‘Council must treat this as wake-up call’

thisisoxfordshire: Mary-Ann Price and Vicki Alder outside Oxford Boot Store, which is closing after 37 years Buy this photo Mary-Ann Price and Vicki Alder outside Oxford Boot Store, which is closing after 37 years

OXFORD’S historic Covered Market faces “unprecedented” upheaval, with roughly one in six businesses looking to sell up.

Traders are blaming a threatened hike in rent costs and competition from the internet.

Of the 58 businesses at the city centre market, 10 are looking to move on.

The latest casualty is The Oxford Boot Store, which is set to close after more than two decades.

The store is part of Macsamillion, which started from a stall in the market in the early 1970s before launching a store in 1975.

Macsamillion chairman Vicki Alder, 50, from Grove, said: “This was not an easy decision to take because this is a family business.

“The rent and the Internet were the two big factors – the city council was asking us for a 40 per cent rent increase in the current negotiations, which is tough when takings have come down.”

Macsamillion runs two Macsamillion stores as well as The Oxford Boot Store.

But ‘closing down’ signs have gone up in the window of the boot store, which opened in the mid-1980s.

The shop will remain trading until the lease is sold, with the two staff redeployed to Macsamillion.

“Perhaps this will be a wake-up call to the council that they could face losing independent traders from the market,” said Ms Alder.

Oxford-based property management company Central Business Agency is now handling the sale of leases.

Partner Stephen Reeves said: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and this is an exceptional period for the Covered Market.

“This is unprecedented – there are a number of traders disenchanted by high rents and other factors.

“We have also been consulted by several other traders about the possibility of selling."

Four of the 10 are to be sold as going concerns, but six are looking to close down. Currently there are no vacant premises at the market, which opened in 1774. The 10 leases have been on the market for the last six to nine months.

Earlier this year it emerged that rent increases faced by traders in the historic market off High Street varied between 40 per cent and 70 per cent, and rents on the shops are being reviewed by landlord Oxford City Council.

Sandie Griffith, a spokesman for the Covered Market Traders’ Association, who runs Jemini flower shop, estimated that up to 30 per cent of total floor space – 27,700sq ft – was for sale.

She added: “A lot of traders are frightened by the latest rent increase being proposed, and I can’t afford to stay here.”

Leases are also up for sale at The Oxford Engraver and children’s clothes shop Two Foot Nothing.

Alex French, 22, assistant manager at the engraving shop, said: “We are facing a 40 per cent rent increase and have already gone down from three units to one.”

The market’s leasing strategy says chains are not generally permitted, and some traders complained when national chain Cards Galore took over the former Palms delicatessen shop earlier this year.

The council says it routinely reviews the rents every five years.

Executive member for city development Colin Cook said: “This situation is not just down to high rents. It’s partly as a result of the age of some traders, who are looking to retire and cash in their chips.

“When rents are assessed for market traders we look at close comparators on the high street.”

Comments (13)

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9:45am Thu 18 Oct 12

Cathena says...

The Covered Market is a good tourist attraction: don't wreck it by letting in the chains and don't kill the golden goose by raising the rents sky high. If not careful one day we'll wake up and find it is another student accommodation unit.
The Covered Market is a good tourist attraction: don't wreck it by letting in the chains and don't kill the golden goose by raising the rents sky high. If not careful one day we'll wake up and find it is another student accommodation unit. Cathena
  • Score: 5

11:25am Thu 18 Oct 12

Dilligaf2010 says...

Trading in the covered market for 37 years, and operating 2 other shops, it's traders like this that are partly responsible for the rising cost of rent surely.
Covered markets should have a peppercorn rent to allow traders the chance to start a business, once they've become established they should then be encouraged to move to alternative premises, independent traders should be given every opportunity to start up, Oxford needs more affordable shops.
Trading in the covered market for 37 years, and operating 2 other shops, it's traders like this that are partly responsible for the rising cost of rent surely. Covered markets should have a peppercorn rent to allow traders the chance to start a business, once they've become established they should then be encouraged to move to alternative premises, independent traders should be given every opportunity to start up, Oxford needs more affordable shops. Dilligaf2010
  • Score: -2

3:18pm Thu 18 Oct 12

paul from Kennington says...

