pg20_St._JohnsAt the end of July, the Council will make an announcement on the future of the city’s markets. Whatever it is, we hope it’s the beginning of a new era for our beleaguered markets and street traders.

We understand that InfraRed, St John’s owners, are in talks with a major chain (unconfirmed rumours suggest Tesco) to build a huge supermarket on the site, the biggest in the city centre: with the market’s trading floor reduced to about half, and a new – bigger – entrance designed. Planners are considering adding an extra floor above the market, and even a rooftop car park.

If plans go ahead, the indoor market will be reduced from its current 120 traders to about 70 (after an initial plan to reduce traders to around 45 was rejected).

Rumours that Geraud Markets, the city’s joint-venture partner charged with managing our markets, is to be given notice that the Council wants to activate the contract’s break clause in three years’ time have been denied.

“Absolute nonsense,” says Geraud’s John Connolly, “The refurbishment of our markets is ongoing, and we’re working on plans for St Johns.”

The French-owned, Edge Lane-based company, granted a 17 year contract to run our markets, has been at the sharp end of angry exchanges with traders and councillors – which erupted at a recent stakeholder meeting in St John’s Market.

Claims of under-investment, indifference, a lack of vision, and a reluctance to deliver a product fit for the city finally, after years at loggerheads, has convinced many at the Council to side with the traders and relieve Geraud of its duties.

When Geraud clinched the Strategic Service Partnership (SSP) rights to run our markets, back in 2003, their aim was clear:

“To achieve the renaissance of the City’s markets, restoring them to their former prominence in social, cultural and economic life through a wide range of shopping and trading opportunities, offering quality and choice to the local community and visitors to the city.”


You only have to visit other cities (home and abroad) to realise how lamentably low our offer has become under Geraud’s lacklustre stewardship. Every trader we’ve spoken to has their own specific tale of woe, from broken promises to a lack of advertising.

“When Geraud opened their Sunday market on Edge Lane they advertised it heavily, but where’s the advertising for us? Nowhere,” said one long standing trader, adding: “We raise issues with their management, but nothing happens. Just look around, see for yourself how bad this place has become.”

Of the traders we spoke to, most were broadly supportive of plans to bring a supermarket in house, claiming increased footfall can only help their own businesses. But many newer tenants (those with contracts drawn up by Geraud) face the possibility of losing their stalls completely, with no compensation made for the loss of the business’ goodwill.

Markets and street trading in the city is, in SevenStreets’ opinion, at an all time low. In the past five years, we’ve turned the city around. We’re in the top five retail destinations, thanks to Liverpool ONE, and a co-ordinated campaign with City Central BID, and our visitor economy is booming. But we’re sorely lacking a decent food market, and our special event markets are little more than unimaginative and cynical exercises in extracting maximum rents: bringing little of cheer to our streets.

But, with Liverpool ONE kicking out Geraud’s sorry huddle of sheds (aka the Christmas market) last year, complaints about the level of Geraud’s rents, the bitter, ongoing feud with street traders, and City Central Bid keen to wrest back control of their streets, the pressure on Joe Anderson’s council was intense.
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For the past two decades, the city’s few remaining street traders have been at war with successive councils keen on clearing our streets of the all evidence of independent trading in the heart of the city centre.

Since 2004, street traders have been banned from Church Street – but the Council, and Geraud, conveniently turns its back on the ‘safety concerns’ that saw the street traders banished into the side streets when it sets up the stalls of the lucrative seasonal markets, such as the continental and Christmas markets, on Church Street.

“We and have to trade here throughout the year, only to see Geraud set up pitches in the busiest time of the year, on the best streets,” street trader Brian Gould tells SevenStreets, adding that the number of Liverpool street traders has halved in recent years.

Gould describes the Council’s decision to allow the Christmas Market into Church Street as a type of ethnic cleansing.

“Some of Liverpool’s street trading families have been serving the people of the city for over a hundred years,” he says, “and the council went to court to clear Church Street of our stalls, only to replace them with traders who pay Geraud thousands for pitches on the same stretch.”

“We’re treated like second class citizens,” says fruit and veg seller John Donohue on Whitechapel: “I’ve had to remortgage my house to fund all the legal support we needed to fight our corner when we successfully challenged the council. It’s been incredibly stressful. We’ve all got families to support, and we’re just trying to make a living.”

