“Too little, too late.’’
That is what traders in Burnley Market Hall have branded a scheme by Burnley Borough Council to get it back on its feet. A consultant is to be brought in to draw up a rescue package that will put the market hall back on its feet.
But feelings ran high at a meeting to discuss the plan at Burnley Town Hall this week and Mr Phil Rathbone, who has been trading in the market hall for 27 years selling socks and fancy dress outfits and accessories, stormed out.
He told the Express this week: “The message that came across was that we are small minded, amateurish and unprofessional. The traders in this market hall are working long hours and paying high rents, in my case £600 a week.
“There is no magic answer but reducing rents to get more businesses in would encourage more shoppers in here along with introducing free parking. These are ideas that have been proved to work.’”
The report, due to be published and presented to Burnley councillors in January, will come too late for owner of The Jewellery Box, Mrs Cindy Oliver, who says that the £250 a week rent she pays is unaffordable.
She said: “One day’s trading recently amounted to £8. It has become impossible for me to stay here but shoppers are just not coming in here anymore and I have spoken to people who don’t even know where we are.
“I cannot really afford to move but there is no way I can stay here either.’’
The shop is re-locating to Standish Street where the rent is £150 a week less than what Mrs Oliver is paying now.
The market hall suffered a blow recently when one of the longest established stalls, Hartley’s cooked meats, closed down without any warning. In September the open market closed for business and the stalls operating there were moved to the market hall.
Florist Mrs Amanda Hanson said the public must either “use it or lose’’ when it came to Burnley Market Hall.
She said: “That is the harsh reality. We all need to work together, the traders, council and the people of Burnley if they want to keep this market hall going.’’
Mr Colin Hill, Burnley Council’s head of facilities management, said: “People will be aware of the recent move to consolidate the market offer by bringing those remaining open market traders into the market hall, with the market hall tenants very much open for business and at that stage looking more full.
“While some businesses have recently passed into new ownership, others have newly-opened and many recently renewed their leases, the recent closure of Hartley’s just reinforces how difficult market trading remains.
“As more and more aggressive supermarket and discount store promotions are launched to catch customers’ interest market tenants, in looking to compete, have seen their margins further eroded and customer footfall reduce as ever more savvy customers shop around more for their bargain buy and/or switch to the internet.
“All this means that trading difficulties are getting worse and, even though the current level of financial support from the council means that the majority of traders are paying less now than they did 10 years ago, the market still looks set to make a loss. Burnley Council is unable to offer any additional support funding. It would be wrong, against a background of redundancies and widespread cutbacks, for the council to use more taxpayers’ money to subsidise market traders, especially when other small businesses receive no financial support.
“With this in mind an independent strategic review of the markets service has been commissioned, led by professional consultants in the markets industry who have carried out a number of these kind of reviews across the north and in other parts of the country. “This will not only review the current operations but also help inform the council’s executive about the potential for alternative delivery, including a review of the market’s current location and future options. We will be further informed by research to be carried out with both market hall tenants and the public.”