City council responds to Norwich market concerns raised by traders and shoppers

Norwich Market.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Market.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It is a jewel in the crown of Norwich city centre, and has been a bustling shopping destination for nearly a millennium.

What can you buy from Norwich Market for £10.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

What can you buy from Norwich Market for £10.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

But the challenge in 2016 is to keep Norwich market relevant and enticing, and how that can be achieved.

Some of the best people placed to know what they want from the market are the traders and shoppers themselves, so as part of the Evening News's Get Behind Your Market campaign we took their concerns to Norwich City Council, to see what they are doing to address their worries.

The most common concern was there was not enough being done to fill empty stalls, with 39 stalls of the 192 being empty as of last month, and 14 under offer.

Steve Prentice, of the Norwich Providore stall, said last week: 'We need to get the shutters up.'

What can you buy from Norwich Market for £10.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

What can you buy from Norwich Market for £10.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

But he also said the two new market managers, who both work part-time, had helped the situation.

A city council spokesman said they were actively looking for new stallholders, and they were in discussion with 10 applicants at the moment.

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Another issue raised was in the promotion of the market. Traders felt the maps on Gentleman's Walk were not enough to attract people in, and felt their only option was to display an A-board outside the market's front.

But the council pointed out how while it was their job to promote the market as a whole, the businesses had to take responsibility for their own advertising.

'The council has a small promotions budget for the market,' said the spokeswoman. 'We installed new signs on Gentleman's Walk and we are working on a new project for signs for every aisle.'

One major annoyance to many traders had been the balance of trade policy.

Some felt it was restrictive, and stalls stayed empty rather than being filled because of it. But since holding a consultation, the council said this had faced an overhaul.

Mark Wright, chairman of the Norwich Market Traders' Association and stallholder, previously said he felt things were improving.

He added: 'It's a really exciting time, we've got lots of new people coming on and it looks cleaner than it ever has.'

It is hoped moving forward things more stallholders can be brought in to attract more shoppers to the historic centre.

Promotion

As well as installing new signs, the council said they already did a lot of advertising to boost the market's profile.

'We advertise in trade press, supplements and local magazines,' said the city council spokeswoman.

'At Christmas we have traditionally had a month-long radio campaign, we use the @NorwichCC twitter account for our social media presence, we have overhauled our web pages to include pictures and details of every single market stall with links to social media accounts and websites.'

She added they also target tourists when they enquire about breaks, and in the tourist information centre.

Filling empty stalls

The council said they were actively looking to fill the empty stalls and get the shutters back up. A spokeswoman said: 'Our main messages for potential stall holders is did you know that you can run a stall for as little as £261 a month right in the heart of the city centre in this landmark location?'

'We are actively looking for new business to trade on Norwich Market, focusing on those that will complement the market as a whole and attract a wider customer base. We have received strong feedback that people would like to see more local produce on the market whether that be food, art or other artisan products, so we'd love to hear from anyone local who would like to test their business idea. Deli stalls, or those selling world food, as well as art and craft are all traders we are actively looking to attract.'

Balance of trade

The city council said it is now far more flexible on what can be sold on stalls.

The spokeswoman said: 'As a result of the balance of trade overhaul, we now allow far more food - we had a complete stop on this at one point - and we try to be as flexible as possible in allowing traders to vary their offer to make their business more viable if we can.

'So it is true to say that we are not allowing any more chips or burgers on the market as we have several stalls offering this, its neither in the shoppers' interest nor in business interest to allow an over subscription of any one commodity on the market. However businesses can apply for variations to their leases and we will and do work with them to help to be as flexible as possible.

'We are prepared to offer far more variations now than in previous years to help businesses to thrive but have to consider on a case by case basis.'

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