Dilligaf2010 wrote:
Trading in the covered market for 37 years, and operating 2 other shops, it's traders like this that are partly responsible for the rising cost of rent surely.
Covered markets should have a peppercorn rent to allow traders the chance to start a business, once they've become established they should then be encouraged to move to alternative premises, independent traders should be given every opportunity to start up, Oxford needs more affordable shops.
The Covered market was a real jewel until the OTS killed all the passing trade and half the businesses that made it unique went. You must remember Christmas in the central square with all the butchers hanging up their wares from Turkeys to Wild Boar, what a sight that was and it still made me feel like a kid when I was in my forties, all the greengrocers full of colour with all the different fruit and veg surrounding them, now is there even one butcher left in the central square. Sadly the C.M. died long ago, and maybe a few chains to attract footfall is the way forward, it is now full of take-aways and has lost it's "special appeal" of the days when Browns was the only place to eat, and it was a real market. RIP Oxford Covered Market. You have been sadly missed.
[quote][p][bold]Dilligaf2010[/bold] wrote: Trading in the covered market for 37 years, and operating 2 other shops, it's traders like this that are partly responsible for the rising cost of rent surely. Covered markets should have a peppercorn rent to allow traders the chance to start a business, once they've become established they should then be encouraged to move to alternative premises, independent traders should be given every opportunity to start up, Oxford needs more affordable shops.[/p][/quote]The Covered market was a real jewel until the OTS killed all the passing trade and half the businesses that made it unique went. You must remember Christmas in the central square with all the butchers hanging up their wares from Turkeys to Wild Boar, what a sight that was and it still made me feel like a kid when I was in my forties, all the greengrocers full of colour with all the different fruit and veg surrounding them, now is there even one butcher left in the central square. Sadly the C.M. died long ago, and maybe a few chains to attract footfall is the way forward, it is now full of take-aways and has lost it's "special appeal" of the days when Browns was the only place to eat, and it was a real market. RIP Oxford Covered Market. You have been sadly missed. paul from Kennington
  • Score: -50

3:34pm Thu 18 Oct 12

King Joke says...

The butchers STILL hang their turkeys up at Christmas and there is a large fruit + veg stall next to Hayman's fish stall. The market is still a gem but it needs preserving.

It's very disappointing that the City seeks to maximise income from the market rather than maximise amenity and attractiveness to users, but it's legally obliged to do so. To do otherwise suggests accepting higher council taxes to support a facility known for its aesthetic rather than commercial value. I'd be happy with this but it would meet with quite some opposition.

Blaming OTS is nonsense though. A few hundred vehicles an hour is chicken feed compared with the thousands of people milling around on Cornmarket and the top end of The High. Oxford's transport system is clearly succeeding at delivering large numbers of people to within 50 m of the Covered Market - so many in fact that it is hard to move on busy days. If these people are not coming into the Market then it needs to be better promoted. Why in God's name does the main Cornmaket entrance to the Market say 'Golden Cross' instead of 'Covered Market' for instance? The High St entrances are also pretty lack-lustre and need big, bold, bright signs outside promoting the Market.

THe Market may be a gem, but then so is the The High. Ruining THe High by reversing OTS and restoring the nose-to-tail stationary traffic of the 80s and 90s would not bring any more trade back to the Market, as it was proven at the time that most of it was through traffic.
The butchers STILL hang their turkeys up at Christmas and there is a large fruit + veg stall next to Hayman's fish stall. The market is still a gem but it needs preserving. It's very disappointing that the City seeks to maximise income from the market rather than maximise amenity and attractiveness to users, but it's legally obliged to do so. To do otherwise suggests accepting higher council taxes to support a facility known for its aesthetic rather than commercial value. I'd be happy with this but it would meet with quite some opposition. Blaming OTS is nonsense though. A few hundred vehicles an hour is chicken feed compared with the thousands of people milling around on Cornmarket and the top end of The High. Oxford's transport system is clearly succeeding at delivering large numbers of people to within 50 m of the Covered Market - so many in fact that it is hard to move on busy days. If these people are not coming into the Market then it needs to be better promoted. Why in God's name does the main Cornmaket entrance to the Market say 'Golden Cross' instead of 'Covered Market' for instance? The High St entrances are also pretty lack-lustre and need big, bold, bright signs outside promoting the Market. THe Market may be a gem, but then so is the The High. Ruining THe High by reversing OTS and restoring the nose-to-tail stationary traffic of the 80s and 90s would not bring any more trade back to the Market, as it was proven at the time that most of it was through traffic. King Joke
  • Score: 5

6:42pm Thu 18 Oct 12

paul from Kennington says...

