***This blog was started on Saturday before the current strongly opinionated threads on fb started. I decided to cut this into 2 posts so that I could post this part early, in order to try to put some light on the debate rather than more heat by replying in the fb threads***
A major point of discussion
Since starting Visit Banbury a little over a year ago on Twitter, one subject seems to have been the topic of discussion more than any other – and that is Banbury Charter Market.
Now obviously, given that Banbury is widely known as an historic market town and coach parties even stop here to visit it amongst the various other tourist highlights, it is probably not surprising that locals and visitors have lots of viewpoints and provide much commentary as to the size, variety, quality and choice of the market and the stalls which are part of it and how it compares to 1, 10 or 30 years ago.
Whilst individual members of the Visit Banbury team may have personal views one way or another about the market, as an organisation, Visit Banbury fully endorses Banbury having a thriving local market and we see that a vibrant market is one way to attract more shoppers and visitors to the town and to keep locals interested in coming in and staying around town for longer.
We have worked hard to promote the existing market via social media channels and will continue to do so, as we see the market as a key foundation of potentially a memorable customer experience if it is done well.
However, listening to lots of people and reading lots of posts on social media it seems that many people do not really understand about the market, how it is run and who is responsible for it AND actually what the costs are, how you go about getting a stall etc etc, so we want to try to explain a few things (based solely on our research and understanding the facts), share some useful info and also do a little bit of economic analysis (which will now be in part 2).
We believe a key role for Visit Banbury could be finding out about the town and sharing that information with the general public (except where we agree to confidentiality of course – we are ethical) as we feel that often key information is not that well disseminated, so that people can form informed opinions and make informed, objective decisions when things are proposed and we can all positively build on the potential that Banbury has.
We will try to do this in some key areas in coming months.
Banbury Market Information Share
So, first of all, the background to Banbury Charter Market, which is held on a Saturday and a Thursday every week 9am – 4.30pm. http://www.banburymarket.co.uk
A little bit of historic perspective on the Banbury Charters which appear to give Banbury the RIGHT to have a market but do not OBLIGE Banbury to have one…an interesting and important distinction.
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol10/pp71-89 (thanks to Deb Menikoff Simmons for this link).
The overall responsibility for the market lies with Cherwell District Council and the Street Scene department run by Paul Almond with Ian Cooper working for him. http://www.cherwell.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1340
These gents effectively manage the market activity BUT a little over 5 years ago Cherwell District Council ran a commercial tender process for a commercial company to run the market as a subcontractor (market operator) on CDC’s behalf and the winner of that process was E.G. Skett & Co. also know as Sketts, who according to http://www.banburymarket.co.uk also operate the retail markets in Southam & Great Bridge as well as monthly Warwickshire Farmers’ Markets in Solihull, Harborne and Coventry.
Their own website also shows where they have recently lost the contracts to provide market operations:
The initial 5 year contract term for Banbury Market expired at the end of March 2015 but we understand from CDC that they took up the option which was within the contract to extend with Sketts for a further 2 years without going back “out to market”(checking / benchmarking with other potential operators), so that contract will finally expire on 31/3/2017.
The information about the contract was found on line 9 of this spreadsheet http://www.cherwell.gov.uk/media/pdf/9/p/Contracts_register_as_at_January_2015.pdf and a tweet from CDC confirmed the extension; interestingly no contract value is noted on the register.
The following document link is a very important one as it is dated 2010 and was looking at the future of markets in Cherwell and details the criteria used in judging the tender responses and awarding the contract as well as some of the key objectives CDC had for working with the current market operator, which we the public should hence refer to when objectively reviewing the market as it stands in 2015, with the operator just having been given a two year contract extension.
The following is a key extract from the above link We have been unable to obtain a response to questions raised as to the decision-making process for the optional extension period being taken up by CDC but Ian Middleton, PPC for The Green Party, obtained this reply:
“The licence was for 5 years with a 2 year option, which the council have taken up. Sketts have not failed to deliver on the terms of the licence, and therefore have not given any cause not to renew.
The market shouldn’t be judged in isolation from the rest of the businesses in town who have been adversely affected by changing shopping patterns, and Sketts have always engaged in dialogue with CDC and stakeholders on how to improve Banbury`s footfall for the benefit of everyone.
As previously stated the weekly markets face more competition nowadays and despite bringing in new traders they have not always been able to retain them.
In order to help businesses succeed we all need to give a positive impression of the town and market.”
Often, social media discussions ask about the cost of a stall at Banbury market. As far as we had been told it is £36 per day for a normal one table stall, however one trader we recently spoke with advised that on 1st April the fees went up by £1 to £37 stating that this was a compulsory increase that Sketts had to implement as part of their contract with CDC.
We have not been able to validate this comment but he told us that Sketts had told him that.
(If Sketts or CDC wish to challenge / correct this we would be happy to remove or amend the above paragraph.)
He also cited the lack of parking as an additional cost to traders as they have to park in pay car parks which is not always the case elsewhere.
Apparently the market in Bicester (run by traders themselves) is significantly cheaper (circa £15) and we have also heard that one table market stalls elsewhere at larger markets are less than £30 each per day.
Sketts do provide Charity and Community groups with stalls free of charge and we at Visit Banbury have twice set up stall recently to show our support for Banbury Market to see for ourselves what it is like to trade in Banbury and to get our messages out and to sell some lovely Visit Banbury merchandise which helps provide us with funds to do projects around Banbury, so thanks to Sketts for those opportunities.
Sketts want to bring new, exciting, innovative stalls into Banbury Market and so if you are interested in having a stall Janeanne Peachey is the Banbury Market Manager, employed by Sketts.
Sketts’ Trading conditions:
Hope this helps in furthering an informed debate around the town. Part 2 to follow shortly this week.