Shopper numbers at Sheffield’s new Moor Market are barely half those the council hoped - and a dozen stallholders have quit just six months in, The Star can reveal today.
Recorded visitor numbers currently stand at around 59,000 - 60 per cent of the intended weekly 100,000 target.
Twelve disillusioned stallholders have handed in their notice already.
And Sheffield Council has raised the idea of potentially refinancing the market, which cost £18 million to build and which opened to a fanfare last November.
Opening hours are to be reviewed, and a grace period of free rent for stallholders extended - but traders are divided on changes to opening hours.
“We are not Asda, we don’t want to work 24 hours a day,” said Joanne Wade, who owns R&J Quality Butchers with husband Bob.
“Our wholesalers don’t work weekends anyway, so any stock we’d be selling on a Sunday would be from Friday.
“What they need to do is publicise the market more, and get empty stalls taken.”
Late night opening, and Sunday trading, have both been mooted as ideas to improve footfall - vaunted at 90,000 to 100,000 people a week, but which last week stood at only 58,877.
Other suggestions include new promotion, special events, and introducing online ordering.
Shoppers have also voiced disappointment the market was shut during the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday of last weekend’s Sheffield Food Festival - an event which was moved specifically to The Moor in order to boost trade.
But some traders, who already work up to 84 hours a week with Sunday their only day off, said longer hours would not help.
Susannah Yowdon, who runs S&J’s Pantry with husband Jonathan, said: “At 5pm each day there is nobody here anyway. If customers were running through the door and queuing around the corner, it would be different.”
But some traders said opening later than 5.30pm might work.
Sean Clarke, of Beer Central, said: “It would benefit us because we sell beer. But there are other traders who have important morning business. It’s difficult to balance.”
And Lynn Parker, co-manager at The Shoe Shop, added: “The quicker we get Sunday and evening openings, the better.”
Mick Cull, chairman of the Sheffield branch of the National Market Traders Federation, said he was ‘sad’ new traders had closed but it might ‘take longer than first anticipated’ to make things work.
The council said that, of the 12 stallholders who have quit, five blamed footfall.
Andy Ward, head of markets at Sheffield Council, said the market did not open for two thirds of the food festival because only 22 traders had been in favour of the idea - with 68 against.
He admitted it was a ‘missed opportunity’ but added there were issues with stock, staffing, and security.
Traders will be now asked for their views on opening hours, and are to get three extra months free rent, with three months at half price to follow, because of the low footfall. They do pay a service charge.
Mr Ward said: “Footfall is a disappointment but not totally unexpected. It is very patchy and I think the food offer in general does well.”
On opening times, he said it was ‘absolutely understood’ traders worked long hours.
But he added: “A number of shoppers have been saying for some time it is difficult if they work to get to the market on any day but Saturday.
“In order to survive you have to adapt to what customers want - that’s what retail is all about.”
Shopper Bill Stewardson said he did not like the new market. “Boarded up stalls, dank atmosphere, footsteps echoing - why bother?” he asked.
And many blamed the end of the Freebee bus service for them not shopping there.
Vivienne Johnson said: “It’s too far away from the bus or tram for me, and there’s no Freebee bus now.”
Julie Sargeant added: “The market was promised the Freebee bus would be kept on.”
TRADERS’ VOX POP
“I already work 60 hours a week and can’t afford to pay staff. I do have a life outside this building.”
Jonathan Yowdon, of S&J’s Pantry
“If there is a lot of feedback saying people want a late night I would be willing to give that a go.
“But I’m not a big fan of Sundays - we do a lot of hours and have families too.”
Ian Bingham, of Bingham’s fruit and veg
“I think this market is probably open for more hours than most. A late night would be of benefit to us.”
Sean Clarke, of Beer Central
“I’m not sure longer hours would make a difference because my business is so specialist. We started in a small unit and have expanded.”
James Parkin, of Make or Bake cake decorating