Traders turned away from St Albans market stalls
- Credit: Archant
A MARKET seller claims “disorganised” officials have twice limited the number of stalls in the city centre, turning away at least 16 people and resulting in a loss of profit for both the council and traders.
The trader, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been operating a stall on St Albans market for 13 years and said he had seen at least six people turned away last Saturday due to an incorrect amount of stalls with 10 turned away three weeks ago.
He went on: “They’ve been turning people away since after Christmas. If you’ve got bad weather and it’s cold, people are still going to turn up and expect to get on.
“I spoke to the market manager and he said it [the amount of stalls] was because of lack of traders.”
After seeing people turned away first-hand, he insisted the council was not putting out the right amount of frames: “They make it up as they go along.”
The clothes seller said: “That’s nearly £500 quid lost in revenue for the council. It’s just disorganisation.”
He pointed out that the traders turned away could be losing anywhere from £300 to £500 in profit for missing a day’s work.
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While he lives in Bricket Wood, some people affected by the stall shortage had come from as far afield as Northampton, meaning a failed trip to trade has an even greater impact. He added: “You don’t make it [the money] up. People are very upset.”
He maintained it deterred traders from coming back to trade at the market.
Another market worker said all the frames should be put out in the morning as empty stalls would be a better consequence than having to turn people away.
The female trader, who has worked in St Peter’s Street for 30 years, said the council needed to do more to promote the market and should regularly consult stallholders about upcoming decisions: “Anything they decide to do they ram-rod it through without any consultation.
“It’s [the market] so down now especially on a Wednesday. There’s nothing that the council seems to do to promote the market. All in all if it is going to survive something needs to be radically changed.”
She suggested they could introduce street entertainment or reinstate free car parking on a Wednesday and Saturday for customers: “There’s lots of ways they could promote it. If someone buys something from you they could get a free parking ticket.”
And she said that in the winter months they should be given free rent as the traders were the people working to keep it going when numbers were down: “Ultimately we are their [the council’s] customers, without us they may not have jobs. They’re here to help us in a sense.”
Referring to a 2010 market study, Richard Shwe, St Albans council’s head of community services, said the Wednesday market attracted around twice as many visitors to St Peter’s Street compared to a non-market day, while on a Saturday it attracted a little under twice the number.
He said: “In general, the number of stalls required for Wednesday is 130, and Saturday 160. The market is built on the day it takes place.
“The number of stalls built is based on the previous week’s occupancy, weather forecasts, seasonal expectations and the known availability of traders. We very rarely build an insufficient number of stalls. Permanent traders will always be offered a pitch. Any remaining pitches will be offered to casual traders, who may not always accept them due to the location and expected trade.
“On rare occasions some of our casual traders may be unable to secure a pitch. This occurred recently on Saturday, March 30, when snow was forecast.”
Mr Shwe added: “The market was built based on attendance levels of the previous Saturday, March 23, when 133 stalls were erected, but only 49 traders turned up due to snow. On March 30, we built 138 stalls and, despite the forecast of snow, 138 were sold.
“This shows that it is extremely difficult to gauge demand; however, we try to do our best as we know that the market contributes significantly to a vibrant city centre.”
n This week the Herts Advertiser is launching our new campaign, Don’t Stall Our Market, which aims to raise awareness of our ancient market, the diverse range of products available there, and the challenges faced by traders. You can have your say on the market by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org