A report by the Markets Manager
The Markets Manager presented the report confirming they were new to the post having taken up the position on 25th July 2022 and stressed how committed they were in the new role and to the future of the markets.
The manager confirmed he was gradually building relationships with the traders and that a full service review was being undertaken which would save money, improve the markets provision and hopefully sustain them moving forward. The outcomes of the review would be reported back to the committee, along with quarterly updates on the progress of the markets. Members were advised that actions had taken place in respect of broken cobble stones within the market place which would be replaced and also the issue of the broken bollard at Bank Street was under repair, although with utility cables having been discovered underneath the site, temporary fold down bollards would be in place for the interim.
Working alongside the events team, it was hoped to introduce events on market days to encourage greater footfall to benefit market traders and town businesses and a number of ideas had been identified. An overview of the events for Christmas 2022 was also provided.
Occupancy on the Wednesday market remained consistently higher than on the Saturday market but moving forward there would be a push to attract new traders across all the markets with significant consideration being given to the Bargate Green market which had potential for a variety of markets, but which to date had proved difficult in attracting and sustaining regular traders.
Another area being explored was youth markets for younger traders which had proved very successful elsewhere within the county. The average age of traders nationally was over 40 years of age so the importance of encouraging younger traders to sustain the markets could not be ignored.
A number of ongoing problems had been identified including the ad-hoc timetables of buses including cancelled services due to a lack of drivers which impacted on visitors.
Concluding the Markets Manager advised he had recently attended a seminar alongside colleagues nationally and whilst he recognised the work needed to improve the current market provision, he felt optimistic that if managed well it would succeed. He also advised that he was building relationships with traders from other areas within the county encouraging them to stand at Boston when they were not on their regular markets.
Significant member debate followed which included the following:
Additional information was requested in respect of the revenue of each of the markets to establish the current position of revenue against expenditure with a view to drive traders and not to be concerned about revenue. A further request was made for a copy of the Markets Charter to allow a full understanding of the rules therein. Members were advised that there was a split of 50/50 with traders using their own stalls and using the Council ones.
There was recognition from a number of members at the impact of Stickney Car Boot on the Saturday market and the comparison of charges currently in place and the restrictions of the Charter prohibiting car boots within the markets. One option suggested charging traders for 6 months and then permitting 6 months free standing.
Other suggestions tabled were promotion of Bargate Green and the car park to build on the independent shops in Pen Street, with potential offers to the shops in the area to stand on the site selling their end of range products whilst also promoting their own shops and supporting the aim to characterise that area of town as in independent shopping district. A suggestion was also made to contact the vegetable packaging factories to offer them an outlet to sell all their goods which did not comply with the standards required by their customers.
Other options for bespoke markets included pump square. There was support for the introduction of the youth markets which would encourage a younger dynamic to the sites along with potential support of parents supporting the young traders.
Bespoke / specialist markets were also suggested with potentially one per month which would attract visitors both with a specific interest in them and also visitors who may be curious. The town would then build a reputation for such markets resulting in increased traders to established markets. Seasonal markets were further suggested to add to the existing Christmas market.
Free parking provision on market days was also suggested, along with encouragement of food stalls which would add to the atmosphere of the market with the aroma of their goods and liaison with existing European shopkeepers to trade on the market was agreed as a positive move, to get a wider variety of catering units. There was agreement that the market had historically been a lively, exciting place to visit and had been a destination in its own right without the support of the established shopping offer in the town. Referencing the Charter a member noted it should be celebrated but equally should reflect the changes since its implementation and consideration given to the current day and need for flexibility in allowing car boots and flea markets.
Concerns raised included the lack of toilet provision following the closure of what had been the market traders preferred site at Fish Hill along with traffic movements including speeding cyclist which was a serious concern to the elderly visitors, together with free parking in the market place on market days which made negotiating the market place dangerous. Further concern noted the negative appearance of the many empty shops around the town and lack of good shops which discouraged visitors, impacting on footfall on market days.
Issues in respect of public transport were also noted in that elderly residents who visited in the morning had to wait until late afternoon before being able to get a bus home with there being no lunchtime service. Further concerns noted alternative sites offering car boots and the low rates in place for traders, however it was noted that Boston Market provided electricity and the option of hiring stalls. Members also noted that the offer on the market was prestigious as a market and not a car boot sale.
That the Environment and Performance committee recommend that Cabinet and the Portfolio Holder establish an occupancy target of:
70% for Bargate Green on a Wednesday
90% for the Market Place on a Wednesday
80% for the Market Place on a Saturday
And also consider the opening of Bargate Green on a Saturday and review the market charges to seek to attain the targets.