Ready to Trade?
Chester Market is beginning an exciting new chapter in its history with a move to a new purpose-built market hall at the heart of the Northgate development in summer 2022. The vision driving the new market is to be a ‘modern traditional market’ that takes the best of the new breed of thriving city produce markets such as Borough Market in London, Barcelona market, combined with communal foodhall markets such as Altrincham and Liverpool’s Baltic.
Applications for stalls have now closed and the first successful applications were announced in February 2022, see more here.
As further leases are completed, more trader details will be announced.
There has been a market in Chester for well over 800 years; in order to survive it has evolved and changed location but never lost its role as a well-loved asset of the city, now based in the Forum since the late sixties.
Never more so in the past couple of years, when following a national downturn in the popularity of markets, a decline in foot-fall at the Forum shopping centre and other factors such as the relocation of the bus interchange; meant that by 2017 the market was running at 35% occupancy and many traders reported a downturn in takings of 20-80%, with some on the brink of closure.
However, following a concerted strategy of council investment and marketing totalling almost £400,000 – including rent incentives, parking discounts, new food and drink stalls, website and evening opening – all contributed to renew trader confidence and the market was rejuvenated.
This turnaround was recognised by winning the 2020 Great British Markets award for best small indoor market with over 1million visitors in 2019 and a waiting list for market stalls.
2020 presented us with a whole new set of challenges but the pandemic brought the best out of everyone involved in the market – traders stepped up to serve the community offering new ways to collaborate with one another and go the extra mile to offer deliveries and ensure everyone could be served whether in person or remotely. Market staff set up a new Al Fresco eating area which enabled the popular Foodie Fridays and late opening on Saturdays to continue when permitted.
Here are a few reminders why Chester Market should be the top location to grow your business:
Chester is the No.1 Vitality retail destination in the North West, and within the top twenty nationally
HDH Vitality Ranking 2020
Chester is the third best place to live in the 2020 UK Hot Housing Index, and top in the North West.
Source: Property Week/CACI
Chester West and Chester has over 35 million day visitors and 1.5 million staying visitors
Source: STEAM Annual Report for 2018 (Global Solutions UK)
1.3 million people live within a 30-minute drive of Chester
Source: Census 2011
We have a growing £30 billion Cheshire regional economy
Source: Cheshire & Warrington LEP
Chester has been crowned City of the Year in the 2020/21 Staycation Awards
Source: i Newspaper
In 2019 the council committed to developing a new market as part of the £70m Northgate development in the city centre and a new market hall will open in early 2022, alongside a new cinema, public square, car park; a short walk from its current home and adjacent to Storyhouse.
We have massive ambitions for the new market; to build on its recent success and deliver a significant step-change in environment, choice and experience. It will establish a new benchmark for city centre markets, blending traditional character, range and value alongside innovative new approaches.
The people of Chester have shared with us what matters to them about a market. We have held extensive consultation events which have informed the Chester Market Vision & Manifesto. We are setting high standards for traders, event organisers and our staff to deliver the best market possible. The vision driving the new market is to be a ‘modern traditional market.’
From nutrition to sustainability, creativity to inclusivity we can’t wait to open and share the good times ahead and we want only the best traders who share our ambitions to be part of the new market. It establishes the principles, quality and pricing standards and environmental imperatives for users of the market and the way the market is managed.
We need traders to sign-up to our Market Manifesto, and demonstrate how they will play their part and work with us in partnership to deliver its key principles:
Good for the Planet
Good for Chester
Good for Gatherings
Good for Good Food
Good for the Community
Good for Business
See more at: https://newchester.market/all-good
How were trader applications evaluated?
Traders were asked to complete an application form and provide evidence of their trading history or provide an optional business plan. Each application was scored against a wide set of criteria which included their experience, marketing strategy and business viability; in order that the process could be as fair and equitable as possible. All information provided was treated in strict confidence; we needed this information to ensure that each business within the new market will have a strong chance of being successful. Lots of thriving businesses together will make the overall market stronger, as each successful business will bring their own customer base and add to the overall trader mix.
Why did some existing traders not apply?
All existing traders were encouraged to apply, and although a number of existing traders did not apply, some have taken the opportunity to use the market as a springboard to opening their own high-street premises or consolidate into more direct to customer businesses, whilst a small number have elected to retire rather than move to the new market. Each trader was given the opportunity to discuss their individual options with us to help them decide if applying for a place in the new market was the right decision for their business.
Were traders supported to make an application?
Yes, as a result of feedback from traders we simplified the application process, gave traders the opportunity to select their stall location and make a bid for their preferred rental charge, plus we extended the closing date by two weeks to allow for more time to submit and answered many clarification questions. We also provided two free workshops delivered by the Chamber of Commerce to help traders develop their application and offer impartial advice on financial, marketing and legal issues.
Who was on the evaluation panel for trader applications at the new market?
There were both local and non-local members of the panel with ample knowledge of the current market; the evaluation panel was made up of the Council’s Markets Team and external advisers – some with nationally recognised expertise in developing markets as well as local business representation. The Council is obliged by law to achieve best value in all its property transactions and this process ensured that it could meet this obligation.
