Named as Britain’s Best Small Indoor Market 2016, winner of the Niche Magazine Business Award for Best Independent Retailer and recently named as the location for the 2016 Midlands Love Your Local Market Roadshow on March 15th, it’s easy to forget that only two years ago the picture was a very different one for Harborough Market.
With declining footfall, a lack of financial sustainability and a non-existent industry profile, the local authority market faced the very serious threat of closure.
Traders galvanised support, a public campaign to save the market was launched and in 2013 Harborough District Council made the decision to invest £480K into the market; improving layout, installing new signage, defining new entrances, refurbishing toilet facilities and creating a dedicated food hall and flexible trading space.
Market Place, was invited by Harborough District Council to undertake an interim management role during the refurbishment of the market hall and in Jan 2015 began a 3 year contract as the council’s preferred choice to operate the market in partnership with.
The refurbished market reopened in April 2014, so almost two years later have the changes and investment been a success?
Well if the awards and feedback from the traders is anything to go by the answer seems to be a resounding yes.
Malcom and Angela Garrett, two of the market’s longest standing traders have been overwhelmed with the increase in sales since the relaunch of the market. Malcom and Angela run Craft-I-Trim, a treasure trove of all things haberdashery.
“We were busy before the refurbishment, but I can honestly say we are busier than ever now. The new food hall has really made a difference and brings a lot of customers in,” Malcolm said. “Market Place have been a steadying influence and have seen us through what could have been a difficult transition period. You are never quite sure if change is for the better, but in this instance, we couldn’t have asked for more.”
Malcolm is right in that a change can be a tricky thing if not handled right, and in the case of Harborough Market, in addition to the material changes, the District Council decided to extend the number of trading days from four to six.
In a town with a population of just 22k this could have been a hard ask. Market Place decided to take advantage of the new flexible trading space and introduced a Vintage, Retro and Collectables Market each Wednesday and a Craft Market each Thursday.
One of the businesses that has been pleasantly surprised by the success of the new market days is Selvey & Co Jewellers which is owned by John and Jayne Cleaver.
“Trading has far exceeded our expectations,” said John. “I am really pleased with how well we are doing on the two new days. I thought it would be difficult, but business is steady and holding its own.”
So how do traders feel about being crowned ‘Britain’s Best Small Indoor Market’?
“It’s brilliant,” said Tom Squires, who runs a bedding stall at the market. “Two years ago, no-one had ever heard of us, we were facing closure and now look at us!”
Market Place and Harborough Market Manager, Sairah Butt, emphasised how important it has been to raise the profile of the market, not only as a place to trade and shop but to reach out and establish the market as the hub of the local community.
“Taking Harborough Market from a relatively unknown small town market to ‘Britain’s Best Small Indoor Market’ in the first year of our contract is a great achievement for us. We have made considerable efforts to raise the profile of the market with both shoppers and traders and to engage with local community groups, schools and charities. We hope we are laying the building blocks so that the market continues to thrive and grow into something that we can all be proud to have had a hand in.”
Harborough Market is open Tuesday to Saturday 8am to 5pm and Sunday 9am to 3pm for its popular Antiques Market. Anyone interested in trading at the market, whether as a casual trader, permanent trader or on the new trader discount scheme, trading free of charge for 6 weeks, can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 01858 465 206 for further information.