Centre Manager Sean in the break out area of the mezzanine office suites
Centre Manager Sean in the break out area of the mezzanine office suites

It has been well recorded that Grimsby has been part of a regeneration programme and the town’s Freeman Street has been a major part of that project. Sean McGarel has been the Development Manager at Freeman Street Indoor Market for eight years having once traded there himself; his Great grandfather, grandparents and parents before him had a fruit and veg stall. He has been instrumental in driving traders and customers to the recently upgraded and continually improving market. I caught up with him to find out more about his Love Your Local Market events and to meet some of the traders, old and new.

Established in 1873, Freeman Street Market is located in the heart of Grimsby, and has been a pivotal point of trading from the days when Grimsby was a thriving fishing port. It is considered to be Grimsby’s longstanding landmark. In later years the area around Freeman Street and the market itself fell in to disrepair and business was at an all-time low. Freeman Street Market has undergone quite a transformation over the last 4 years. Sean explained that before the refurbishment there were a number of empty stalls and some of the retail offerings were poor. The onus now is on quality and although there are fewer stalls, they are in a more spacious, brighter environment and currently have 90% occupancy. Sean is keen to encourage new traders to the market and has introduced eight barrows that offer an inexpensive way for those with a more limited stock range or seasonal offering, to promote and sell their wares.

Freeman Street Market’s bright exterior
Within the market is a shop area called the Courtyard which boasts a mock Tudor façade and thatched cottage as part of its features. The Business and Digital Hub is 985m² of office and meeting room space in the north-eastern corner of the market and is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. All this, coupled with one hour’s free parking have helped attract 20% more customers than they had four years ago. A large emphasis has been placed on the social aspects of the market, hosting a number of community events, international markets and crafts fairs, which contribute greatly to an already vibrant, friendly atmosphere. One of the success stories of the market has been through an organisation called Cat Zero, which is based on site. They provide advice and job training to those in the local community that are classified as category zero and have successfully found employment for seven of the twelve that attended their first course. One of these was Tommy who was trialled in the kitchen of the Courtyard Cafe. Owner Matthew was so impressed by his enthusiasm that he agreed to take him on as an apprentice. Tommy has now moved in to his own flat, has learned to interact with his colleagues and customers and has not only improved his catering skills, he now has some menu ideas of his own, although Matthew admits that in the first few months, he made no profit on teacakes as Tommy kept burning them!

Love Your Local Market

Mark Atkinson and Neil Hutson from The Earthbound Misfits
Mark Atkinson and Neil Hutson from The Earthbound Misfits

As part of Love Your Local Market fortnight, Sean organised a number of events with the broadest possible appeal to attract new and existing customers to the venue. These included a gadget day, ‘Gadgets, Gizmos and Digital Tools’ which was housed in the Business & Digital Hub and hosted by the CDI Alliance and the Greater Lincolnshire Business Development Programme; a fashion show with clothing supplied by Beau Lounge, Woody’s and Mummy Rose Maternity wear; a cookery demonstration, live music, and whilst I was there, a children’s fun day. A local children’s theatre group, Grimsby Academy for Performers, runs a regular kid’s club from within the market and because it was half term, there were quite a few members present. To keep these and visiting children entertained, Sean organised for local children’s entertainers, The Earthbound Misfits to perform. They are regulars to the market, putting on various types of entertainment throughout the year, which includes circus workshops and walkabouts, where they interact with the customers. The show I saw consisted of stilt walking, juggling a number of objects including a set rat trap and a number of sharp instruments and encouraging the children to perform, which on this occasion took the form of plate spinning. This was extremely well received and Mark and Neil from the duo have noticed an ‘increased buzz in the market, particularly since the refurbishment’. This was followed by Paul’s Beautiful Barnies. The’ beautiful barnies’ are two barn owls, one rescued, the other bred in Paul’s garden in Grimsby that are tame enough to be stroked. This was Paul’s first visit to the market and he is booked for more appearances. The Kid’s Club runs all week during half term and throughout the school holidays and one of the organisers Jimbo Gaffney claimed it was ‘The greatest market in Britain, creating a new generation of market lovers.’