King Joke wrote:
The butchers STILL hang their turkeys up at Christmas and there is a large fruit + veg stall next to Hayman's fish stall. The market is still a gem but it needs preserving.

It's very disappointing that the City seeks to maximise income from the market rather than maximise amenity and attractiveness to users, but it's legally obliged to do so. To do otherwise suggests accepting higher council taxes to support a facility known for its aesthetic rather than commercial value. I'd be happy with this but it would meet with quite some opposition.

Blaming OTS is nonsense though. A few hundred vehicles an hour is chicken feed compared with the thousands of people milling around on Cornmarket and the top end of The High. Oxford's transport system is clearly succeeding at delivering large numbers of people to within 50 m of the Covered Market - so many in fact that it is hard to move on busy days. If these people are not coming into the Market then it needs to be better promoted. Why in God's name does the main Cornmaket entrance to the Market say 'Golden Cross' instead of 'Covered Market' for instance? The High St entrances are also pretty lack-lustre and need big, bold, bright signs outside promoting the Market.

THe Market may be a gem, but then so is the The High. Ruining THe High by reversing OTS and restoring the nose-to-tail stationary traffic of the 80s and 90s would not bring any more trade back to the Market, as it was proven at the time that most of it was through traffic.
EXACTLY JOKE, THERE IS A BUTCHER. A GREENGROCER. THAT IS IT. How many of the 8 in the square are still there, how many greengrocers are still there, do you even know the history of the market? how long have you been visiting it. The covered market is no longer a market but an over priced mish mash of useless shops that think they have a right to profitable status paying under market rates for a prime location, wrong, perhaps they should relocate to the prison complex as businesses there seem to last only a few years and units are up for rent very often. Please read my comment before attacking me, My main point was about the destruction of the core of the market and not whether there is ONE butcher left or one greengrocer left. And yes your comment amongst many others of yours recently are really becoming beyond a KING JOKE, are you and Geoff Roberts the same poster?
[quote][p][bold]King Joke[/bold] wrote: The butchers STILL hang their turkeys up at Christmas and there is a large fruit + veg stall next to Hayman's fish stall. The market is still a gem but it needs preserving. It's very disappointing that the City seeks to maximise income from the market rather than maximise amenity and attractiveness to users, but it's legally obliged to do so. To do otherwise suggests accepting higher council taxes to support a facility known for its aesthetic rather than commercial value. I'd be happy with this but it would meet with quite some opposition. Blaming OTS is nonsense though. A few hundred vehicles an hour is chicken feed compared with the thousands of people milling around on Cornmarket and the top end of The High. Oxford's transport system is clearly succeeding at delivering large numbers of people to within 50 m of the Covered Market - so many in fact that it is hard to move on busy days. If these people are not coming into the Market then it needs to be better promoted. Why in God's name does the main Cornmaket entrance to the Market say 'Golden Cross' instead of 'Covered Market' for instance? The High St entrances are also pretty lack-lustre and need big, bold, bright signs outside promoting the Market. THe Market may be a gem, but then so is the The High. Ruining THe High by reversing OTS and restoring the nose-to-tail stationary traffic of the 80s and 90s would not bring any more trade back to the Market, as it was proven at the time that most of it was through traffic.[/p][/quote]EXACTLY JOKE, THERE IS A BUTCHER. A GREENGROCER. THAT IS IT. How many of the 8 in the square are still there, how many greengrocers are still there, do you even know the history of the market? how long have you been visiting it. The covered market is no longer a market but an over priced mish mash of useless shops that think they have a right to profitable status paying under market rates for a prime location, wrong, perhaps they should relocate to the prison complex as businesses there seem to last only a few years and units are up for rent very often. Please read my comment before attacking me, My main point was about the destruction of the core of the market and not whether there is ONE butcher left or one greengrocer left. And yes your comment amongst many others of yours recently are really becoming beyond a KING JOKE, are you and Geoff Roberts the same poster? paul from Kennington
  • Score: -39

7:08pm Thu 18 Oct 12

King Joke says...

