Council bosses are hoping for a surge in festive footfall at the Moor Market after a new business plan was implemented.
City centre chiefs claim the new plan is successful after it slashed market traders’ rent by almost 50 per cent in July amid difficult trading conditions.
Trader occupancy rates have soared from 70 per cent to 82 per cent in the last six months and it is hoped visitor numbers will increase accordingly – but the market is in debt by more than £500,000.
Some 15 new traders have opened a stall in recent weeks – or are due to move in soon – including a bespoke barbers, a new flower stall and a Portugese deli. Festive family activities are also planned.
The council is confident footfall will increase over the festive period despite visitor levels remaining the same over the last 12 months.
It follows a council report which warned low viability of the market businesses had led to a ‘high level of bad debt’ and there ‘may be further risk’ if stall lettings cannot be held or rent collections do not improve.
In July, The Star revealed almost half a million fewer people visited the market in its first 12 months compared with the final year of the old Castle Market.
Richard Eyre, head of city centre management and major events at Sheffield Council, said: “This rise in our occupancy rates is down to a new and successful business plan for the market, which has offered a number of incentives for those wishing to take a stall.
“These have included putting traditional wooden barrows in the entrance to the market, which traders can rent for just £25 a day – these have been so successful that they are fully booked throughout Christmas.
“In July, we also introduced a 50 per cent rent reduction for both existing and new traders, which will run until March 31, 2017.
“This has encouraged traders to increase the size of their stalls and has also brought new traders into the market. We hoped initiatives such as this would help stallholders and reward their efforts for trading through what we know have been challenging trading conditions, while we await further development of the Moor. We now know this effort has been successful, which is fantastic news for traders and shoppers alike.”
Commenting on the debt, Mr Eyre said: “As we work to a new and improved business plan for the Moor Market, we have had to invest additional cash in order to boost trading conditions for stallholders.”
In addition to reducing rent, this include providing grants for new traders to fit out their stalls and spending money on improving the ‘vibrancy of the market environment’.