Bridgend council have this week announced radical plans to restore Bridgend Indoor Market to it’s successful past.
The town has a surplus of commercial property available to rent, meaning that market stalls have been described as comparatively expensive, and high vacancy rates are one of the most common reason traders give for vacating the market.
The market currently costs £360,000 a year to run, but vacancies are leading to the market now having an annual £193,000 deficit.
Cabinet Members from Bridgend County Borough Council have announced a plan to reduce rents as well as agreeing a range of other proposals that are intended to attract new businesses to fill the market’s empty stalls.
New stallholders will be offered the chance to rent stalls at around half the cost of current rents, while existing stallholders will get a significant rent reduction until at least April 2020.
New signage is planned, lease terms will become more flexible, and a central market square could be created which could include an events space and children’s play area.
Councillor Charles Smith, the council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education, said:
“Last winter, we granted existing traders a 15 per cent rent rebate, but a further four stalls have vacated since March and no replacement tenants have been found.
“Everyone agrees that we have to take radical action to bring the buzz and vibrancy back to the indoor market. This decline cannot continue.
“While we need to be mindful of our own leasehold costs, we believe that it would be more fruitful to lower rents and fill the vacant stalls which in turn would generate more income in the long run.
“Watts & Morgan, our agents who are marketing the stall spaces, will be able to attract new traders by offering initial rents at up to 52 per cent of the current level. We are aiming for this incentive to help boost the number of occupied stalls back up to at least 85 per cent.
Market traders are also in agreement with relaxing the current lease terms which prevent new traders from selling products that are already on sale elsewhere in the indoor market. For example, two butchers or two flower stalls. Traders are now open to lifting these restraints, accepting that more potential customers visiting the market is good for everyone’s business.
Councillor Smith continued:
“This plan is the result of a close working partnership between the council, market traders, the Rhiw Shopping Centre, Bridgend Town Council, the CF31 business improvement group, local elected members and more.
“It recognises a number of difficult truths and presents a series of realistic, viable proposals while also making it clear that it is not enough to expect the council to turn things around on its own. The recent trader-led craft fair initiative with council support is a good example of this combined approach.
“We all have a part to play, from us making the market as pleasant a place to visit as possible, to ultimately the traders selling products that customers want. With the support of local residents, I have every hope that we can make a great success of the market if we all work together.”