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Growing a Market

Posted by on 25 June 2014 | 0 Comments

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Bringing Life Back to Coalville Market

This is going to be an ongoing article as we progress to becoming a thriving market at the heart of the town centre.  But the very beginning is less happy reading.

I have been asked, as a member of Coalville Town Team, to co-ordinate a project which will involve the North West Leicestershire District Council as the market managers, the Market Traders and the Town Team.  The aim of the project is to bring life back to the market hall and fill the empty stalls with new and exciting things to buy. 

So, let's go back to the very beginning of how I came to be involved.  I had decided to go along to the Love Your Local Market Roadshow in Nottingham, thinking that there should be a way that mealsinfields could become involved.  I remember sitting in the meeting and thinking "what am I doing here, everyone else manages a market?"  At some point I realised that the information might be useful for the Town Team and the events we organise so started making notes.  At the very next Town Team meeting the problems with the market were raised and I was asked to get involved.

I listened to others at first and became concerned that we had a situation which was potentially irreversable.  That was when I decided to stop listening and start to talk to the people at the heart of the crisis.  First stop the Council Offices.

Along with two other members of the Town Team, I was introduced to the two people in the Council who are responsible for the market.  The obvious question was what do the council want to see, what plans do they have and how much money are they able to ear-mark.  Third question first - not a lot!!  They had already decided that work was needed on the fabric of the market hall and a budget had been set for that with a timetable which would see the job completed in September.  They had planned some free taster days to co-incide with the LYLM2014 fortnight and a few more when the refurbishment was finished, and ideas for special events.

With the help of Aide on the bike stall, I arranged a meeting of all the market traders.  Personal invitations were written and sent to all the traders inviting them to meet in the Market Cafe at the end of trading on a Tuesday afternoon.  About a dozen people turned up.  I had been warned to expect a bumpy ride, but in fact everyone wanted the market to succeed and everyone contributed ideas.  It was one of the most positive and productive meetings I have ever chaired.  So much for rumour - these guys want a vibrant market and a vibrant town centre, and are willing to play a constructive role in the process.

The most important aspect was that far from the situation I had been told to expect, both the Council and the Traders wanted the best for the market and for Coalville - the need was for someone neutral to pull those ideas together into an effective action plan and to guide the plan along.  My role was therefore defined.

The Council, true to their word, began the improvements to the market hall which includes relocating the public toilets from outside the main entrance to the market hall to a position within the market hall building.  When completed this will give the market hall an open space and a very obvious public entrance - something which has always been lacking.

The really exciting project was the one suggested by the traders.  They pointed out that free taster days have been tried in the past, but as the stallholders only have the one day, they don't see the market as a full-time career option and just don't return.  The traders wanted to see a project which would include education for potential new stall holders so that they were properly prepared to start in a new business venture and on-going support from existing traders who have the benefit of experience.  They also wanted anyone on the new program to commit to trading for eight weeks, so that they would be in a better trading position and really understand the ups and downs of the market.

When the Council heard the proposition, they immediately agreed to drop their taster days in favour of the training and support alternative.  The Market Growth Initiative was born and we began by targeting schools, colleges, the JobCentre and other employment agencies with leaflets and phone calls.  Council officials began a search for funding to help the new traders over the start up period and a detailed training program to run for four weeks during the summer was drawn up.  Press releases and advertisements were prepared and distributed.  Presenters have been identified and invited to speak at the training sessions.  All the traders who attended the initial meeting have agreed to mentor a new trader.  In fact, we are all good to go.

All we are waiting for now is applications for the stalls.  Watch this space.

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