Trading incentives, relocating stalls to the Guildhall area and introducing cashless forms of payment are just some of the new ideas which could breathe new life into Newcastle’s historic market.
The Council is refining a programme of proposed improvements to boost the market’s fortunes based on the outcomes of a specialist review and public consultation. Concentrating the market to create a vibrant space, attracting new traders, diversifying the offer, supporting successful trading and stepping up promotion and marketing activities are key areas for action identified by members of the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) – who met with traders in February to offer their advice and expertise.
The outdoor market, based in Newcastle town centre, is experiencing the same difficulties as other retail functions across the country as a result of significant changes in shopping habits and preferences, including a general move away from the traditional High Street
offer. Great efforts are being made to adapt its management and operation so it can play an important role in the wider town centre economy in the future. National research shows that successful markets generate footfall increases of around 25 per cent, increase sales in other shops significantly and strengthen town centre resilience.
Other possible measures in the programme include – removing the visual impact of empty stalls, introducing periodic events, updating market regulations and providing access to training such as social media. The Council has already launched a social media campaign to promote the market and its traders which is proving to be a success. The Council is meeting with traders on a regular basis and will work with all stakeholders involved to carry out agreed improvements in a sensitive way.
The comments made by NABMA were echoed by residents and shoppers during the
Council’s consultation exercise.
Cllr. Stephen Sweeney, Cabinet member for finance and efficiency, said: “Newcastle-under-Lyme has been built around a bustling market for almost 850 years. The market is an integral part of the town centre’s identity but if it doesn’t evolve there’s a serious risk of it falling into a long-term decline which would have a detrimental effect on the town centre as a shopping destination and damage its economic performance. The Council has experienced officers who have already put a significant amount of time and effort into preparing an improvement plan which features a range of ambitious measures designed to deliver a stronger, attractive and sustainable market for the future. The visit by NABMA, and consultation responses, have really helped us to refine the plan even further so that we’re in the best possible position to deliver our ambitions. Diminishing patronage is an issue for traders across the country but there are many instances where markets have been turned around by doing things differently. As the Council prepares to support Newcastle town centre through its latest challenges through the Healthy High Street plan, it is timely to consider the role of the market in that regeneration.”
It’s also recognised that the market needs to be managed as a whole rather than in
individual segments. There is a currently a Council-run market four days a week while an external licensee manages a market for a further two days.