The Courtyard
In addition to the typical market stalls, there are a number of ‘shops ‘in an area known as the Courtyard, which opened four years ago as part of the refurbishment programme. I spoke to a number of the businesses that reside there. The Courtyard Cafe is one of two cafes on site and can serve up to 1000 meals a week on the four days that it is open and provides a large, central seating area. Owner Matthew sources all his food locally and buys all his fresh produce from the stall holders within the market. He previously ran a carvery within another part of the building and has been trading successfully in The Courtyard Cafe for two years.

Seating area inside The Courtyard
Seating area inside The Courtyard

MiniMatt Films Production House is one company taking advantage of these permanent ‘shops’ and is an unusual find in an indoor market. Owner Andy Watson relocated here in September when he was made redundant from his job in Peterborough and with his colleague Ashley Haywood, offer video and audio recording services. The recording studios also produce the corporate videos and adverts for the market. Adding to the diverse offerings on site is hairdresser and beautician Shannon of The Buzzbox. She was originally based within the main market area and has noticed an increase in trade since relocating to The Courtyard. She has been trading from Freeman Street for three years and is extending in to an adjoining unit where she will be offering waxing, make up and nail services. Although the Courtyard is open five days a week, Shannon is currently only open during market days.

Lisa Gormally has been trading from her shop Beau Lounge for just over a year and took part in the fashion show along with a couple of her fellow traders. She stocks a range of clothing from size 6-20, some of which are one size and many of her pieces are limited editions or one offs so stock changes regularly. She commented that the perception of the market has changed for the better but people still expect a market to be cheap. That said, she doesn’t sell anything for over £35. Additional proof that you can start small and succeed is Vicky Dryden. Her second hand ‘style on a shoestring’ business, The Attic, started at Freeman Street as a table top sale. She has been trading for over 20 years starting off at car boot sales, antiques fares and online auctions. She is now full time at the market, trading four out of the five opening days and sources most of her furniture pieces from outside the local area.

Retailers old and new
As you would expect from the main hall of the indoor market, there is a vast array of retailers selling everything from fresh produce, to home brewed beer. I caught up with a few traders. New to the market is Brett Hemsley, owner of ladies boutique, Magic Fairies. He set up shop four weeks ago and runs a similar boutique in Cleethorpes. He was very pleased with trade saying, ‘it’s busy here, it’s going really well.’ Graham Day’s father started his greengrocer’s stall back in 1952 and Graham joined him ten years later. He has seen a lot of changes over the years and finds it hard competing with 24 hour trading, from the supermarkets who are ‘ stealing the customers, but we are holding our own,’ This is mainly down to his loyal customers, but he is concerned that the younger generation aren’t market shoppers having been ‘brought up with supermarkets.’ It’s a different story however from butchers Anthony Cuthbert and Gary Burke. They have been serving customers at Freeman Street since 2002 and have seen an increase in business, they believe that ‘people are fed up with supermarkets’ The alterations to the market have also helped them by ‘bringing in new faces’ and they have repositioned so that they are now visible from the street.

The story is the same across markets throughout the country, with the industry having its ups and downs. This is true of Richard who offers key cutting, shoe repairs, watches, batteries and stitching services. He has had to diversify his range over the 26 years he has been trading. Of the seven years at Freeman Street he said, ‘It’s pretty constant, it’s had its ups and downs but we have regular customers and we haven’t got to compete with the high street.’ As is typical of a post bank holiday Tuesday, trade was quiet on the day I visited, but of the retailers I had the opportunity to speak with, they had enjoyed a busy weekend and were very positive of the changes Sean has helped to implement at the market and the new life he has breathed in to what was a rather tired, Freeman Street Market.

Rates and contactsbarrow in freeman street market
Prices range from just £12 a day for a barrow, with no hidden costs and includes access to the free Wi-Fi. The smallest permanent stall, 3 x 2.2m costs £47.05 (including VAT) per week. 3 x 3.5m is £61.36 per week and the largest 4.5 x 3.5m for £90.04 per week. In addition to the weekly rent there is a quarterly electricity charge and business rates, although currently small businesses are eligible for 100% rate relief. All stalls have access to free Wi-Fi and a micro-site on the main website with a dedicated email address. If you would like to know more about trading from either a barrow, stall or shop and the latest offers available, please call Sean on 01472 356518 or e-mail info@freemanstreetmarket.co.uk


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Telephone 01472 356 518