I've never seen any points from a Geoff Roberts.

I was attacking (or questioning) the rather tenuous link between OTS and the decline of the market. I've been using the market since 1999, a few weeks in fact before OTS. At that time there were two butchers and one greengrocer... so OTS is hardly to blame, the decline of traditional food shopping must have started long before OTS. Losing one butcher in thirteen years in unfortunate but not the fault of sensible traffic management.

If people aren't buying food in the Market it may have something to do with the huge Sainsbury's at Heyford Hill, the huge Tesco's at Cowley, the two Tescos and two Sainsburys in the city centre and the numerous examples of the same dotted around the suburbs. This is the same all over the country.

THere are still some useful specialist shops in the Market, the running shop and Chocology both offering goods or expertise you can't easily find elsewhere.

Palms Deli was a loss. Palms was pretty busy every time I went in but was killed by high rents. So it really isn't a matter of delivering potential custom to the site, and it really is a matter of moderating rents to encourage different and quirky shops to stay in the Market.
I've never seen any points from a Geoff Roberts. I was attacking (or questioning) the rather tenuous link between OTS and the decline of the market. I've been using the market since 1999, a few weeks in fact before OTS. At that time there were two butchers and one greengrocer... so OTS is hardly to blame, the decline of traditional food shopping must have started long before OTS. Losing one butcher in thirteen years in unfortunate but not the fault of sensible traffic management. If people aren't buying food in the Market it may have something to do with the huge Sainsbury's at Heyford Hill, the huge Tesco's at Cowley, the two Tescos and two Sainsburys in the city centre and the numerous examples of the same dotted around the suburbs. This is the same all over the country. THere are still some useful specialist shops in the Market, the running shop and Chocology both offering goods or expertise you can't easily find elsewhere. Palms Deli was a loss. Palms was pretty busy every time I went in but was killed by high rents. So it really isn't a matter of delivering potential custom to the site, and it really is a matter of moderating rents to encourage different and quirky shops to stay in the Market. King Joke
  • Score: 2

7:46pm Thu 18 Oct 12

paul from Kennington says...

King Joke wrote:
I've never seen any points from a Geoff Roberts.

I was attacking (or questioning) the rather tenuous link between OTS and the decline of the market. I've been using the market since 1999, a few weeks in fact before OTS. At that time there were two butchers and one greengrocer... so OTS is hardly to blame, the decline of traditional food shopping must have started long before OTS. Losing one butcher in thirteen years in unfortunate but not the fault of sensible traffic management.

If people aren't buying food in the Market it may have something to do with the huge Sainsbury's at Heyford Hill, the huge Tesco's at Cowley, the two Tescos and two Sainsburys in the city centre and the numerous examples of the same dotted around the suburbs. This is the same all over the country.

THere are still some useful specialist shops in the Market, the running shop and Chocology both offering goods or expertise you can't easily find elsewhere.

