Page 44 - MarketTimesJune2016
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fact that it still had that market buzz that the public love so much.
“North Weald in its heyday was one of the biggest and most successful outdoor markets in the country. In the south east we had North Weald, Blackbushe and Wembley and traders need these big markets,” he said.
Both Blackbushe and Wembley are no more.
Many a market trader has launched a successful business at North Weald. Traders can stand one or two quiet markets if they can rely on a sell-out day there, Gary says.
“The industry has lost a couple of these big, busy markets and it simply couldn’t afford to lose North Weald too,” Gary said.
Thankfully that has not happened. The Saunders team came up with a three-phase strategy they aim to deliver over 18 months. Phase one was stemming the decline and ensuring existing traders stayed put and were confident the market had a much brighter future. Phase two is identifying and recruiting new traders who are a good match for the market, with the right offer for the local community.
Phase three will be to reach out to the local community and beyond, and to make the market at North Weald airfield a must-visit destination, not just for shopping but for a day out, creating a hive of activity and a community hub.
Saunders has set the bar pretty high, but the indications are that they are already making better progress than they thought possible.
“When we took over there were around 90 traders and it was the start of the kipper season,” Nick Saunders said.
They made the decision to offer existing
traders the incentive of a rent-free December if they signed up for a year of trading, and rent went down to £5 a foot when the new company took over.
They also instigated a raft of changes to improve the market. And they are encouraging and supporting traders to do their bit, spreading the word to recruit new traders and taking to Facebook and Twitter to promote their stalls and the market.
Gary said: “Our priority from the outset was to establish solid working relationships with existing traders, based on honesty and respect. We know that the strength of the market depends on the traders and they need to trust us and have confidence that this market has a good future.”
The team made operational improvements including the layout — Gary and his team hate gaps, and they do their best to make the market look its best each market day, which isn’t as easy as it sounds as they never know which casuals will turn up on any given day.
Uniformed managers meticulously position casuals in the best location for all the traders.
And a five-man security team has been introduced.
Already the improvements are paying off. Each week has seen an increase in the number of traders standing the market — up to 160 by the time Market Times visited in April. It was a cold, wet day, but even so there were plenty of punters.
The footfall count shows a weekly rise in people shopping at the market. It averages at 900 visitors an hour and goes up to 1,500 per hour on sunny days.
The team believes that social media has
played a big part in promoting the market. Its Facebook page grew to 2,500 likes in less than three months, boosted by the “Big North Weald Giveaway”, a promotion that sees a selection of goodies from the market going to a different Facebook follower who “likes” the market every week.
Such a big turnaround can’t be achieved overnight, but Gary and Nick believe they are on their way, and the traders are also feeling positive.
Justin said: “I am very optimistic about the future on this market and I’m looking forward to it. I drive two hours here and two hours back. I try my hardest here and I have one of the best pitches. The operators are listening to the traders.”
And Peter said: “They are putting the effort in and hopefully it will pay off.”
North Weald is a typical general market with something for everyone.
Where else but Essex would you get a down- to-earth stall selling vacuum accessories next to a stall selling designer, hand-made accessories for pampered pooches?
Mark Curran, the vacuum cleaner spares man, is a follower of the management style of Saunders Markets and decided to try North Weald because he stands their other markets including Nine Elms and likes the way they run things.
Next door Gill Wild has been standing North Weald market for 10 years since starting her Designer Pets business.
Gill owns five chihuahuas and started making her own coats and accessories for them when she couldn’t find what she wanted anywhere else.
  Justin Healey, who sells seasonal goods which means garden Peter Harnett and his sister Kathryn do well on North Weald airfield products and furniture at this time of year, is pictured on his stall
market where they have been selling plants for the past 25 years at North Weald
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