The council’s strategy, says an anonymous trader in St John’s indoor market, has always been to ‘divide and conquer’ – separating out the plight of the market and the street trader. But, in the past ten years, both have complained that they’ve suffered at the hands of Geraud: either directly or indirectly.

For Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Liverpool council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and transport (whose patch also includes the city’s markets) the two traders’ needs are not connected. “I only deal with Geraud and markets, not street traders,” he says, when we try to push him on the obvious hypocrisy of Geraud Markets being allowed to trade on streets off limits to our own street traders.

When SevenStreets suggests that Geraud’s been allowed to cash in on Christmas, while our city’s own traders (in the streets and in St Johns) have been ignored, pushed to the fringes of the city, and look on while paella-sellers and bratwurst hawkers make an embarrassment of our streets, Councillor Kennedy is unequivocal:

“I don’t believe in competition,” he says. “I believe we made the right decision partnering with Geraud.”

But, we ask – isn’t it because of this exclusive arrangement that the city’s markets offer is at an all time low?

rsz_3097098935_27334dc948_o (1)“Oh, sod off,” he tells us, before slamming the phone down.

An interesting stance for someone charged with regeneration, we think. Especially in the light of recent stories coming from Brixton Market, another Geraud-run market, where stallholders’ rent increased by 22 per cent, causing thousands of residents to back a campaign to save an independent shop unable to afford the price hike.

An interesting stance, too, for someone charged with regeneration when St John’s indoor market has never looked more in need of direct action. Fortunately, he was chattier in The Post last week, confirming that plans are underway for a major refurb of St Johns.

Many of the city’s councillors have openly criticised Geraud – “Geraud want the monopoly but have not put in any investment. If there’s no major investment in Liverpool markets why are we paying not insignificant management fees to Geraud?” Councillor Steve Radford has said, while Cllr Steve Munby has said “Liverpool’s markets are an embarrassment and a disgrace – what have they done for the city?”

Joe Anderson has previously talked about tarting up the upper floors of the mall – but, we think, that would have been the retail equivalent of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Liverpool is a mercantile city. Markets are in our blood. So we should be ashamed of the way we’ve treated our independent traders over the past decade. We should be ashamed that a few have done very well out of this very cosy relationship (the city taking full advantage of market rights bestowed on it back in 1207, and syphoning off 20% of Geraud’s profits), while Manchester’s Christmas market brings in millions to the city’s coffers, and the city’s street food market is vibrant and forward thinking. A bit like the city it serves.

And we should be ashamed that we pushed our last remaining street traders to the edge of the city, and many more to insolvency. The Heritage Market, another popular attraction, is still wrangling with the council, after repeated attempts to find a new home meet with 11th hour planning objections, while Geraud were quick to set up something surprisingly similar, in Edge Lane.

But now we have an opportunity, just like many cities before us – Rotterdam, Vancouver, Barcelona, Copenhagen – to turn this around, to make our markets a real tourist attraction, and to bring new life back to an old trading city.

We’ve got the producers, we’ve got the independents, and we love to shop.

Whatever the announcement, in a month’s time, will be – we’re hopeful that, after a decade’s worth of dithering, the city will finally wake up and see the huge economic, cultural and tourist potential we’re missing out on under Geraud’s sorry stewardship.

35 Responses to “A Tesco For St Johns?”

  1. Linziloop

    Their advertising of the market on Edge Lane can’t have been that good because the first I’ve heard of it is in your article. Sounds like they’re making a sham of it all, and should be relieved of their duties, for sure. St Johns market is currently something to be ashamed of, it’s awful, and has been for years. And don’t even get me started on the Heritage – the owners of that say they wanted it to be the ‘Camden of the North’, yet the people running it have absolutely NO idea how to attract the stalls that would make it so, nor seem able to reject the stalls selling knock off gear and pound shop crap.

  2. d hope-smith

    St John’s is a sad sight – it has so much potential.

    Imagine the scene: small retailers, artists selling limited edition prints, artisan bread makers giving passers by tastes of their fresh sour dough, and exciting little independent delis all taking up empty stalls next to the established and trusted butchers, fishmongers and fruit n veg sellers. One big happy local family in a friendly, dry environment, rather than somewhere people avoid or don’t even register. The market could could become a major destination on the route to avoiding the network of Tescos ravaging our city.

