Page 26 - MarketTimesOctober2020
P. 26

MARKET TIMES • OCTOBER 2020 The COVID rent crisis
exposed the good, the bad — and the ugly
   Gunther Giangregorio and his mother Roswitha
WHEN the COVID-19 pandemic came to a head in March and a lockdown was announced, there wasn’t a shadow of doubt in Colin Wolstenholme’s mind.
Bradford’s Markets Manager said: “We felt it was very important to support our traders. We made a very quick decision to cancel rather than suspend rent to remove any cash flow uncertainties for our traders.
“Whilst some essential food traders were operating in a limited way, their rents were also cancelled. In such unprecedented times, we didn’t feel it was sustainable to charge, or delay, rents even though some market traders qualified for limited Government support.”
Colin runs Bradford wholesale market and two retail markets in the city, the Oastler and Kirkgate, whilst overseeing the development of a new retail market in the city centre which will replace the existing ones in 18 months time.
ensure that those who could survive do.
Colin said that included supporting an online market shopping site, Bradford Street Market, which has built up to 4,000 subscribers who order produce and products online one day a week.
Traders operated a delivery service during lockdown and the plan is for this online service to be developed through the appointment by the council of a co-ordinator.
Whilst some local authorities and private operators took the same view as Colin and waived rents during lockdown, others “suspended” them, leaving traders uncertain as to whether they would face a big rent bill at some time in the future.
A significant number of market operators insisted on charging rent for all traders despite the fact that all non-food traders were unable to trade and food traders had a much reduced customer base that left many traders in the preposterous position that they were being charged full rent to trade on a market that their council had closed.
The NMTF tackled the issues head on. As well as lobbying the Government to allow markets to open in the same way as supermarkets were able to sell their full range of products, NMTF CEO Joe Harrison wrote to the chief executives and leaders of all local authorities putting the case to keep markets open for the sale of food and essential products, and for a rent holiday for traders not allowed to trade.
In his letter, Joe said: “Although some traders are in a position to claim grants, many others fall through the net.
“Many traders, particularly on outdoor markets, simply do not qualify. And those who can obtain grants will need the money to prop up their businesses.”
Joe added: “Whatever the situation paying rent for a stall or unit that cannot be used is a burden that will see many of these small businesses disappear.”
Mother and son bought the cheese stall next door and over the years they have developed it into one of the largest true delicatessens in West Yorkshire.
A number of celebrities have discovered the market gem, among them Jamie Oliver, the chef Gennaro Contaldo, Great British Bake-Off’s Sandy Docherty and former Coronation Street actor turned cheese producer Sean Wilson, who played Martin Platt in the soap opera.
The deli sells everything from continental meats and cheeses to pasta, tinned produce, fresh bread and confectionary; from continental produce to speciality spirits, liqueurs and beers from across Europe.
Roswitha’s homemade baked cheesecakes and speciality sausages made in the shop are best sellers.
Gunther said the COVID-19 virus had created big challenges. “We had staff shortages but my son was off school and another family member
was able to help,” he said. Contactless and payment over the
phone became important, so Gunther switched from his existing service which had a high per cent age charge, to a better one.
“We hadn’t done too much on Facebook before but we started using it to advertise the fact that we had access to flour, yeast and other products that everyone wanted,” Gunther said.
They started a delivery service and many new customers who came on board during lockdown have continued to buy their deli products from Roswitha’s.
“We will be moving to the new Darley Street Market in 18 months and we now have a good model in this market where four businesses including ourselves have an online commerce site,” he said.
He hopes the new market will be able to build on this online presence and offer a delivery service which he believes could be the future for market trading.
  Traders and shoppers on
outdoor markets — no need
to wear face masks
Colin Wolstenholme
He said the more difficult decision over rents was the reopening phase. “We have put together a package of support which saw traders paying just the service charge, then paying a reduced rent which is gradually increased month on month.”
He said the council’s priority was to help traders re-establish their businesses in an environment where footfall on the indoor markets was down by 50 to 60 per cent.
“With a new market in development, we have a vested interest in helping our traders. Our role is business support,” he said.
Whilst some traders might fail, the council was doing everything to
Dateline 24.09.2020.
AS THE second wave of COVID- 19 restrictions was announced it was made clear that neither traders nor shoppers will be compelled to wear face coverings on outdoor markets in England.
Some people had thrown doubt on this — though the NMTF has always maintained that since outdoor markets are in the fresh air shoppers should be encouraged to visit them — especially since they could be mask-free.
And that appears to have worked with anecdotal evidence showing that outdoor markets are seeing a
resurgence of footfall.
Guidance from the Government
made it all quite clear:
“The new measures will extend
the requirement to staff where it already exists for customers in retail environments.
“This would therefore apply to all indoor market settings (where it currently applies to customers) but not outdoor settings (where it currently does not).
“In essence the new rules will only apply in indoor settings and the rules for outdoor markets are unchanged.”

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