As part of our Love Your High Street campaign, aimed at supporting local, independent traders, Catherine Musgrove looked at how Preston’s market traders are faring.
“This is what the city needs”. That’s the message from traders, eight months after the doors opened at Preston’s Market Hall.
After years of consternation about the future of the historic venue, in February hundreds flocked to see the doors open underneath the recently renovated Victorian canopy.
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Now, as traders gear up for their first Christmas in the glazed hall, there is a feeling of positivity among the ‘market family’, who are seeing increased footfall and more younger customers.
Sam Livesey, butcher and chairman of the Preston Markets Traders’ Association, said: “It’s going really well. We’re eight months into it now and we’re still attracting new customers.
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“We’re getting younger customers as well as keeping hold of the longer-established customer base. It’s good to see the students back as well now, that gives us something else.”
He added: “It’s taken a bit of getting used to for everyone, but it’s what Preston needs. People have fond memories of the old building, but you have to move on.”
David Maudsley, vice chairman of the association, and owner of Sheridan’s Bags and Bags, agreed. He said: “Things are really positive. There’s a big customer base that’s followed us here, and who have been with us through thick and thin.
“People who haven’t been to the market for a long, long time are coming back. We had someone recently who hadn’t been to the market for 15 years.
“We also get a lot of international shoppers. Last week we had people facetiming familiy members in India. It’s incredible.
“There’s been a lot of good feedback and all the traders look after one another. There’s great camaraderie, it’s a market family.”
Allan and Tracy Taylor opened their fruit and veg stall Fresh and Fruity in the summer.
Allan said: “We love it, we think it’s the way forward.
“I closed the shop we’d had in Chorley town centre for 10 years because you just can’t compete on the high street anymore.
“We’ve come back to basics, and I think markets have come full circle as well.
“We’re buying fresh produce locally, direct from the growers, and it’s for sale the next day. People want that and not only are we getting older people, but younger people too, who don’t want everything wrapped in plastic.”
Tracy added: “For us this is one of the best markets around, we wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.
“It’s traditional with a 21st century feeling, so you get the best of both worlds.”
Fishmonger Mark Williams, said: “The move was necessary, it needed to change because the council was not looking to spend money on the old building.
“Customers differ in their opinions, but on the whole, they seem to like the nice, new, clean building, it’s better than what we had.
“Sales have increased because footfall has increased - this has always been a natural walkway through the city.”
Sabina Mosalski, who works at Brew and Bake, said: “We’re right at the front of the hall and people are always saying how nice it is.
“You get quite a lot of regulars coming, and we all know one another. The atmosphere here makes it a nice place to work.”
Coun Brian Rollo, cabinet member for environment said: “Since re-opening earlier this year, Preston Markets have continued to develop and establish their position as a key city centre destination.
“Nearly at capacity, footfall has steadily increased with traders regularly reporting new customers.
“Having recently won a number of awards - and in the running for more - the message is getting out there about the fantastic Preston Markets.
“As we continue to invest in its future, we are now looking forward to the first Christmas in its new home.”
In the past week, the Royal Town Planning Institute has given Preston Markets the 2018 Regional Award for Planning Excellence for its regeneration of the historic market.
The £3m project has won the top planning award in North West England.
The extensive project resulted in a complete transformation of the market, parts of which are Grade II listed.
Judges at the Regional Award for Planning Excellence praised the overall design process and the inclusion of ‘upcycled’ shipping containers to create city’s Box Market.
The project was led by Preston City Council and designed by the Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) in collaboration with Greig & Stephenson Architects.
It has comprised full restoration of the decorative metalwork, repainting, roof repairs, and re-lighting.
Collaboration with local people was at the heart of the project. Market customers and the market traders were engaged with and students at the University of Central Lancashire also designed three different size units that slot together and can then be arranged in different combinations.
Royal Town Planning Institute North West chairman Bob Philips, said: “The planners of Preston market have given local residents a contemporary venue that local people can enjoy and be proud of.
“The restoration is a celebration of the traditional British market with a modern twist.
The provision of upcycled shipping containers to create the Box Market not only has green credentials, but is also an attractive and contemporary urban design.”