Wakefield city centre traders have say on the future of our markets

Traders Vic Griffin and Naseem Nisar.
Traders Vic Griffin and Naseem Nisar.

Wakefield’s city centre market traders have had their say on the issues they’re facing, ahead of a council review into the future of markets across the district.

Wakefield’s city centre market traders have had their say on the issues they’re facing, ahead of a council review into the future of markets across the district.

The local authority is looking to cut £150,000 a year from its budget for the six marketplaces in the area, which include the city centre, Pontefract, Castleford, Normanton, South Elsmall and Ossett.

Stall holders in Wakefield were relocated from the now closed market hall to the cathedral precinct before Christmas and trade on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Several of them have reported an upturn in business since the move and are cautiously optimstic about their future prospects.

However, there remains a desire for the council to spend more money on promoting the market and making it more attractive to shoppers.

Many traders were also angry about recent comments made by Labour councillor Olivia Rowley, who suggested that the market should be closed instead of repeatedly relocating it around the city.

Clothes seller Derek Nuttall said: “These are our livelihoods we’re talking about here. We’ve got families to feed.

“Footfall is quiet at the moment, but it’s generally like that this time of year. I think things will pick up.

“One of the problems we’ve got is that a lot of people don’t want to come to the city centre because of the beggars and drunks at the bottom of Kirkgate.

“If they sort that out then things can be better.”

Trader representative Mohammed Javed said he was “shocked” by Coun Rowley’s suggestion.

He said: “I’d be heartbroken if it closed. This is a market town. It’s part of our history.

“Footfall’s been quite good since we moved. I think we’re in as good a place as any for business. We were really struggling in the market hall, but where we are now we feel we have a chance.”

While the move to the cathedral precinct was warmly welcomed, many complained about a lack of communication from the council about their plans.

One trader said he’d found out about the relocation online, rather than directly from the local authority.

The council is considering investing in gazebos to improve the market’s appearance, an idea several stall holders agreed would attract more people.

Waseem Nisar, a trader since 1970, disagreed however, and said he wanted parking charges to be scrapped for stall holders.

“Giving me a gazebo isn’t going to help me sell more stuff,” Mr Nisar, who also trades at Pontefract, said.

“Customers are bothered about the quality of what I sell, they’re not bothered how the market looks. It would be a waste and a luxury.

“I do resent having to pay for parking. When my rent’s £48 a day here it’s a lot on top.

“They could promote the market better too. It’s no good advertising it on social media because the people on there are the internet shopping generation anyway.”

Trader rep Lynne Bryan, agreed. She said: “It would help if the council advertised Wakefield market as much as they do the other ones such as South Elmsall.

“They just need to make it look more inviting to new stall holders and customers then it would bring new life to the town centre.”

And 70 year-old Vic Griffin, who sells a mixture of cakes, sweets and teabags, said he struggles to make a profit, but enjoys talking to customers too much to stop for the timebeing.

He said: “I should be retired now really.

“For me it’s the social side of things that I’d really miss if I stopped doing this. Chatting to people is the best bit of the job.

“A lot of people walk by but they won’t stop to buy anything. If everyone who walked by spent a pound I’d be very happy.

“I remember times when I could make £300 a day. Nowadays I’m lucky if I make £20.

“All we can do is keep going and hope for the best really.”