Sunday, 5 April 2015

Watford Market Update ~ April 5th 2015

For those keeping up to date with the events at Watford Market through my blog posts and other avenues, last week was a bit of a crunch week. The stall holders were facing a return to the 'normal rents' after the 3 month winter period. The majority of the traders have been making a loss since the market opened and news that rents were to double without the indication of any noticeable upturn in footfall was received like a concrete zeppelin.

A formal response was sent from the traders to Town and Country Markets in the form of an email identifying all the areas of grievance and with a suggestion that there would be a probable mass exodus from the market should they continue with their rent plans.

Conversations were had on Monday and Tuesday with a revised proposal emerging on Tuesday afternoon which goes something like below :-

The market is to close on Wednesdays and Thursdays (this is then a return to a 3 day week), however there has been a strong desire to bring in Sunday trading from 11am - 5pm. Not all traders are willing to open on Sunday and as far as I can gather the suggestion that Sunday would be quite popular is not based on any collected evidence. Apparently the rents will then stay fairly close to the current rates with 2 days of trading being removed. A host of other improvements have also been identified, these can be viewed via the New Watford Market website here.

The plan is that this new modus operandi will be implemented from Tuesday 14th April. The above represents a compromise and does demonstrate that Town & Country markets are willing to be flexible, although it has taken a fair amount of pressure to arrive at this place.

The Jury is out about the Sunday trading to be honest, I can see this being 'tried out' with the likely outcome that the market will revert to Tuesday, Friday and Saturday as it was down the road at the old market. Personally I think Town & Country and perhaps the Town Centre Partnership and / or Council should collaborate and investigate ways of utilising the space on 'non market' days. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (even Sunday) all represent an opportunity to host craft fairs or themed days. A few vintage bikes, cars or such like would definitely get people visiting and make use of a substantial space in the town. You never know it could even generate some much needed income!

A local independent business showcase would definitely be able to use the space and with local business exhibitions charging upwards of £150 per day for exhibiting at £20-£30 per day in the Market space this represents incredible value! ... Plus... The food court would benefit from all the additional trade too!

Unfortunately the 'Petting Zoo' Easter extravaganza had to be pulled this Saturday as the Herts Animal Welfare / rights group threatened to disrupt the event if it went ahead. Without Police support to ensure things went smoothly there was no option but to cancel it, which was a real shame.

As we progress further into Spring and the weather finally does start warming up it will be interesting to see if footfall begins to steadily increase at the market. It is inevitable that there will be yet further changes in the mix of businesses operating out of the market as it matures in the coming 3-6 months. Two further units have been rented this week, a new Greek Food outlet (Yiro Food) and a Vinyl record / book shop too. These are set to open during April.

Would be great to see a list of different types of businesses that the existing traders feel would complement and enhance the market. With a new clear vision for the market and stating that clearly in supporting posters, leaflets and online there is an opportunity during the long hot summer to 'establish' the New Market and create a unique destination for Watford... the time is now though!

The Watford Observer also covered the story this week... here is their rendition of events...