Last September Chester market was in the doldrums with occupancy down to 60% following some high profile departures including the much loved Jim’s Haberdashery (See https://thechesterblog.com/2017/07/14/jims-haberdashery-to-close-after-60-years-of-trading/ ). The movement of the bus station added to the depression as winter set in leading the Flat Earth society to exclaim that “they’re killing Chester market! “. However a number of new traders have joined the market this year leading to a new mood of optimism. We spoke to the market management team for an insight into the changes and the market’s hopefully bright future.
Occupancy is now approaching 100% with potential traders having to join a waiting list. 3 new traders are lined up to fill the remaining empty units, but due to the limits of the ageing 50 year old building this can be a slow process when water and electricity needs fitting. Some of the casual units are also being converted into full time trading space. For example Peak Sandwiches have moved into the central aisle next to the Lego display . The market team are keen to change public perception of the market with many Cestrians either unware of disinterested, feeling that either the market has “had its day” or that there are no longer any stalls of interest.
The market took a huge hit with the movement of the bus station in June 2017. There was already a 12% decrease in footfall before the bus station moved (from Jan to June 2017) and then an additional 13% after the closure. With footfall down 25% in total the market had to change radically. Rent concessions were offered to traders but a new focus was needed to restore footfall. A conscious decision to attract new food traders was made based on observations of other successful markets including Altrincham.
In February of this year Stile Napoletano joined the market (see https://thechesterblog.com/2018/02/20/stile-napoletano/ ) and was an instant hit. Award winning pizza chef Guido chose to open his business in Chester after visiting the city on holiday and now has one of the most popular and high profile businesses in the market. Many of the new traders have been pro active on social media with the market management stressing that traders must promote themselves whilst the council promotes the market as a whole.
Other new traders who have joined the market this year include
- Artisan food trader Crustum
- Bathtime bakery offering home made soaps
- Zimzimbi– recycled handcrafted metal ornaments from Zimbabwe
- Thai by Thai – another popular new eatery
- Peak Sandwiches
- Planet Anime – offering Anime /Pokémon and other TV/film collectibles
- PIP Décor– homeware and gifts
- Steins- home cooking see https://thechesterblog.com/2018/07/03/steins-opening-soon-in-the-market/
- The Salon – hair/spray tans
Meanwhile, the established Nice Bites was recently awarded a Trip Advisor Certifciate of Excellence, and Richard Newton of Bookingham Palace has expanded and opened up The Vinyl Countdown.
Alongside the new traders several of the casual stalls were removed to create an attractive new seating area which has proved popular alongside a new focus on entertainment and events. Guitar trader Intuneative (who have also expanded into a much larger unit) regularly provide live music, alongside a bi monthly record fair and an open mic day. A late opening day has been trialled throughout June opening until 6pm- with the new market planning to open much later into the evenings.
Challenges remain, with the decline of the Forum a problem. The largely empty and doomed shopping centre is the main entrance to the market and some new thinking will be needed to entice shoppers further. However the shock departure of McDonalds allowed the council to cover the vacant unit with large adverts for the market and create an eye catching gateway entrance.
Walking through the market now the positive changes can be seen and often new sections of the public can be seen enjoying its wares, groups of young Italians enjoying a pizza or business folk enjoying a wine in Crustum. With footfall up from 12k to 15k following the new traders joining the team, I encourage locals to give the market a try and be a part of the market community once again.
Finally, on the topic of the still long awaited new market hall I was told that pending the response to the Compulsory Purchase Order submitted in the spring, construction of the new build could begin in 2019. …
for more details on traders see https://www.chester.market/