Saturday 9 April will see the re-launch of Mansfield Market, after a decade of consultation and an investment of £100,000 – Why not become a part of it?
Mansfield is the largest town in Nottinghamshire with around 104,000 residents. It lies to the north of the county, 15 miles from the city of Nottingham. It was granted its Market Charter by King Henry III in 1227 and currently, the market covers two sites, the Market Place and the former Buttercross Market on West Gate.
There is a lot of competition in the area, with markets in nearby Sutton in Ashfield, Worksop, Retford and Newark and at Chesterfield in Derbyshire. With occupancy rates running at an estimated 30-40%, it was clear that something needed to be done.
The regeneration began in 2005, when Liveability Funding was used to repave the market place and make aesthetical improvements to the viaduct which frames the market and spans across the entire town centre. The town benefits from having Purple Flag status, which indicates it is a safe and enjoyable place to spend an evening and transport networks offer a new bus station, a direct train link from Nottingham to Worksop and plenty of car parks.
Mansfield is one of only 16 towns with a mayoral authority and current Mayor, Kate Allsop is fully behind the market improvements. She referred to the market as ‘A critical part of a vibrant town centre’. By way of support, she has introduced discounted parking for shoppers, encouraging them to stay for three hours for the price of two in council owned multi-storey carparks. Workers can also pop into town for short visits with free 30 minute parking in all council owned surface car parks.
The consultation process was driven by Councillor Stewart Rickersey, Portfolio Holder for Corporate. He is a well known and respected face in Mansfield, having formerly held the role of Managing Director for the local newspaper. He commented, ‘Mansfield has a longstanding market history and we want to preserve that for future generations. To achieve this, we have to make some radical changes and work hard to support traders and bring new customers to the town centre.’ He added, ‘We are looking to modernise market trading in line with retail principles; that includes layout, merchandising, pricing and promotion. Our trader and visitor numbers have dwindled for decades so our revitalisation project has to be big, impacting and most of all successful.’
As part of the process, 29 other markets were evaluated. These included ten with the same demographic profile as Mansfield, three local markets and some that were also mayoral governed. The results of which, all pointed in a number of directions:
Less trading days. -Currently the market operates six days a week. This will change to five days when Monday markets cease from 1 April, due to a very low footfall on this day. However Tuesday, which is usually a dedicated flea and fruit market, will become a full market day. The closure of the market on a Monday will also allow the Market Place to be used on Sunday as an events space, with thoughts of a regular car boot sale, without the pressure and cost of employing stall erectors in preparation for the next day.
Layout and number of stalls – The stalls in West Gate will be relocated to the Market Place and a new layout has been approved and developed following feedback from Mansfield’s regular traders. There will be a dedicated food area with council supplied, quality wooden seating for approximately fifty customers. This will lead on to a performance area which will be free to use for local entertainers but will have to be pre-booked.
A number of new stalls have been purchased and
some of the old ones adapted. Following a visit to Borough Market, Councillor Rickersey is looking at mobile units and umbrella style canopies with a view to providing lockable storage space and refrigeration units for traders, which can be stored in an unoccupied Council property.
Aisles will be widened and positioning priority will be given to the town’s longest serving members. Every trader will be given individual signage which will display the trader’s name and products and will be at head height, allowing customers to easily locate their favourite stall during busy periods.
More stalls/improved offering – To encourage start up businesses, new traders and existing traders to try something new, the council are offering FREE incubation units to twenty traders that fit their criteria. Certain terms and conditions will apply and they will not be able to sell a product that is already available on the market. Repetition of product is being considered so that there will be no more than two traders selling the same goods at any one time, with the exception of fruit and vegetables on a Saturday, where this number is already exceeded. A number of lines have been identified as being unavailable at Mansfield Market and the council are actively looking to fill these gaps.
Pricing – A new tiered pricing system will be introduced meaning that traders get a fair deal for their day’s work. Stalls in maximum footfall areas will pay more than stalls in quieter areas of the market place and discounts are available for businesses who take up more than one stall.
As part of their commitment to traders, they are providing free, branded workwear and name badges, to help provide a sense of community and a feeling of quality. New contracts will be drawn up so that everyone is on a level playing field and for new traders, they will provide start up advice and mentoring from a professional market trader trainer and a number of Apprenticeship Grants will be made available. Free WiFi has been introduced in conjunction with Mansfield BID and the council are currently in talks with a local banker to provide a competitive card payment system.
Quality is priority in the new plan and working with trading standards the market team will be driving up the quality of merchandise on sale. They have signed up to Real Deal and have taken a zero tolerance approach to counterfeit, illegal or unsafe goods. Councillor Rickersey confirmed, ‘Mansfield Market needs to be a real alternative to supermarket and online shopping and to do this, we are looking to improve buyer confidence and get a good deal for shoppers on our stalls. Quality and value for money is what we all look for when we are shopping, and markets can provide that in abundance’.
The council’s events and marketing team have been working hard to ensure that everyone in Mansfield and the surrounding area knows about the market improvements and is looking to make good use of a £20k promotional budget. Further funding has been allocated to invest in better town centre signage putting Mansfield Market firmly on the map for shoppers in town. This will lead from the bus station, railway station and central car parks. The council is providing social media opportunities for traders to promote their goods to a wider audience and to support this further, they can produce specially made posters for offers and deals to be displayed daily.
Local radio station Mansfield 103.2 has signed up to broadcast at least three days a week (Thursday – Saturday has been suggested) live from the market from their own, branded stall. These broadcasts will be product-led which puts traders and their merchandise at the forefront of promotional activity. Where possible, they will tie in with national campaigns and will include cookery demonstrations using produce purchased from the market. ‘We need to change the shopping habits of a lifetime and encourage more people to buy fresh, buy local and buy on the market.’
The launch event on 09 April will include music and entertainment and an appearance from a Covent Garden street entertainer, who has been booked for additional performances on the last Saturday of each month for a year. It is hoped that music and entertainment from local artists, who will be able to perform each weekend for free, will create a vibrant atmosphere in the market place and regular monthly entertainment has already been booked. Plans are in place for a range of events on the site at weekends to make good use of the town’s premium floor space starting with a monthly car boot sale on the first Sunday of the month and a Classic Car Club expressing an interest in the area. The market will be supporting Armed Forces Day, The Queen’s Birthday and Love your Local Market, to name but a few.
As long as the community support these plans, it has all the makings of being a popular and successful market. I very much look forward to revisiting in the summer to see these improvements first hand.
If you are interested in trying out a stall on Mansfield Market and would like information on our rent free offer please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01623 463818.