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MARKET BLUES Writer: John Freeman
Posted: July 2001 Updated: 6/5/03
If you've had enough of being a wage slave, and fancy a crack at being
your own boss, it's worth remembering that there's many a self-made
millionaire got their start as a trader at the local market. But if
you live in Lancaster, you'd better watch out! These days rents and
rates are so high in the Town Centre that many small business have had
to close and new ones are seriously discouraged. The new market hall
-- now threatened with closure -- is no exception...
once had a packed and thriving Victorian market, until a fire broke
out and it was completely destroyed in the early 1980s. Until the present
building was completed, together with the Marketgate shopping complex,
the market stalls were temporarily relocated to an area by the bus station,
which has probably in part had a long term effect on sales from which
it is only now beginning to recover.
The stalls that are currently open are still busy, offering a wide variety
of local goods that you'd be hard-pressed to find in any of our local
supermarkets. There's a good range of butchers, a bakers, a herbalist
and an excellent framing and picture gallery as well as a tobacconists,
CD and record stall, fishmongers and more. On average, prices, particularly
food prices, are as good as, if not cheaper than, many local supermarkets.
Unfortunately, the new market is poorly designed - despite concerns
raised about its design during rebuilding - and follows the 'shopping
mall' concept of having two floors of stalls. This means that some stalls
suffer from poor visibility which has in part affected their take-up.
Another factor which may prevent take up is that the commodity must
not already be being sold on the market.
The major problem, however, is seen as the high rent, a problem not
confined to the Market for small businesses but one which it's felt
has meant there has been little interest in taking up stalls.
In July 2001 Lancaster City Council announced they were going to reduce
stall rents in a bid to encourage new traders. 16 stalls were empty
at this point.
According to the Lancaster Guardian (27/7/01), the rent levels
for stall holders are agreed on the basis of open market rent, although
they are governed to some degree by the rent paid by Lancaster City
Council to the market's leasholders, Edinburgh House Estates. EHE bought
the Marketgate complex from Centreville Properties in late 2002 for
£17.25 million, according to Property
HOW MUCH ARE THE RENTS? Prior to the announced reductions, the cheapest stall currently
available on Lancaster Market would cost you £125.88 per week - plus
£115 per month business rates.
On Morecambe Indoor Market, you can rent a stall by the day - on Tuesdays
and Thursdays it's only £9, total charges. On Saturday £11, and for
the big Sunday Market it's only £16. Not only that, but there's free
on-street parking nearby (not to mention Morrison's carpark!) and a
huge open council carpark on site with free disabled parking. Morecambe
market is booming - and local trade means local profit, which is good
for the area. The Assembly Rooms on King Street, which is also run by
the Council, offers stalls from as little as £13.50 a week. (The
stall holders there have been delighted by the hard work council officials
have been engaged in recently to encourage trade).
Lancaster Market stall holders acknowledge the difference in costs.
"Obviously this market is more expensive than Morecambe but the
facilities are so much better than in a normal market," cobbler
Peter Clarke, chairman of the market traders committee told the Lancaster
Guardian. However, Clarke is hopeful that changes like the ones
recently announced will help all the stall holders, and he's keen to
work with the council in improving usage and the amount of trade the
market is getting.
IS THERE A SINISTER AGENDA? Although some people have claimed that the owners of the Marketgate
complex would prefer the market to close, so that they can develop it
into a department store or "shopping mall", there's no evidence
for this and recent moves to boost trade are very welcome.
Other voices decry a series of confused and uncoordinated policies,
that have led to our city council discouraging local traders. Instead
it seems to favour out of centre supermarkets whose profits are channelled
out of the area. Some of the proposals in the new City Centre Strategy,
which the public have been asked to comment on, address that issue head
on, with plans for reinvigorating much of the central shopping area
just part of a new agenda for the City.