Were new traders given priority over existing traders?
No, all existing traders and prospective traders were given equal opportunity to gain a place in the new market. We aim to attract the best mix of traders and therefore developed a fair and consistent process that applied to both existing and new traders.
Were existing traders be given any recognition for their contribution to the success of the current market?
Yes, the evaluation took into account existing traders’ previous experience and track record; and their application was looked at more favourably than an identical one that has not traded in Chester Market. However, we recommended that existing traders took the opportunity to re-evaluate their current business model as part of the application process and set their aspirations and objectives in line with our ambitious plans for the new market.
Why was a central bar rather than a number of individual traders selling alcohol decided upon?
The central bar will not be run by the council but by an experienced independent bar operator. It is hoped that the bar operator will also provide the front of house service (cleaning tables, washing up etc.) for all food and beverage traders, this will provide a consistent and more efficient way to manage this service. Although the central bar will provide the vast majority of alcohol sales, there is scope for some traders to sell specialist alcoholic drinks if they complement their food offer. All food traders can sell soft drinks if they wish.
Why were existing traders asked to apply for places in the new market?
Chester Market is beginning an exciting new chapter in its history with a move to a new purpose-built market hall at the heart of the Northgate development. As a result, we want to attract the best mix of traders and provide a fair and consistent process that will apply to both existing and new traders.
Some traders have previously successfully applied in the past to move to the new market, why did they have to apply again?
The previous selection process was undertaken in 2016 as part of the recruitment process for the original Chester Northgate scheme. Lots has changed since 2016 with the new market now being at the heart of the reimagined Phase 1 scheme currently under construction. Markets have continued to evolve, and this is reflected in the recent success of the existing market in Chester. We believe that the most equitable way to deliver the new market that Chester deserves was to hold a trader recruitment process that gave all existing (many of whom weren’t here in 2016) and prospective traders the same opportunity to apply at the same time.
Were any new traders offered places?
Yes, the Council promoted the opportunity to both existing and new traders in order to achieve the optimum tenant mix.
How will further places be filled in the new market?
Once the leases have been agreed with the first round of traders that have been offered a place, we will look at targeting our recruitment at filling gaps in the range of traders already selected. It is critical that the council get the tenant mix right in order to deliver a modern, traditional market.
Rental terms are different than in the existing market and rents are higher – why?
This is a unique opportunity and like nothing else currently available in Chester. The rental terms at the existing market have changed little since they were set by the former Chester City Council many years ago. Traders currently only pay approx. 50% of the current cost of running the market and have enjoyed some of the lowest rental levels in the UK. Rents are therefore heavily subsidised by the Council and whilst we were able to do that in the past, our financial position means that we can no longer retain this subsidy. The proposed rent is also comparable against similar markets in other cities across the country and is in the middle of that range, to reflect the step-change in environment and facilities the new market will provide.
Food and beverage traders will pay a percentage of the turnover as a rent which increasingly is a model that works in markets and high streets across the UK. This means that traders do not have the barrier of high fixed costs and both the trader and the Council benefits if the overall market is a success. This approach also shares the rental cost and risk between the trader and the council.
What will happen to any existing traders that have not been offered a place in the new market?
For those that are unsuccessful, we have offered individual feedback to explain the reasons for our decision. The Council has alternative markets or retail premises that could be offered to help relocate existing traders to or offered to new applicants. Traders are encouraged to discuss this with the Market Manager. We will also offer confidential support to any trader that did not wish to apply for a stall in the new market and help them plan their future beyond the closure of the existing market.
Will existing traders receive any compensation when the current market closes?
In some cases, existing traders’ leases mean that they are entitled to compensation from the Council when the current market closes. We will offer individual support to traders if this applies and any compensation calculation and payments will remain confidential.
How will the new market be different to the current market?
The new market will have a strong food and drink offer with approx. 35% food and beverage stalls alongside produce, general merchandise and service traders to create a modern traditional market. We have massive ambitions for the new market; to build on its recent success and deliver a significant step-change in environment, choice and experience. It will establish a new benchmark for city centre markets, blending traditional character, range and value alongside innovative new approaches. There will be a stage and screen to host events, demonstrations and other community activities.
Will the opening hours change?
Yes, all traders will be required to adhere to the operational hours. The proposed opening will be 6 days a week and closed on Mondays. Opening times are expected to be 8am – 6pm for general merchandise, and for Food and Beverage trading hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am to 10pm Sunday 11am to 9pm. As part of the application process we asked traders to agree to these opening hours.
How will you ensure the new market will provide affordable goods and services?
The Council has no role in setting what traders decide to charge for their goods and services. When reviewing applications, we evaluated traders’ viability based on their business plan and other criteria as per the scoring matrix. Nevertheless, we aim to select a range of traders that can provide an optimum mix of produce, food, drink and services at a range of price points and for all tastes – as per the current market and as set out in our manifesto for the new market.
What will be the loading/unloading and car parking arrangements for the stall holders?
Access will be via Hunter Street to a loading bay, and new multi-storey care park that will serve the Northgate development. There will be access straight from the loading bay into the car park and, subject to interest, we will offer traders a contract with a dedicated parking space.