28 Sep 2012

St Helens Market Traders Await Council Decision

Market Traders in St Helens await Council Decision
Market Traders await a decision
A number of small businesses in St Helens are awaiting a decision from St Helens Council after they were told this week that their rent would be increasing by 300%.

During a refurbishment of St Mary's Market earlier this year, St Helens Council placed extra stalls for the new Saturday Market with an affordable £10 per day rental. This initiative was influenced by the Mary Portas review of Town Centres which aimed to make trading for small businesses easier and to kick start the nations struggling town centres.

The Saturday market in St Helens has helped several small and startup businesses within the borough. The news of the rent increase however has come as a huge blow and at a time when these businesses are preparing for the Christmas period.

St Helens Market
Nappy Days - one of the affected businesses
We spoke with Lesley Pile, owner of Nappy Days, a new business that sells handmade gifts for baby showers and also a line of pamper gifts. She told us "The new dramatic rent increase came as a huge shock to us all, and all the traders have said they cannot now afford to continue in the Market. The Saturday Market has only been approx 50% occupied, at best, since it started on 21st July 2012. Rather than encourage new traders to come in, this increase will deter new traders and I cannot see how the Saturday Market can continue to operate."

Lesley went on further to say "My business is still in its infancy and I cannot currently afford to rent a permanent stall or shop/unit. The Saturday Market was the first rung on the ladder for me to establish my brand and make it more visible to the public. Now I will need to look elsewhere for that opportunity, potentially outside the Borough where I've already discovered this week I can have a permanent unit for half the proposed cost of the temporary one in St Marys, that would be a terrible shame for our town centre."

We also contacted Steve Littler, Estates Manager at St Helens MBC to ask for a comment about the proposed rent increase, Steve provided us with a response as follows: "As part of the refurbishment of St. Mary’s Market the council placed extra stalls in it for the new Saturday market to encourage new start ups with a £10 fee for the day. This was broadly in line with recommendations made in the Mary Portas review of Town Centres and was very much seen as an incentive to get businesses started. The increased rent of £30 applies to those businesses that have been coming for 4 weeks or more which is still very reasonable and an inexpensive way for newcomers to sell their goods. The idea was to give people a start on the entrepreneurial ladder in as cheap a way as possible in an established Town Centre retail environment. Consideration is currently being give to a phased increase in the charge in order to provide further assistance."

 Lesley and the other market traders are hopeful that the Council will re think their rent increase and continue to support small local businesses.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for highlighting this issue for us.
    Whilst Steve Littler and St Helens Council may feel that £30 (plus VAT) is a reasonable rent, in light of the fact that this market has received no advertising since it opened in July, and the majority of the St Helens public are unaware of its existence, it is hard to see how this three-fold increase can be justified. If the market has poor footfall, the traders will have poor sales, and will not be able to afford the increase in their rent. We all hope to see trade improve in the run up to Christmas but, until this is seen to be the case an increase in rent to £30 (plus VAT)would be hugely detrimental to our businesses. As far as my own business is concerned, it would not be financially viable to continue to trade in this market without a significant increase in footfall, leading to regular sales.