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‘There’s a lot to be said for good, old-fashioned community spirit’ – but is it enough to turn around Pudsey Market’s fortunes?

WLD reporter Michael Crossland meets shoppers and traders and asks: how do we solve a problem like Pudsey Market?

IT is early morning on a Tuesday at Pudsey Market. Though space exists for a potential 26 stalls at the historic market place, only three are occupied. 

Daniel, from Barnsley, runs one of them, a fishmonger’s stall owned by him and his brother which has been in operation for around 30 years. He notes how the market has changed during their time there. 

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“And not for the better,” he says. “I don’t want to be all doom and gloom-ish but it’s a vicious cycle. You get less customers, so you get less traders, then less traders means less customers, that’s just how it works really.”

To many traders, this cycle is Pudsey Market’s biggest issue. In order to break it, those involved are calling for more stall holders to set up shop, reversing the decreasing numbers in both footfall and market traders, and in turn revitalising the struggling market.

When asked what began to cause the downturn in customers, Daniel is unsure. He said:

“I don’t really know. I mean, supermarkets selling fruit and veg for instance, like Aldi, they do bags of fruit and veg at 19p, so we can’t keep up with that sort of thing.

“Morrisons as well, they do their fish so cheap, I mean I can’t compete with them on price. I can beat them on quality all day long but price wise, that’s where I can’t compete with them.”

Although the market may not receive the amount of customers it once did, it is clear that many who do go along are loyal regulars. 

Daniel cuts short our conversation briefly to help a customer. “You’re well into your plaice at the minute aren’t you?” he says to one regular customer after serving her.  

One frequent customer to the market is Mrs Roberts, from Halton Moor, who travels to Pudsey each week to see her son.  Mrs Roberts also feels that more traders are needed to revitalise the market and said: 

“They just need to fill it up, don’t they, and then they’ll get more people in.

“Get a few more stalls in to start with, I mean, you come here on a Friday, and whenever it’s on, and all you get is a couple fruit stalls and your clothes stall and that’s it, there’s nothing else there.”

This sentiment is shared by Taomi Sharlotte, who, along with her partner, took over the market’s long- standing fruit and veg stall in September. “We need some new traders,” says Taomi. “Different people, different ranges of things.”

Despite the lack of stalls, however, Taomi is positive about how things have gone since she and her partner took over the stall. She said: “It’s running quite smoothly. We’ve had quite a lot of new customers, though we’ve changed how it’s set out and things like that, so we’ve had quite a good impression since we’ve been here.”

Taomi also notes how as well as new traders, she feels the market also requires more promotion. A new website – PudseyMarket.com – has been set up and is part of the wider MyPudsey site, set up by volunteers Glenn and Hayley Taylor, Damon Sugden and Trish Smith.

But more needs to be done. Greater promotion is something local councillors have been trying to achieve in recent years by introducing a monthly produce and craft market on the first Sunday of each month. Many stall holders, however, feel this has done little to help them. 

“It’s no good to us,” says Kyle Hall, who works alongside Taomi at DLR Produce. “We don’t do the Sunday market, we’re here three days a week. The produce market attracts people on that one Sunday, but for the rest of the time we’re here and there’s nothing for us.”

Despite the success of the produce and craft days in boosting the market’s profile, Pudsey councillor Dawn Seary (Cons) is aware that they can lead to less custom throughout the week. 

She said: “I’d hate for a stall holder to be missing out because of something that we’ve been doing. But most of the stall holders that are usually there on a Saturday are there on our Sunday stalls as well.

“My mind is that the market is still getting used, in whatever capacity, which is good, but I think unfortunately what that does is that it shifts the customers. It’s always very quiet on the Friday, when we’ve got the market coming up on the Sunday, which is not what we intended to do. The idea was that we support and raise the profile of the market to try and entice more stall holders to come through the week as well. 

Historic Pudsey Market. Photo Anna Riley

“Any kind of promotion of the market is a plus. It’s difficult, but it’s about trying to get people through those gates through the week.”

Ann Taylor, who has run her stall ‘Sweet Memories’ for five years, is also aware of the vicious cycle currently affecting the market. 

She said: “We need more traders, but the traders won’t come if there’s no footfall – it’s that domino effect.”

Ann also feels that changes in shopping habits have caused an issue for the market in recent years. 

“I think it’s the older end that comes to market, not the younger end, for them it’s all online and what have you, and when you lose them, you lose it all.” she says. 

“You’re never going to get your markets back when they’re gone,” she adds. “I think, sadly, that they’re dying. You’ve only got to look at Leeds market haven’t you, that’s terrible.”

Here, Ann is referencing the downturn of Leeds Kirkgate market. Recent council data shows that over the past year the number of empty market stalls has frequently exceeded 100, out of a potential 185.  

