Norwich market’s plea for help
Stallholders on Norwich market today urged the city council to reduce rents, work to fill empty stalls and increase advertising to help boost trade.
Norwich boasts the only permanent open air market in Europe which is open six days a week, but traders today warned they need more help.
They called on Norwich City Council to fill the market's 24 empty units, the equivalent of 15 shops, by reducing rents.
Traders said increasing pressure from out-of-town supermarkets, where many of their goods could be bought under one roof, had hurt profits.
Deputy leader of Norwich City Council, Alan Waters, said: 'The market is never far from our thoughts.
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'We are always promoting the market, but for some (stallholders) there is real competition.'
He added stretched budgets put a limit on how much the council could practically do.
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Mary Portas's report has called for rules to be relaxed to make it easier for people to set up market stalls and for a national market day aimed at driving shoppers towards them.
But the council's economic development officer Sharon Quantrell said Norwich was already bucking the trend of declining city centres and Ms Portas's call to make it easier for people to set up shops would hurt stallholders at Norwich market.
She said: 'If you allowed market traders to suddenly pop up in shops it would be really unfair to Norwich stallholders if they were not paying the same rates.'
At Norwich market, Gini Dorling-Winterbourne, 45, who set up her clothing stall, 3 Generations, in October, said she had found the council and other market traders helpful in starting up her business.
'The people are fantastic. The support you get is unbounded,' she said. 'You've got an easier chance to start here.
'You don't pay extreme prices in the shops in rents and rates, but the weather effects things.
'We've got to get it (the market) back to what it used to be. It is getting there – as long as rents don't go up.'
The former publican also urged the council to keep a diverse range of shops in the market.
Rob Ellis, 54, from Ellis Bookstall, said: 'Everything is too expensive. That makes it difficult here. The market needs to be full.'
Mr Ellis, who has run his stall for 35 years, said charity shops who pay no business rates and have much lower costs were undermining book stalls and other businesses.
Christine Haw from Yarn and Craft said the council should introduce a start-up package, giving new traders reduced rents for the first few months of business.
'It is difficult to get yourself established,' she said. 'You need to keep the market full. There are so many empty stalls. People can not afford it.'
Stallholder Linda James, 59, said: 'The council could help more. A lot of market stalls are closing down because the rents have gone up.
'People don't stick it out long enough. They come and go.
'They (the council) could do more to promote the market.'
And trader Nick Guymer added: 'We are all struggling. We used to be busier at this time of year.'
Join the debate on the future of Norwich market? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.