Nearly half a million fewer people visited Sheffield’s new The Moor Market in its first 12 months compared with the final year of the old Castle Market, figures have shown.
Traders moving from the historic Castle Market, which is currently being demolished, had hoped for about 100,000 shoppers a week at the new £18 million development – 5.2 million a year.
However, figures obtained through The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign show just 3,147,124 people visited The Moor Market in the first 12 months following its opening in November 2013 – 470,000 less than the 3,616,604 people who visited Castle Market up to November 2012 – the last comparable year for which figures are available.
And on some weeks in 2015, visitor numbers at The Moor Market fell below 46,000.
Sheffield Council is now taking the drastic step of slashing traders’ rent by 50 per cent until March 2017, because of the ‘challenging trading conditions’.
Fruit and vegetable stall holder Ian Bingham, of the Market Traders’ Federation, said some stalls had closed or been scaled back in size recently.
He said: “I don’t think the discount will save everybody. The reduced rent is going to be a help, don’t get me wrong, but some people are still paying more in service charge than they were paying for rent and service charges at Castle Market.
“I don’t want to knock the market, because it is much nicer than Castle, but we are just not getting enough people in.
“We had to move from Castle because the place just wasn’t up to scratch, but have we moved too early into this area? We feel The Moor itself hasn’t been fully developed.”
The council is currently seeking a florists and fish and chip stall for the market.
Chris Wong, who runs Cakelicious patisserie, said a wider variety of traders were needed.
He said: “With the discount, I would save just £150 a month – it’s not a big difference. Some people complain the market doesn’t have a lot of choice because many traders have gone.
“They say the market is getting footfall of 50,000, but it feels like 40,000 – a lot of people come in just to use the toilets.”
Some traders also said axing the FreeBee bus, a free city centre link service, meant less people could get to the market.
However, others were more optimistic.
Jonathan Youdan, of S&J’s Pantry, which has doubled in size since opening, said it was still early days.
He said: “There’s been such a lot of negative publicity and untruths circulating. People say it is difficult to get to the market, but we come by bus every morning on the same bus we used to get to Castle and stay on a few extra stops.
“The market has been open for less than two years, any business on this sort of scale takes time to find its place.
“The raw statistics don’t tell the full story. We are taking more than we did at Castle Market, so when people talk about footfall my response is these feet have got bigger wallets than the ones at Castle.”
The figures show 125,000 people visited The Moor Market in its opening week. However, on two weeks in 2015 numbers slumped as low as 45,447 or 45,672.
The lowest footfall figure given for Castle Market stood at 46,153 at the end of December 2012.
Traders were given a rent-free period of six months when the new market opened, which was then extended for another three months.
Richard Eyre, Sheffield Council’s head of city centre management, said footfall was ‘slightly below that at Castle Market’, but on a par with the surrounding area.
He said: “Of course, we would ideally like footfall at The Moor Market to be higher and we are confident it will rise when many of the developments on the wider The Moor area come through to fruition.”
And he said there was a packed programme of family summer events for the market.
Mr Eyre said: “We hope this will encourage more people to find out just what it has to offer, especially as July is Independent Retailer Month, I encourage people to come out and support the biggest collection of independent retailers in the region.”
He said he hoped the discount for traders would help them and ‘reward their efforts for trading through this period’.