum ranging from itinerant trading to fixed and permanent trading. This can be further extended to the shop-type retail continuum via mini-stores (Wall-Stalls in the Hong Kong case)

The concept of market and street trading varies along the Retail Development Continuum, so does terminology and definition. Cross cultural comparisons would not be meaningful unless the levels of retail development of the countries concerned are referred to the same basis.

Other than economists’ abstract “Market”, the term market used in this paper involved a range of concepts of marketing activities. The higher the level of commercialization of a country the greater is the degree of permanence, specialization and institutionalization of the marketing activity. In Hong Kong the three major types of market can be ranked in such as order, i.e. 1) rural Shyu, 2) street markets and bazaars, and 3) public retail market halls.

By “Street Trading” it is referred to the activities taken place in the first two types of market (in the open air), including the individuals who ply their trades in discrete locations. Street traders in Hong Kong are officially called “Hawkers” or “Shiu Fann” in Cantonese. The original terminology and definition of Hawker-itinerant trader in a western context is no longer relevant in most Southeast Asian cities. People who conduct business in public place (squares, streets, open ground, canals, etc) are named as “Hawkers”. However, as was shown by the study of Shiu Fann (Hawker) Images, the traditional Chinese concept of itinerant trading (the true sense of the word “Hawker”) was found embedded deeply in the modern image which hardly represents the norm for today’s street traders. This may be due to 1) ambiguity in people’s mind arising from the mini-store-like fixed and well structured stalls which are so common in the hawking scene, and 2) their general acceptance of street stalls as an integral part of the overall retail system. If an image is seen sas an evaluated model of reality in which human behaviour is accorded, the popularity of street shopping in modern Hong Kong must have some relationship with this particular image of Shiu Fann (Hawker).

In a brief survey of the research literature concerning market and street trading, most of the studies have been found dealing largely with the “old” and “rural” end of the Retail Development Continuum, mainly on social and economic anthropological approaches. As at the “modern” and “urban” end, economists are rarely interested in street and market traders. In third World countries, this type of retailing should have received greater research attention in the light of 1) its relative importance in internal trade and 2) its problems related to modern urban development. However, the lack of reliable official data often prevents serious attempts in the investigation of the problem in detail. The Hawker Study Programme conducted by the Social Research Center of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has thus made some effort toward this field of research.

NoteBibliography: leaves 30-34
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