Last night we attended a meeting at the Guildhall that ran through various plans to help improve and rejuvenate the towns indoor markets.
The Employment, Business & Investment Scrutiny Committee met to discuss the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group. Earlier this week we reported that the group were presenting their recommendations to the committee about their findings. You can read our report here.
Speaking of the recommendations made by the Task and Finish Group, Chairman Rodney Skelland said: “It’s been an interesting Task and Finish, something you can get your teeth into. The markets do make a considerable contribution to Wrexham.”
Councillor Alun Jenkins said he was happy to commend the report, adding ‘it’s been a very useful task and finish group.’
Councillor Phil Wynn said: “The markets play an important part to the town, recognition that we should bring a third party in so that someone from outside the town can give their view.”
In total there were nine recommendations, which focused 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.
In total around 250 people are employed across the three markets, however the occupancy of the markets has declined by 5% over the past four months.
Rob Clarke from Mad 4 Movies in the Butchers Market said: “I think the measured success in 6 months would be more stalls, if there’s less or no change then something is wrong. To measure how many stalls come and go is important and I think six months is the right time to measure that.
“However I do think things are going in the right direction.”
One proposal to measure any success was to install footfall counters, however due to costs and the various entrances & exits to the markets meant doing this could cost up to around £18,000. One suggested solution to this was to provide clickers to monitor whenever people entered and exited the markets, to ensure that budget could go towards more proactive things.
The market tradition of closing at midday on Wednesday was also questioned, with Councillor William Baldwin saying: “I think their opening hours to have to change, I think it needs to be nine to five all week. I think we need to move into the 21st century.”
The closing of the gates on the Butchers’ Market late in the afternoon was also mentioned, with many thinking it gives the impression that the market has closed early, when actually there are still traders in the market.
Rob Clarke said: “People seem to be leaving earlier and earlier. To make it work I think everyone has to do it and give it a year. People still think the People’s Market is only open half a day.”
However it was acknowledged that it would be impractical for some traders to work nine to five each day of the week, due to family commitments and other arrangements.
Once the Task and Finish Group had presented their recommendations, Head of Marketing and Promotions (the team who are now in day to day control of the markets) Amanda Davies provided a short presentation on the overall aims and goals on what is needed to ensure that the markets can thrive. This included retaining existing traders and removing the big ‘To Let Signs’ that are on the vacant market stalls.
Speaking about removing the ‘To Let Signs’, Amanda Davies said: ” We don’t need those, we need something that says ‘Try me for £10 a day’ or a positive message.
“We need to promote individual stalls, if I’m going to the markets I need a reason to go there. For this we need to work with the traders and we have to believe we can do it and that we can make a difference.”
Previously the aesthetic appearance of the markets, in particular the People’s Market has come under fire. To combat this each market is going to receive a brand to make them appear more enticing. The cleanliness of the markets was also discussed, with a stricter cleaning schedule needing to be enforced to help make the markets feel cleaner. A ‘Love Your Markets’ campaign will also be developed to try and make sure that existing traders are prevented from leaving.
Amanda Davies said: “We are tight on money, but there are things we can do cheaply and make them look the part. It’s all about communication, we have got to make sure we talk to each other.”
“Please work with us and let’s try things, because we believe in the markets and if we do then they can work.”
A month by month break down was also presented, with the action plan initially running up until December. A a number of changes have been scheduled for each month. This month will see a step towards social media, with a page set up for the markets along with a 14 month ad campaign will also run daily on the Leader Live website.
December will also see a number of events taking place in the markets, including carol concerts, a stage in the People’s Market, a leaflet campaign and a market loyalty scheme. This Christmas the People’s Market will also be playing host to Santa’s Grotto, who will be moving from Queen’s Square and into the market. Last year three and half thousand children visited Santa in his Queen’s Square grotto, however this figure does not include any adults or family who were with the children. It is hoped that the markets will benefit from having this level of footfall directed to them.
Other actions that will be put into place for the duration of the year include a Heart radio campaign, leaflet holder racks, demonstrations (such as cookery and crafts in the markets), signage and a branded traders welcome pack.
A key change that will be taking part over the next few months is ‘Did you know?’. This will focus on raising awareness on what is available for people to buy in the markets, so rather than just informing people where the markets are, what is actually available to buy in the markets will also be highlighted.
One important message to come from the presentation surrounded the footfall and the market traders, with Amanda Davies pointing out that if the footfall is there, but people still aren’t buying anything, than that is something the traders themselves will have to look into.
Speaking about the presentation Cllr Davies said: “I’m very excited by this, what started as just a Task and Finish group has snowballed. It’s all very positive.”
A full copy of the meeting report from last night can be found here, which includes data of footfall, occupational rents and a breakdown of each recommendation can be found on this PDF: http://www.wrexham.gov.uk/MinutesData/EmpBusInv/Reports/hccs9513s.pdf