Room for improvement for our Ashfield’s ailing markets

NMAC10-3031-1''Sutton Market Stalls
NMAC10-3031-1''Sutton Market Stalls

COUNCILLORS are set to consider a range of recommendations about how to revive the fortunes of Ashfield’s ailing markets following discussions between market traders, council members and council officers.

Poor signage, empty stalls and a lack of promotion of the markets are just some of the areas highlighted as needing improvement if the district’s markets are going to survive.

Ashfield District Counci’s Scruntiny Panel B has been conducting a review of the markets in Sutton, Kirkby and Hucknall, and has put together an approved list of recommendations for the Cabinet to consider.

Market traders packed out the committee room at last week’s panel meeting to express their views on the state of the markets and discuss what needs to be done.

The need for better signage, pointing shoppers in the direction of a market, was agreed to be very important, with promotion and advertising also key to ensuring long-term viability.

Recommendations were put forward for better use of social networking sites and the council’s website to let people know what the markets have to offer.

Event management initiatives to organise seasonal, cultural and community activities were also discussed as being something to help increase footfall.

A trader from Sutton’s outdoor market told the meeting: “We have got to have an event every weekend or every month - something has got to be happening because it’s dying on its feet.

“There’s less and less stalls on there at the moment.”

The importance of filling empty stalls was labelled as a priority by market traders.

They said that the inflexibility of the current market manager structure means that it is difficult for potential stallholders to negotiate short-term rents or discounted rates - both suggested as ways of reducing the number of vacant stalls short-term.

Stallholders said that the market manager needs to have more power to make day-to-day decisions without having to seek permission from several layers of management first, by which time an opportunity has usually passed.

One trader said that they need a market manager who knows what he is doing, who has a budget that he knows how to use and who will thrive on that authority.

Another trader commented that the appearance of the markets - with regard to empty stalls and maintenance issues - affects their trade.

“For the amount of money we pay each week we expect a return and we are not getting the service,” he said.

Other recommendations that will be put forward for the cabinet to consider include strengthening the existing Market Traders Consultative Committee and to look into the possibility of holding council-run car boot sales.

A council spokesman said that the scrutiny review of markets was carried out following concerns from members and local people about future of markets in the current economic climate.

He said that the panel has spoken directly to traders and members have visited the district’s markets to identify current problems and consider possible solutions.

“Members of the panel have concluded that they considered markets to still be an important part of Ashfield and have a unique value in that

they can create a specific identity for a town by generating a vibrant environment,” he said.

“Successful markets can also increase the footfall in the town, which in turn can boost retail figures for neighbouring shops.”

The markets report will be discussed by the cabinet on 13th February.