Palms Deli was a loss. Palms was pretty busy every time I went in but was killed by high rents. So it really isn't a matter of delivering potential custom to the site, and it really is a matter of moderating rents to encourage different and quirky shops to stay in the Market.
Fine King, now we come to the point. You do not want a market, but rather an arcade of "quirky" shops as you put it. So be it and have your way, but let us call it The Burlington Arcade or something similar, but anything but a MARKET. This was created to take the MARKET traders off of the streets in the roads around Carfax, and if that tradition is to be destroyed, then I say the City Council charge maximum rents and bring in the Multi-Nationals, that way we get the maximum benefit for the tax payers. Either we have a traditional Covered Market or we have McDs, Starbucks, 99p stores, and B&Q paying top dollar. I do not want to argue with somebody like you that has no memory or respect of what the Covered Market once was, but if you know somebody that has lived in the city for a few years then ask them, and I don't mean pre 2,000 either. try 1960 onwards.
[quote][p][bold]King Joke[/bold] wrote: I've never seen any points from a Geoff Roberts. I was attacking (or questioning) the rather tenuous link between OTS and the decline of the market. I've been using the market since 1999, a few weeks in fact before OTS. At that time there were two butchers and one greengrocer... so OTS is hardly to blame, the decline of traditional food shopping must have started long before OTS. Losing one butcher in thirteen years in unfortunate but not the fault of sensible traffic management. If people aren't buying food in the Market it may have something to do with the huge Sainsbury's at Heyford Hill, the huge Tesco's at Cowley, the two Tescos and two Sainsburys in the city centre and the numerous examples of the same dotted around the suburbs. This is the same all over the country. THere are still some useful specialist shops in the Market, the running shop and Chocology both offering goods or expertise you can't easily find elsewhere. Palms Deli was a loss. Palms was pretty busy every time I went in but was killed by high rents. So it really isn't a matter of delivering potential custom to the site, and it really is a matter of moderating rents to encourage different and quirky shops to stay in the Market.[/p][/quote]Fine King, now we come to the point. You do not want a market, but rather an arcade of "quirky" shops as you put it. So be it and have your way, but let us call it The Burlington Arcade or something similar, but anything but a MARKET. This was created to take the MARKET traders off of the streets in the roads around Carfax, and if that tradition is to be destroyed, then I say the City Council charge maximum rents and bring in the Multi-Nationals, that way we get the maximum benefit for the tax payers. Either we have a traditional Covered Market or we have McDs, Starbucks, 99p stores, and B&Q paying top dollar. I do not want to argue with somebody like you that has no memory or respect of what the Covered Market once was, but if you know somebody that has lived in the city for a few years then ask them, and I don't mean pre 2,000 either. try 1960 onwards. paul from Kennington
  • Score: -48

8:33pm Thu 18 Oct 12

CowleyBoy says...

“When rents are assessed for market traders we look at close comparators on the high street.”

How can you possibly base the rental charge for a small shop in a covered market on a "close comparator" on the high street? There is no close comparator. I'd love to see the rent as a % of turnover for one of the big shops on Cornmarket, compared to that of a CM trader. My guess would be that the latter is much worse off.
“When rents are assessed for market traders we look at close comparators on the high street.” How can you possibly base the rental charge for a small shop in a covered market on a "close comparator" on the high street? There is no close comparator. I'd love to see the rent as a % of turnover for one of the big shops on Cornmarket, compared to that of a CM trader. My guess would be that the latter is much worse off. CowleyBoy
  • Score: 2

9:10pm Thu 18 Oct 12

Geoff Roberts says...

The idea of the Covered Market being a kind of nursery for traders is an interesting one. Maybe I misunderstood but I think there may be a risk to quality there though. Established shops (or even stalls) become established not just because of location but because of a perception of quality. That takes a lot of time, effort and money. So if you have a high turnover of traders then it stands to reason there would be a risk to quality.
The idea of the Covered Market being a kind of nursery for traders is an interesting one. Maybe I misunderstood but I think there may be a risk to quality there though. Established shops (or even stalls) become established not just because of location but because of a perception of quality. That takes a lot of time, effort and money. So if you have a high turnover of traders then it stands to reason there would be a risk to quality. Geoff Roberts
  • Score: 4

9:17pm Thu 18 Oct 12

Geoff Roberts says...

CowleyBoy wrote:
“When rents are assessed for market traders we look at close comparators on the high street.”

How can you possibly base the rental charge for a small shop in a covered market on a "close comparator" on the high street? There is no close comparator. I'd love to see the rent as a % of turnover for one of the big shops on Cornmarket, compared to that of a CM trader. My guess would be that the latter is much worse off.
I think it may be that all of retail is in trouble. It's just that the big companies which shift a lot of mass produced 'cheap' goods have more chance of survival. Although even that is debatable.

