Colourful signs have been erected to promote Chester Market after the council acknowledged the number of customers had tailed off after the closure of the nearby bus exchange.
Cheshire West and Chester Council closed the bus exchange in June to free up space for a new market square and hall as part of the proposed £300m Northgate Development.
The replacement £13m bus station launched at Gorse Stacks at the same time.
But one consequence has been a drop in footfall at Chester Market as customers are no longer dropped off outside the door although the council was quick to lay on a free shuttle bus linking the new and old bus station sites.
Now the council has erected new bright and colourful signage to attract people into the market where traders were recently given a three month ‘rental holiday’ in recognition of the lost income.
The main entrance features a photographic montage highlighting real traders who work in the market including Kevin Williams from The Cheese Wedge, Jane Hall from Balloon Craft and Richard Newton from Bookingham Palace.
Cllr Brian Clarke , cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “We acknowledge the concerns of traders who have seen a drop in footfall since the new bus interchange opened.
“We are working closely with traders to support them through this period until the new market is opened which will be at the heart of the exciting Chester Northgate.
“We have put on a free shopper hopper bus service which takes passengers directly to the market every 15 minutes.
“We are also launching a campaign to promote the unique shopping experience at Chester Market which traders will be at the centre of.
“As we look forward to the new market opening it is essential that traders are at the centre of its development and we are meeting regularly to get their input around key decisions including the design of stalls and other features.”
The council has also put in a series of measures including:
■ Asking private coach drivers to drop visitors off at the old bus station site
■ Developing an advertising campaign including leaflets, newsletter showcasing traders, radio campaign and social media activity
The council is also looking at hosting events and pop-up markets in the old bus station space but all initiatives will be discussed and agreed with traders and ‘will not compete with the market but will complement their offer’ with the aim of driving up footfall.
Although the market is struggling, footfall counters show the numbers in Chester generally – and the Northgate area – are all up over the long term. So for the month of August, the footfall counters across Chester were triggered 1,890,880 times compared with 1,627,675 in 2015.
And the August figures for Northgate specifically are on the up and were on the increase even before Storyhouse opened – so 73,937 in 2015, 100,758 in 2016 and 105,970 in 2017.