Street food and pop-up stalls give Norwich Market remarkable boost
Last year the future of Norwich Market was uncertain.
With around a third of the stalls empty there was a risk of it becoming unsustainable.
But the city refused to let the 900-year-old jewel of Norwich city centre fade away without a fight.
Norwich City Council launched a 10-year strategy to turn the market around, and the Norwich Market Traders’ Association was revived.
In conjunction, this newspaper launched a Get Behind Your Market campaign, urging people to use it or lose it.
According to traders, the results have been remarkable.
Over the last 12 months occupancy rates have soared from 76pc to 91pc, as the council has let 33 new stalls in total.
Maisie Blake, who works at the Taxi Vintage Clothing store, said in the past the market had got “a lot of bad press”, but that was rapidly changing.
She said multiculturalism was now thriving at the market.
“There are so many new stalls, ethnic foods, Chilean food, so many stalls introducing people to different cultures,” she said, adding the traditional chips “are still amazing”.
Cocina Mia is the place to go for something a bit different from chips, and produces Chilean cuisine. It has only been open since last week and the shop’s owner said they had received “really good feedback” from the public.
The new lease of life was only possible through a drastic change, according to Michael Smith of The Banger Stop.
He said in 2016 the market had been “locked in a wilderness of yesteryear”, until the council brought in a committee headed by a pioneering figurehead who had worked on other market revivals around the country.
Despite what Mr Smith admits was “a lot of hostility from older traders”, the market was taken from that point in a “new direction” involving “better communication between the traders and the council” which led to a transformed business.
Mr Smith said his customer numbers had at least doubled since last year.
The newer additions to the stalls had also attracted younger people, with Mr Smith explaining the average age of shoppers had “dropped by 20 years”.
Councillor Roger Ryan, Norwich City Council cabinet member with responsibility for Norwich Market, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for Norwich Market.
“Everyone seems to be talking about how much they’re enjoying all of the new street food and the offerings of the pop-up stalls. The market has such an important place in our city and it’s brilliant to see its popularity increasing.
“This year has been a great leap forward as the first year of our 10-year plan to rejuvenate the market, but we are not resting on our laurels and we will be continuing to work hard to sustain and build on the success we have already achieved.”
A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said in the year from July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017, they had invested in a new seating area, installing six new colourful picnic benches along the back of the market.
“The benches, four of which have access points for wheelchair users, are nearly always full and bustling and have given a great feeling of community and vibrancy at the back of the market.
“We have invested in 16 new aisle signs at the top and bottom of the market listing every single stall and a brief outline of what it sells to assist customers in finding what they are looking for.
“We have introduced a food aisle in Row A and greatly expanded our street food offer which has been a major draw to the market.
“We now have 12 new street food stalls to complement the 14 long-established hot food stalls.
“This means the market can now offer not only fabulous fish and chips, bacon rolls, hot dogs, jacket potatoes and hog roast but it also now has South East Asian, Spanish, Italian, French and Chilean street food along with fresh juices, falafels, lasagne and deli sandwiches.
“In all, we have taken on 20 new businesses as well as welcomed two of our existing traders to expand and take on an extra stall.”
A wholesale rent and fees review has also been undertaken, and a new pop-up zone launched, hosting a range of traders including illustrators, jewellery, African homewares, skincare ranges and bohemian clothing.