Family Fun at Forge Market
With Love your Local Market 2017 in full swing, Glasgow’s Forge Market, heralded as Scotland’s Largest Indoor Market, has lots of family based activities planned as part of an ongoing programme of improvements. Group Geraud’s Operations Manager, Matt Steele spoke of the company’s plans.
Based in the east end area of Glasgow, in Parkhead, Forge Market is considered to be one of Group Geraud’s flagship markets and with recent investments having been centred elsewhere of late, Matt was keen to reassure the traders at Forge that the company is committed to the longevity of the market and is making an investment in its future. He told me, ‘We are firmly committed to making Forge the best indoor market and destination market again in Scotland’.
The main focus of the activity is to make the market a more fun and family orientated place that will become a destination market for the people of Glasgow and the surrounding area, where families can shop, eat and be entertained. These things already happen and it certainly isn’t a case of vast improvements need to be made, it’s more about adding to what they already do and improving the offer.
Starting from the second Bank Holiday weekend and coinciding with LYLM fortnight (which hadn’t happened at the time of gong to press but I realise it will be a past tense by the time you read this!) a weekend of activities has been planned for the market. These include a roller disco on the Saturday, where children can skate in a safe, supervised, cordoned off area for 40 minutes for just a fiver, giving parents the chance to peruse the market in a more relaxed way! Matt expects this to be very popular and if successful, will repeat in the summer as part of a year long programme of activities. To keep the younger adults entertained, The Sneezy Boys will be performing original music and covers and a pipe band is also on the cards to provide musical entertainment as part of LYLM 2017.
Promotional activity has taken place locally, including an advertising campaign on the Scottish regional Smooth FM.
These events will kick start a programme of entertainment which will take place throughout the year. Matt hopes that these will be at least monthly and he has some fantastic ideas for Christmas, which will include extended opening hours.
Late night shopping events which are outside of the normal four day trading hours are only successful if the traders buy into the idea, and getting the traders on side has been one of Matt’s priorities.
To make this happen, Matt has formed a working committee with the traders. The first meeting took place recently and was very successful. He commented, ‘We’re working together for the benefit of the market, we are on the journey now and will do everything to encourage that momentum to continue.’
The traders nominated their chosen representatives and four made the final cut. I spoke to one of those representatives, Kal, who has been trading as The Forge Giftbox for five years. He told me, ‘When people go shopping now, it’s more like a day out. Think of how garden centres have changed. That’s what we would like to achieve here and we can do that with more entertainment for kids. We’re all from the same starting point, working collectively towards the same goal. If the management have invested in activities to attract children then it is up to us, the traders, to retain them, with new lines and great offers.’
It may still be early days, but the atmosphere at the market from management, traders and shoppers was a very positive one. The only gripe that I heard was that the carpark was in desperate need of repairs and this is something that I am assured has been budgeted for along with the investment in a few building improvements. The Wi-Fi throughout the whole business is also being upgraded and the company are moving towards cashless rent collections. Groupe Geraud have brokered a deal with their cashless system provider which they will pass on to any trader who wants to offer cashless payments as an option. This will reduce the rate for each transaction, making it a more affordable option. There is a cash machine located in the foyer at the top end of the market, but there is often a queue for this and traders know that once the customer has walked away, they then have time to talk themselves out of the purchase.
The Next Generation
The operator realises the importance of embracing the next generation and for a number of years they have worked with local primary school, Quarry Brae, which is just a short walk away. At Easter, a stall was converted and covered with pictures of eggs that the children had coloured for a competition. The top three all won a prize with the overall winner also receiving a cup. The company hopes to build on this partnership and they are looking to work with other local schools and colleges.
Making the market more of a community venue is the key aim of Group Geraud and one way they hope to encourage more families is by approaching local theatres to put on short excerpts of their performances, which will boost visitor numbers for both parties. On average, 14k people come through the doors over the four day week.
The Family Experience
For some years, there was a carousel in the central area of the market, which was popular with local children, but unfortunately, the operator of it did not possess the correct insurance and so it had to be removed. As a temporary measure, four trampolines have replaced it and a face painter is at the market every weekend, both of which were popular with the children during my visit.
As the focus is very much on a family experience and bringing people through the doors, I met with a few of the family orientated traders and a few new ones who have something different to offer.
Tommy from Balloons 4 you, has been trading at Forge Market for 15 years and has expanded his business from the original 8x8ft stall. He started selling name plates, met his now wife Claire, who was selling balloons on the stand next to his and the rest, as they say, is history.
He was particularly busy on the day I visited, having started at 4am. He had 84 jobs to complete that day and 55 on the Sunday. He is overwhelmed by the response to his business and has people traveling from all over the country. His reputation is pretty much all word of mouth and has grown solely from trading at Forge. As well as balloons, he also produces vinyl birthday banners and has provided balloons and banners for a number of in house events over the years and will continue to do so. He couldn’t speak highly enough of the benefits of trading at Forge Market.
Lauren has been Forge’s face painter for about a year. Working Saturdays and Sundays at the market, within her four hour slot, she averages about 20 customers, but on a busy or promotional day, she can paint up to 40 children. Kaylyn, who is just three years old, was having a pretty pink butterfly adorning her face and I asked her Mum what she thought of the market? She told me, ‘We come here every couple of months and the face painting is a treat. There is so much variety here, it’s really good.’
Next in the queue was five year old Aileen (girls outnumber boys in having their face painted, according to Lauren) Her dad told me, ‘I have no chance of bringing Aileen here and getting away with her not having her face painted! It’s a good market, they’ve got pretty much everything you need, but I try not to bring the wife because she manages to bring home a load of stuff we don’t need!’
By the face painting is a bank of slush machines filled with brightly coloured frosty drinks and the kids can work off the calories and E numbers by bouncing around on the bungee trampolines. This is £4 for six minutes and there seemed to be somebody bouncing around the whole time I was there.
Conveniently situated opposite was Ego Trading, that specialised in selling children’s toys – great positioning!
If all that jumping about has given you an appetite, there are several places to eat. Bensons is the busiest and most established of Forge’s cafes and they cater for children well, actively promoting themselves as a family restaurant. They always have a promotion running and as well as their extensive menu, there is an ice cream counter for children who want to take one away.
There were a number of new traders since I visited last year and one of those was Mini Legends. Margot started the venture in September and after a busy Christmas, has built up some repeat business. The mini guitars and drumkits can be framed and personalised if required and the basic model includes a stand and gift box. Her father in law was a collector and that’s what gave her the idea. They have even logoed models for local bands and has a Father’s Day campaign already underway.
Brand new to the market, starting two days before my visit was Handmade by Amy. Amy had previously sold her personalised glasses and children’s night lights at a few craft fairs and at home. She was a regular visitor to the market and seeing that it was always busy, decided to take the leap of faith. It’s too early to say how she will fair, but there was certainly interest whilst I was around and she had already made a few sales.
There are lots of traders selling things to appeal to the younger generation, including some long established babies and children’s’ wear retailers. There were also stalls selling bows and one even selling tiaras, perfect for your princess!
With high visitor numbers and good customer feedback, trading opportunities are always popular but in short supply. The market runs at high occupancy levels but does have the capability of making more units available. They are keen to speak to entrepreneurs with new, fresh ideas, that have something different to offer. Matt explained that they were particularly keen to extend their hot food offering. Most units can be adapted to suit the trader’s requirements and can be leased or on a month by month license. All units are sheeted and there is 24hr CCTV security. Free parking is also available to traders. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the market on 0141 554 1395.