TRADE PICKS UP In March 2003, Lancaster City Council reported that trade had
picked up at Lancaster Market as new traders have arrived and "more
are on the way." Changes included Micro Markets
tripling their space to expand their product range, and the arival of
Aurora Cosmetics, Print 'N' etch and
A1 Mobility. The Market staff were dealing with five
other enquiries all with a view to starting a business within the Market
over the next few weeks.
"This is very encouraging for existing traders and new traders," commented
Lancaster City Council's corporate director for regeneration John Donnellon.
"This will give the customers a wider variety of stalls to choose from,
complementing the existing traders who have a wealth of experience in
their various Market trades and can offer excellent advice and service.
Lancaster City Council and the Market Traders' Committee are working
closely together to make sure this positive improvement will continue
for a long time to come. "
In May 2003 -- the day after local elections -- the Lancaster
Guardian has reported that the city's market may be re-modelled,
divided up or closed altogether in an attempt to improve the building's
"Alternative uses" for the market will be discussed unless ways can
be found to reduce a £250,000 budget deficit.
Talks will begin this year between the city council and the market's
new owners London-based Edinburgh House Estates, who bought it late
last year as part of a £17.25 million pound freehold purchase of the
Marketgate shopping centre. The entire centre currently generates annual
rents of £1.4 million.
Week reports that Edinburgh House Estates was established in
March 2001 and has created a directly owned shopping centre portfolio
of £110m. It has also formed a £30m joint venture with Anglian Water
Some of the shopping centres owned by EHE in other parts of the country,
such as Waterborne Walk in Leighton Buzzard, are highly-prized properties,
typically in the £7m-£15m value range. Many are anchored by the large
stores chains such as of Kwik Save, Wilkinson or Iceland.
• We think it would a disaster if Lancaster Market was
to close and urge everyone to write to your councillors opposing any
plan to further erode its viability. You could also write to EHE to
express your views to: Edinburgh House Estates, Edinburgh House First
Floor, 40 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7LZ.
WHAT CAN WE DO Support
your local market! Increased use for the stalls that are there already
can only encourage traders to consider taking up stalls. There is an
incredible range of good on sale, including books, records, household
goods, local meat and diary products, vegetables and much more.
using supermarkets! The average item of food purchased from a supermarket
travels over 1000 miles; by lorry/plane from the producer to the store
and then by car from the store to the consumer. Shopping at supermarkets
also supports factory farming. It's estimated that for every supermarket
opened in a local aea, 200 - 300 local jobs are lost, as a whole network
of local ships and their suppliers is destroyed.
Shopping at the market is fun! The stall holders talk to you
when you buy stuff. You have time to stop and chat with friends. Plus,
from experience, it's actually quicker to buy everything you
want from the market than it is in Sainsbury's on a Saturday, once you've
worked out who sells what and where the stall is in relation ot others.
Furey's vegetable stall upstairs on Lancaster Market
offer free same day home delivery in the area for orders over £5.
They also offer discounts to students and OAPs. This isn't an advert
- it's the recommendation of a happy anonymous customer who doesn't
have a car and can't be bothered to carry those spuds home. Best of
all, they also stock local organic produce.
Dont Forget! You can have your say about this or any other
local issues on our Public
Forum. Read what others have got to say - and join the debate, or
start one of your own!
• MARKET NOT CLOSING? 10/6/03: Lancaster City Council and the Traders of Lancaster
Market have joined forces to confirm that Lancaster Market is
not closing as some press reports
have indicated. Read More...
MARKET FACES CLOSURE 2/5/03: The Lancaster
Guardian has reported that the city's market may be
re-modelled, divided up or closed altogether in an attempt to
improve the building's flagging fortunes. Read
This site is run
entirely by volunteers.
Please help with
our running costs by
making a donation.
you have any information on the ownership of the market -- Centerville
Properties don't appear to have any web presence -- or you know
of any problems stall holders have, or have any ideas about
how small local businesses can be encouraged to return to Lancaster,
please let us know!