Struggling traders today warned they fear for the future of Sheffield’s new market – less than six months after the £18 million building opened.
Businesses have been forced to pull out and stallholders fear the end of the FreeBee bus in the city centre will accelerate the drop in footfall they say they have suffered.
Sheffield Council today said the new market was a success story but stressed it could not guarantee the success of every business. Food store 7 Days of Heath, Whitlocks Fish Bar and a cafe have all ceased trading since the market opened last November, despite stallholders enjoying a rent-free period for the first six months, with half-price charges for the remainder of the first year.
And young entrepreneur Anton Smith, aged 21, who had dreams of building a franchise when he opened Jamaican food outlet Juicy Patties in the Moor Market food court, is the latest to hand in his notice to the council, branding it ‘bad for business’.
And it is feared the withdrawal of the FreeBee service – one of the incentives traders were given to move from Castle Market but which ceased to run yesterday – could hit more businesses.
Greengrocer Mick Cull, owner of Fruit Fayre and chairman of the Sheffield branch of National Market Traders Federation, said: “Some are only lasting a couple of months, footfall is down massively and going down every week.
“With Castle Market it was surrounded by other shops, you had buses and trams from everywhere in the city stopping there.
“The FreeBee bus was something the council used as a ploy. It’s a long walk for a lot of people down here.
“Unless the council listen to us and do something soon I really worry for the future of this place.”
Punch Stores owner Mark Holmes, also a member of the National Market Traders Federation, added: “I am alright but it is a worrying time. We can see some are struggling and if they close we’re going to get even less people coming through the door than do now.”
Last month the council issued figures which reported the number of visitors to the market had reached one million.
Traders say before they moved in they were promised 100,000 visitors every week but claim during March the number slumped to 57,000.