The Employment, Business & Investment Scrutiny Committee will meet on Wednesday to consider recommendations for the Wrexham indoor markets.
The recommendations for improvement have have been made by a Task and Finish Group, which was established earlier this year when the markets came under fresh scrutiny.
Back in February, the Committee met to discuss the best options for the future of the town’s market, focusing on methods to develop footfall and breathe a fresh lease into life back into the three markets. In the meeting the Council revealed that occupancy levels of the markets have dropped from 90% in 2007, to around 70%. Throughout the course of the meeting issues such as the location of the market, aesthetics of the market (in particular the People’s Market) and the decline in footfall.
The meeting itself was the focus of much media attention and confusion over the future of the markets, with claims that the future of the markets was at risk. However in the meeting such claims were dismissed and people were reassured that the markets were not under threat.
Instead it was concluded that a Task and Finish Group was to be established, which would ‘Work with further with market traders to create a fuller strategy document to create a plan of action.’ You can read our report from February’s meeting here.
During the February meeting the central discussion focused evening surrounded what could be done to change the aesthetic appearance of the markets, particularly with regards to the People’s Market. This involved discussion on the physical appearance of the market, including the lighting of the market, entrances, central events floors and arts and crafts.
Speaking of the markets, Mike Mullen from the People’s Market said: “Our priority is the recruitment of new traders, however if I was a new trader I would be saying thanks but no thanks as the appearance is diabolical.
“The stalls are antiquated and changes need to be done rather urgently. There is the urgent matter of the cleanliness of the market, we have an ongoing problem with this.
“We have a market manager system and team who are not working as a team, we believe this is being handled internally and look forward to improvements.”
In total there are nine recommendations from the Task and Finish Group, with recommendations focusing on generating footfall back to the markets, general maintenance to the indoor markets, and also carrying out a survey of market traders and also of market shoppers. It is hoped that by carrying out the surveys, it will help establish a ‘benchmark’ against which the outcomes of the planned improvements can be measured annually.
Generating footfall back into the markets was a key point that was raised back in February, with it being mentioned that the closure of the TJ Hughes store in 2011 has resulted in a detrimental impact on the level of people who were visiting the markets. The suggestion of moving the Monday market down to Chester Street to help combine the three markets together was also raised in the meeting, however was dismissed due to impracticality and the street sizes. Most recently the idea of starting a market on the High Street to help generate footfall and increase trade in that particular part of town has also been discussed.
To potentially increase the level of footfall into the markets, it is recommended that footfall counters are installed into each of the markets, where this is physically possible.
Interestingly recommendation five suggests that HAED (Head of Assets and Economical Development) ‘ensures that the Market Manager’s role includes supporting applicants through the application process, actively promoting links with the Council’s Business Support Officers and facilitating new tenants’ introduction to the market’s environment, working practices and other tenants by means of an ‘induction’ and information pack.’
The role of Market Manager was another issue that fell under debate back in February, with Mike Evans from the Butchers’ Market saying: “The markets are in desperate need for investment, this can be done via reinvestment of the surplus service charge and rents over the years. The markets need leadership, it needs a manager who is diverse and dynamic enough to push it forward”.
Recommendation nine suggests that the EBISC schedules monitoring reports on progress with the recommendations in the report, along with the following:
- Monthly voids data for the 3 markets (by % floor area and stalls/shops) on 12 month rolling basis;
- Financial information for the 3 markets (annual income);
- Monthly footfall data for the 3 markets on a 12 month rolling basis;
- Results of annual survey of market traders (benchmarked against year 1)
- Results of annual market shoppers survey (benchmarked against year 1)
- Progress against Indoor Markets Repair and Maintenance / Improvement Plan for 2013/14
(After the initial misreporting that happened earlier in the year regarding the markets, it’s important to add that their future still isn’t under threat and closure is not imminent!)
You can read the full report of the recommendations made by the Task and Finish Group here.
There is an ongoing thread on our forums around the markets. To take part in the discussion then please click here.