TRADERS are urging people with fresh business ideas to take up some of the stalls on the city’s Shambles Market which remain empty despite a £1.6million makeover.
As part of a campaign by Make It York to raise the market’s profile, city centre and markets manager Chris Price is launching a recruitment drive for new stallholders, and has issued a Dragon's Den-style invitation to budding entrepreneurs.
Shambles Market reopened at its present location in March last year after its refurbishment by City of York Council, but existing traders have since offered mixed views about how successful the site is proving.
Mr Price said: “We would love to see more local people who have got ideas about being market traders get in touch. Come and ask us questions and we will try to help you get set up.”
He added: “We also want to look at younger traders, recruiting the next generation. We want to talk to the colleges, schools and universities to see if there are creative young people out there who have business ideas, but don’t have a platform to showcase them.
"We are looking to hold regular younger traders’ days to see if they could become the traders of the future. We are looking for variety and individual things that you can’t find on the high street.”
James Boulby, a market veteran of 18 years, who runs the Watch Kiosk, told The Press: “The number of traders is going down and there’s fewer all the time.
"We need to replace the people who have left. This is quite a tough time of year because it’s quiet, but as soon as Easter comes it needs to be full.”
Jean Mannion, who runs Mannion Fruit and Veg with her husband John, said: “It would look much better if the stalls were full and a few more traders were here.
“At the moment I think the footfall is down to the time of year and people don’t want to come out and spend their money after Christmas.”
However, Phil Waines has run his Heart of Wax vinyl records stand for the last six months and has no complaints about trading in the market.
“My original plan was to get a shop but by doing this there’s a lot of positives to take from standing outside in the cold and meeting people,” he said.
“I want to establish a business selling records in York and the way to do that is to start small with low overheads and build up a customer base. If you go straight into a shop you have massive bills, but with this you can find out what works and what doesn’t.
"I hope more people try this out. We need people with new ideas to come here and the market gives them a blank canvas to try it out.”
Mr Price is determined to make the market a “go-to” place for local shoppers. He said: “As well as welcoming visitors, we want to make it a good offering for residents on a regular basis. It’s very important that the residents support the market.”
He added: “Especially after the floods, a lot of businesses are struggling, so we want to help people get back on their feet.”
Mr Price and his team are looking at current stalls and seeing what sort of businesses could be added.
“We want to find out what’s missing that might bring more people back into the market,” he said.
“We have had traders who have gone on to start their own shops after having stalls on the market. One example of this is Rachel Stott, who ran retro homeware stall Thora And The Prince. She began here and has now got her own premises in Haxby. The market was a great start for her.”
One area of progress Mr Price pointed to was how the market was teaming up with other businesses on its borders.
“The Shambles Tavern’s back door into the market had always been closed, but now they have opened it and started serving meals in the unique market atmosphere,” he said. Friday-night trading proved popular before Christmas and is set for a return.
“Some of the traders said they had their best days’ trading then,” said Mr Price. “It’s something that we are going to start up again in the spring.”
Other plans include developing the farmers’ market, and increasing tie-ins with events such as the Great Yorkshire Fringe.
Mr Price added: “We want to incorporate some more street food as it has gone down very well before.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with Shambles Market can email firstname.lastname@example.org