I'm wondering if this issue is more about the state of this city's finances than people's buying habits though?
[quote][p][bold]CowleyBoy[/bold] wrote: “When rents are assessed for market traders we look at close comparators on the high street.” How can you possibly base the rental charge for a small shop in a covered market on a "close comparator" on the high street? There is no close comparator. I'd love to see the rent as a % of turnover for one of the big shops on Cornmarket, compared to that of a CM trader. My guess would be that the latter is much worse off.[/p][/quote]I think it may be that all of retail is in trouble. It's just that the big companies which shift a lot of mass produced 'cheap' goods have more chance of survival. Although even that is debatable. I'm wondering if this issue is more about the state of this city's finances than people's buying habits though? Geoff Roberts
  • Score: 3

11:44pm Thu 18 Oct 12

the wizard says...

If the Covered Market goes then a part of Oxford dies with it. The council will sell it off, make millions and run to the bank clutching loads, only for further poor decision making further down the years and the money will all disappear. its plain, its simple, the council couldn't run a bath, let alone a dirty place like Oxford. Tourist attraction, you are having a laugh, they may come, but not many return, and once more part of what makes Oxford attractive to some is being priced out of existence. Palms, Hedges, Bonners, Aldens, all a part of heritage, and once they are gone,they stay gone, while the council is busy kissing derrière of Tesco.
If the Covered Market goes then a part of Oxford dies with it. The council will sell it off, make millions and run to the bank clutching loads, only for further poor decision making further down the years and the money will all disappear. its plain, its simple, the council couldn't run a bath, let alone a dirty place like Oxford. Tourist attraction, you are having a laugh, they may come, but not many return, and once more part of what makes Oxford attractive to some is being priced out of existence. Palms, Hedges, Bonners, Aldens, all a part of heritage, and once they are gone,they stay gone, while the council is busy kissing derrière of Tesco. the wizard
  • Score: -9

8:40am Fri 19 Oct 12

King Joke says...

Paul, the aim of removing the market traders from the High St was successful but it was an 18th-centrury answer to an 18th-century problem. Laudable though it was a solution, times change and we can't expect the same commercial conditions to apply 200+ years later.

Markets in the traditional sense have disappeared over the whole country following the rise of the supermarket. Oxford is not unique in this, and in the main, markets surviving do so in larger cities like Birmingham, Leicester and London (Borough Market for eg). Even those which survive have branched out into cheap clothing, electricals etc instead of just food. Visit Leicester to see what I mean.

Butchers like Alldens and Fellers are always going to be niche, specialist places, as they can't compete on price with the supermarkets, so this kind of operation fits perfectly with the 'quirky arcade' model you describe.

Cowley Boy, I'd go even further and set rents proportional to square footage, including any dedicated parking. That way the City could use Tesco's in Cowley, for eg, as a cash cow instead of the Covered Market.
Paul, the aim of removing the market traders from the High St was successful but it was an 18th-centrury answer to an 18th-century problem. Laudable though it was a solution, times change and we can't expect the same commercial conditions to apply 200+ years later. Markets in the traditional sense have disappeared over the whole country following the rise of the supermarket. Oxford is not unique in this, and in the main, markets surviving do so in larger cities like Birmingham, Leicester and London (Borough Market for eg). Even those which survive have branched out into cheap clothing, electricals etc instead of just food. Visit Leicester to see what I mean. Butchers like Alldens and Fellers are always going to be niche, specialist places, as they can't compete on price with the supermarkets, so this kind of operation fits perfectly with the 'quirky arcade' model you describe. Cowley Boy, I'd go even further and set rents proportional to square footage, including any dedicated parking. That way the City could use Tesco's in Cowley, for eg, as a cash cow instead of the Covered Market. King Joke
  • Score: 0

1:29pm Fri 19 Oct 12

Joy Hetherington says...

To clarify. There are 5 butchers in the Market, each with their own style/specialism. Hedges, Fellers, David John, John Lindsey and Meat Master. Not to mention 2 Greengrocers. :-)
To clarify. There are 5 butchers in the Market, each with their own style/specialism. Hedges, Fellers, David John, John Lindsey and Meat Master. Not to mention 2 Greengrocers. :-) Joy Hetherington
  • Score: 0

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