    If Geraud does go, which I hope it does, could St John’s be run like an old fashion cooperative – where the stall holders are the main stakeholders, who decide the strategy for the markets working as a committee with St John’s management and the Council. They can work with the local universities, schools and community groups to animate the place, bring in cultural activities and make the markets a memorable place to visit. Also, forget the naff, unimaginative and over-priced Christmas markets – bring the mulled wine and Santa’s grotto to St Johns.

  3. Benna Jewellery

    The camden of the north, what a joke! some men in suits sat round a big table must have come up with that….then gone for a big free long lunch! St john’s stinks of meat and reminds me of school. Great idea to do a lovely market with artisan breads, cheeses, crafts people but not on that site…it’s old and tired and has been for a long time.

  4. Element 11

    I must admit, the further those stalls that used to be on
    Church Street are away from the city centre the better. Who actually buys that
    rubbish? Cheap LFC / EFC t-shits, Simpson’s boxer shorts, £1 umbrellas. Banish
    them. It would be great to have something as great as Mercado San Miguel in
    Madrid, a great place to sit, eat and shop. Maybe St John’s would be better as
    a Tesco and the Market stalls try to make it in a new home. I just think that
    there is so much negative press associated with St John’s.

  5. The Manchester food markets that they seem to have on most weekends are brilliant, the only thing to rival that in Liverpool was the Hope Street Feast…and now that has gone to the wall too.

  6. Come see yer dad

    Beautifully written piece. As an independent local trader, I set up a business with nothing that now turns over 100k per year. I have no debt, employ 4 part time local people, and love what I do.
    I’ve been shafted by Geraud more than once, and frankly, this years Xmas market, especially Williamson sq was a joke.
    How embarrassing that I as a local businessman would rather drive to Manchester and back to trade, as I now often do, and will do this coming Xmas, than have to deal with the mob in that tatty building down Edge Lane.
    Markets have thrived for hundreds of years, only absolute fools could ruin what is essentially a very simple business model.

  7. Andrew

    Please, don’t extend the life of the existing St Johns Centre by adding a Tesco. St Johns needs to be demolished – it’s disgusting monolith that prevents pedestrian movement and isolates Lime Street, London Road, William Brown Street from the main shopping areas and the Mersey. And do we really want another Tesco?
    I’d like a great market, but that needs great market traders. The ex-church street traders and the current St Johns traders sell poor quality / tacky goods. We wan’t something local, something fresh.

  8. stripes

    St Johns is busy though. Clientèle of St Johns will never ever want to buy limited edition prints but prefer blag barbour etc. We should embrace this; it serves its purpose and those who can’t do L1.

  9. JD Moran

    God forbid a market with independent butchers shoud have aromas of meat about the place. Best that people buy the overpriced pre-packed/frozen stuff from Tesco where it doesn’t stink so much.

  10. JD Moran

    I’d still prefer to buy my produce from the market than from Tesco. One should really be asking what use is yet another Tesco in a city centre which is already crowded with them. Admittedly, most of them are the smaller Express or Metro variety but even the big one on Hanover Street doesn’t exactly seem like it’s struggling to cope with the numbers using it.

  11. john joseph foley

    If Tesco get their foot in StJohns Market that will be the end for all sole traders not only in the market but all of the Precinct ,some being there for years,employing many.

    Tesco will sell every think under the sun and they answer to Shareholders..

  12. john joseph foley

    As the public will see the worst possible photo of StJohns Market above, failing to show many stallholders who not only sell great products but have invested a lot of time and money in their stalls…A fine example are the excellent cafes and coffee shop which attract not only many local people but tourists who pass through buying other products to…Let us all not forget because of Tesco Clayton Sq the entrance to StJohns Market changed for the worst years ago as will be confirmed by older traders…Investment ,foot fall and talking to traders is the answer to improving the market..On other note,Take a look at Clayton Sq upper floors were most units are closed,far better to reduce rents before they become empty that trying to attract new tenants with lower rents….

