Stallholders at Chester Market are appealing for customers to ‘use it or lose it’ as they fight for survival following the closure of Princess Street bus exchange.
Buses used to drop potential customers outside the door but now bus services have moved to the new interchange at Gorse Stacks.
The idea is to free up development space for the £300m Northgate Development including a new market hall but some businesses are reporting trade down by 40%.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has laid on a free Shopper Hopper mini-bus linking the two sites but survival is on everyone’s mind.
Butcher Geoff Hughes, who runs the business with wife Debbie, is remaining positive with his ‘#SupportChesterMarket’ campaign. His posting on Facebook reached more than 100,000 people leading one new customer to buy bacon and chicken thighs to do his ‘bit’ for the market.
Mr Hughes wrote: “The most recent change of the town hall bus station closure and the opening of the new Chester Bus Interchange has seen the footfall of Chester Market drop to its lowest! All businesses within Chester Market have seen fewer customers than ever before.
“We truly believe that the new and future developments of Chester are fantastic and this will bring more trade into our city centre. Nonetheless, we can’t continue as we are currently, people aren’t visiting Chester Market and this needs to change.
“Hopefully, with time, people will become more familiar with the new bus routes and the free Shopper Hopper service, but we can’t be sure and we certainly can’t wait!
“We need to do something about this sooner rather than later. We need all our customers to be aware of how easy it is to get to us and encourage them to still visit us in Chester Market. Without you we will not survive and neither will any other traders.”
All this is happening in the current market’s 50th anniversary year after being established in 1967 following more than 100 years of trading on Northgate Street.
Stallholder Sandra Taker, who has worked in the market since she was a girl, wishes the ‘Shopper Hopper’ had been more widely advertised.
She said: “I don’t like being a pessimist but this market has got to survive at least another three years before such time there is another market built. However, when the new market is built it’s going to be surrounded on a building site which is the construction of all these superstores, boutique-style places, eating houses, so the prospects for the market traders are grim.”
Encouraging customers to give the market a go, she added: “In the market we have unique shops selling items you’re probably not going to find anywhere else. We serve our customers on a one-to-one basis. We can advise them on the products we sell. We try and make a good repartee with our customers which will guarantee that they will come back and give us another try.”
Dave Haagar, of David James Jewellers, who has been in the market nearly 30 years, said: “It’s not just us. I think the whole of this area will have been affected by the loss of the bus services. Generally trade is right down.”
Mr Haagar, treasurer of Chester Market Traders’ Association, applied to have a stall in the new market but has been turned down. He will be offered enhanced compensation instead.