Six months ago, when we reported on the sorry state of Liverpool’s St John’s market, we were told that we’d be able to go to press with a ‘significant statement’ from the council, regarding their plans for the market. July would mark the beginning of a whole new chapter, and an exciting new announcement regarding its future, we were told.
A New Year has dawned and we’ve heard nothing. More than that, the beleaguered traders have heard nothing either. Meanwhile, our Council is scratching its collective heads, trying to drum up ways to plug the budget cuts. Just a gentle hint: Liverpool is a mercantile city. The clue’s in the title. We know markets. So why has the past decade seen under-investment, indifference and stagnation (pic r)?
In other cities, the situation is markedly different. Throughout the UK, cities with similar economies, and almost identical demographic profile to Liverpool are leaving our markets standing – as they invest, evolve and enshrine their markets at the heart of a forward-thinking and economically vibrant retail offer.
Our city needs to free itself from its sorry relationship with Geraud, unlock the huge potential markets have in the regeneration of forward-thinking cities (Manchester’s Christmas market alone generates tens of millions of pounds for the local economy, while Bury’s attracts around 13 million visitors a year. That’s six times the amount of visitors who came to see the Giants), and move forward with a new determination to see our markets as a way out of this mess.
Dear Geraud (and Cllr Kennedy) this is how you do it…
Opening this month, Sheffield’s gleaming new Moor Market (main pic) occupies a new, cross-town site, aiming to consolidate and strengthen retail in the area, much as Liverpool ONE shifted our high street five years ago.
“The idea to replace the decaying Castle Market in Sheffield dates back to about 1995,” says Sheffield Council’s Andy Ward. “This merely brings to fruition a long term desire of the City Council to have a good quality market in the city. It hasn’t been an easy birth and to my knowledge this is the tenth scheme that has been on the cards to replace the market, luckily we’ve pulled this one off and it looks incredible.”
Andy explains that the building has been bought by the council, who’ve (‘prudentially borrowed’ the £18m, with Scottish Widows Investment Partnership owning the leasehold for some of the retail shop units). The city council is the sole operator.
“The market is very important to the city, and it will act as an anchor and catalyst to the development of a whole swathe of retail in the surrounding area. The market will provide a new home for around 100 small businesses, many of whom come from diverse ethnic minorities who still have a culture of using markets in their home countries.”
Sheffield Council has a ‘very dedicated’ markets team of 33 full time equivalents, nine of whom are maintenance staff and 14 uniformed patrol/customer care staff who work across all the sites.
“I make no excuse for using and developing ideas I’ve seen elsewhere in this country and in France, Spain and Italy. Looking at best practice elsewhere allows us to give Sheffield a market that, truly, is world class.”
Lessons learned: Move the market, and make it a catalyst to regenerate a new area.
One of the northwest’s biggest retail success stories, and a firm favourite with black pudding aficianados everywhere, Bury market regularly welcomes coaches full of market tourists every week. Entirely council owned and operated, Bury offers proof that a traditional market can still pull the crowds.
“We have a strong management team with an entrepreneurial drive who recognise that a Market’s success or failure is dependent on the quality of its traders and their ability to provide great service and value for money,” says Bury Market’s Operations Manager, Craig Allen.
Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday sees Bury market’s 350 stall-holders open for business.
“Bury Council has long recognised the benefits a thriving market can bring to a town and we’ve ensured they’ve reinvested some of the profits into projects to improve the Market’s infrastructure and improve the visitor experience,” Craig says, explaining that the Market is a key visitor attraction for Bury with over 1500 recorded coach visits so far this year.
“The Market works with other visitor attractions within the town to ensure that they appreciate the wide range of cultural and retail attractions within the town and to encourage visitors to make return visits,” he says.
“Bury Council recognise the benefits a thriving market can bring to a town centre both in economic and cultural terms. The Council has maintained a programme of re-investment into its markets and listens to the views of its traders. An example of the importance placed by the Council on the Market and its traders is an annual meeting between the Council’s Chief Executive and Bury Markets Trader Organisation.”
“With growing mistrust of the supermarkets due to their apparent inability to monitor their supply chains many people are looking to their local economy to provide an alternative,” Craig adds. “We all want to shop ‘someplace’ not just ‘anyplace’ and the small businesses you can find on markets help make a town’s character unique. I’d say markets are more relevant now than ever.”
Lessons learned: Communication and cooperation is vital. Hold regular meetings between Mayor and traders.
Manchester’s vibrant Christmas market, its new street food market and its year round city centre markets populate a calendar of events that’s seen our nearest neighbour’s market offer grow to become the most successful in the north. Its markets are both council run and independent. The city council’s markets are run by a dedicated Manchester Markets team, with a dedicated Christmas Markets division.
“The Real Food Market – formerly the Farmers and Producers Market – has been supporting small businesses and local farms by giving them the opportunity to trade their home-grown, homemade and home-reared produce in the city centre, and the Street Food market is a new, weekly addition.
“Manchester markets always want to offer customers something new, interesting and different. We are light years behind Asia and the Far East where street food is common place, but we thought it time to try and offer something similar. It’s been a huge success.
“Culturally, markets have a huge legacy not only in Manchester, but as a nation. The high street is often thought of as the economic engine of a town or city, but markets play an important role, working in tandem to the established High Street brands to offer shoppers an alternative – which also removes the perceived barrier between shopper and vendor, harking back to a more traditional time.
“Manchester has also used markets as a platform for new businesses to launch from, essentially road testing their business plan in a scenario which is less financially demanding for the trader, with a view of upgrading to a permanent shop once they are satisfied and confident that their business is viable.
“Manchester is a local authority to rest on its laurels and this week our council executive is hearing a motion to approve plans for an overhaul of one of the city’s flagship sites – New Smithfield Market.
“The Christmas Market is a huge attraction for Manchester, attracting an estimated seven million people each year, which generates ten of millions of pounds for the city’s economy at a vital time of year for the city’s businesses, small traders and the high street. We’ve been named in the world’s top ten!
Lessons learned: Diversify, innovate and seek out new retail trends to stay relevant.
“Culturally, St Nicholas Market is seen as a vibrant part of the city. The market hosts a number of events throughout the year including the Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival and Independent Record Store day. We celebrate national events – such as Doors Open day etc. and work with local artist groups and neighbours to make the area an attractive and interesting place to visit all year round,” says Bristol’s Markets Officer Mandy Morgan.
The Market has recently been nominated for the Great Place Award through the Academy of Urbanism Awards 2014. It forms the core of this market-friendly city’s colourful markets offer.
“The socio-economic value of the Market to Bristol just can’t be underestimated,” she says.
“St Nicholas Market provides a vibrant location for start-up and first time traders or entrepreneurs. The Market provides a regular opportunity some of the best local producers, makers, designers, artists and creatives to showcase their particular products,” she adds.
The Market was also the chosen location for the official launch of Bristol’s very own currency the Bristol Pound – which achieved local, regional, national and international PR for St Nicholas Market and the city.
“St Nicholas Market is considered to be the engine room for its neighbourhood. People just love markets, but there is no magic formula,” Mandy says. “It’s all hard work, and it’s important to establish strong links and trust with traders and shoppers.”
“Markets are still very relevant, as you can see with recognition of the role they play in today’s retail sector clearly identified in the Portas Review.”
Lessons learned: Integrate the market into the city by staging major events here.