  13. john joseph foley

    Andrew think you are very much wrong with your comment,their are some great traders in StJohns Market,before Costa and Starbucks,StJohns Market had their own REAL coffee shop just one example..It is not just TRACKY and TRAINERS anymore,if you want the full list of products being sold in StJohns Market i can send them to you…Plus over the last 2 Saturday’s 2 lucky shoppers won a 40inch TV and more, you do not get that sort of thing happening in Liverpool ONE…

  14. Negative press,we must not believe all we hear or read Element,As for street traders in Liverpool,some you are right sell tacky £1 items and by the way,Pound land,99p and many more sell much more tacky items but shop being well dressed it is acceptable right? Think the stall frames and covers need to be changed and better lines…

  15. john joseph foley

    Negative press,we must not believe all we hear or read Element,As for
    street traders in Liverpool,some you are right sell tacky £1 items and
    by the way,Pound land,99p and many more sell much more tacky items but
    shop being well dressed it is acceptable right? Maybe stall frames
    and covers need to be changed and more choice….

  16. Repeated from above with add on….

    God forbid a market with independent butchers shoud have aromas of meat
    about the place. Best that people buy the overpriced pre-packed/frozen
    stuff from Tesco where it doesn’t stink so much and does not have horse meat sold as BEEF…

  17. Repeated from above with add on….

    God forbid a market with independent butchers should have aromas of meat
    about the place. Best that people buy the overpriced pre-packed/frozen
    stuff from Tesco where it doesn’t stink so much and does not have horse meat sold as BEEF…

  18. john joseph foley

    Repeated from above with add on….

    God forbid a market with independent butchers should have aromas of meat
    about the place. Best that people buy the overpriced pre-packed/frozen
    stuff from Tesco where it doesn’t stink so much and does have horse meat sold as BEEF..

  19. Gary Kilroy

    There are numerous local trades and artisan food producers across the city who would love to have a presence in the city centre and St John’s is perfect for that. It should be redeveloped along the lines of Leeds market rather than another bloody tesco’s 50 yards from an existing one!

  20. It’s a disgrace the way the market stall traders have been treated by the council. You don’t see many other places offering fresh fruit and veg in this town, do you? Church Street is awash with protests, freaks, buskers and beggars – yet a few tatty stalls are deemed unsafe and unseemly! The stench of the place during the Christmas Market, which let’s not forget draws thousands and thousands of pounds away from the stores (independent or not) which employ local residents and commuters all year round, is horrendous, never mind the fact that Lord Street becomes nigh on impassable.

    That Cllr. Kennedy should be ashamed of himself giving such a lame and cowardly response to honest and necessary journalism. As should the Echo, God forbid they take a real stand against anything that doesn’t concern their beloved LFC.

    As for the market, the answer surely has to lie in demolition. The approach towards Queens Square from London Road/Lime St station could benefit from a little bit of green space (where the carpark/Holiday Inn/big screen all stand) leading into a bustling semi-indoor marketplace akin to Spitalfields which itself leads into a Clayton Square worthy of the name. It’ll never happen though.

  21. Osaka

    If Tesco is the best answer anyone can come up with they might as well shut the doors to St John’s for good and tear it down. Why can’t Liverpool have a thriving artisan produce market like Borough in London or La Boqueria in Barcelona.

    Supermarkets have done more than enough damage to our communities. The last thing we need is to encourage them to open next door to the few dwindling market traders the city has.

    Depressing in the extreme.

  22. Benna Jewellery

    Actually Im don’t buy meat from Tesco or Independants. It’s a tired old site and the regeneration ideas are great, but realistically think about it…they won’t work on that’d need a very good PR campaign to turn that place around and into an artisan market…sad but true..

  23. Benna Jewellery

    I don’t eat meat john..and yes the smell of it where there are lots of stall indoors selling it is pretty horrible. I’m not a lover of Tesco and try and buy Independant wherever I can. There was an amazing pop up restaurant in L1 with seasonal veg last month. Unfortunately they couldnt afford the rent and sadly had to close.

  24. JD Moran

    Is that true that they couldn’t afford the rent? I just assumed that the fact its absence was more to do with its very nature as a pop-up especially as it specialised in asparagus which has such a limited seasonal availability (locally anyway).

  25. Yep. St Johns has lots of varied, independent stalls, not that most snooty people around here would lower themselves to give it a go. It seems unless you’re selling artisan bread, no one wants to buy local and independent!

  26. […] “I don’t believe in competition,” the municipally-minded Councillor told SevenStreets last year, “I believe we made the right decision partnering with Geraud.” This was shortly before telling us to ‘sod off’ and slamming the phone down. […]

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