“It’s sad, I think,” Ann added, “because it’s a great atmosphere at a market. When we go anywhere I always make a beeline for markets, even now it’s a bit of a busman’s holiday.”

pudsey produce market 4
Pudsey Produce market is a popular draw

During lockdown, Pudsey Market saw a huge increase in trade, as new stalls were opened, and footfall began to increase again. The market’s vicious cycle was briefly broken. When lockdown ended, however, this trend did not continue. 

“When lockdown was on we got a lot of new food stalls coming in, we were very well supported by local people, it was brilliant.” says Ann. 

“But then as everything opened up again, I’ve lost count of how many stalls closed.”

Ann is also keen to show the importance of the market to the traders that use it. 

“I think a lot of people think we do it for fun, but we don’t, we’ve got to make a living,” she says, “I have no choice, I need the money.

“I have my regulars, and they come most weeks, and because of them it keeps me going, but it’s hard”

Cllr Seary is also aware of the market’s central issue. “It’s a vicious circle really” she says, “you’ve got to get the stall holders to attract the customers but the customers attract the stall holders.” 

She notes recent efforts from local councillors to keep the market accessible to new stalls. Despite earlier talk of an increase in fees for stall holders, rents are currently frozen. Traders are also not required to pay rent on their stalls if a certain number of places go unfilled. 

“We try and keep it reasonably cheap so that it entices people to come. The more stalls you’ve got, the more they attract their own loyal customers, so you get the same people coming to Sweet Memories, the same people coming to Calverley Bees, they bring their own people in.” she says.

Like Ann Taylor, Cllr Seary is also aware that changes in shopping habits have had a negative impact on the market. 

“I think people’s shopping systems have changed, especially since Covid.We need to drive the message to support local. Leeds market is going downhill, and if we don’t start supporting our local market in Pudsey it’s going to go that way.” 

On Tuesday morning, after serving another customer, Daniel notes his uncertainty on what the future will bring: “I don’t know, I really don’t know, just keep turning up every week, that’s all we can do,” he says. 

Shopper Bridget Rose O’Brien remembers the times when the market was bustling and you could hardly move for shoppers and stalls. 

She said: “They do really great produce here, the fish, the fruit and veg, the local honey from the preserves stall – they’re all top class produce. 

“And do you know, they’re all a family. It’s like meeting friends. People get to know you and you get to know them, you get a cheery ‘good morning’. There’s a lot to be said for that. Old fashioned service and community spirit. Supermarkets can be such soulless places. We just need a few more stalls here and it’ll soon come back.”

If others are willing to join the likes of Daniel and Ann, and break the vicious cycle, many are confident that the market can once again thrive. 

“But it’s about getting people to come out of their comfort zone and come and have a look and support the market.” adds Cllr Seary. 

“I don’t want to see it go, I want to keep promoting it as much as I can, but it’s getting people out of the habit of supermarket shopping and shopping online. But if you get new stalls, you have people going ‘oh I want to go out and get that’, and they’ll stay around.” 

Until the cycle is reversed, however, Pudsey Market stall holders continue to weather the storm, keeping their loyal customers happy, and waiting for new traders to join their cause.

Pudsey Food and Drink festival

PUDSEY is set to host its first-ever food and drink festival on 14 August 2022, between 10am and 2pm.

Taking place in Pudsey Market and run by MyPudsey, the very first annual festival will offer tasty goodies to sample and buy.

3 COMMENTS

  1. To encourage new stall holders to join pud set market the management should offer a year trading free from any rent or other charges. Present stall holders should get the same deal.
    This would encourage stall holders to take a chance on building up their custom.
    An empty market is loosing money so the management won’t be loosing anything not charging

  2. Once upon a time we had a thriving market in Pudsey; the shops in the town centre were busy as were other shops dotted around the town.
    A similar picture was happening elsewhere, high streets were busy and vibrant.

    Nowadays many towns and high streets seem to have lost their sparkle, however in some places we still have busy and vibrant high streets, look at Farsley or Leeds Road going into Bradford. The reason for their continued success seems to be that people both live and work in the area, there are mills with various businesses operating from within, engineering units along with a vast number of other employers.
    In towns like Pudsey when a business with property has stopped trading the land has been sold for housing. The new residents add to congestion when they have to drive to work along with those previously employed there now driving to their new job.
    If you aren’t working locally you are less likely to be shopping locally!

    In my opinion the Sunday market should be ended and moved to a regular market day. Let me give the example of the butchers. We have some great butchers shops in Pudsey who have been employing local people for generations and serving the townspeople high quality meats six days a week. Then along comes an out of town stall holder to a Sunday market stealing the business of our local butchers and giving nothing back to our community.

  3. It’s going to be fantastic if the Tories achieve their plan to knock down the bus station to make the market bigger – We’ll have a huge desolate space that no-one can easily travel to even if they wanted to!! At least it can be sold off to their mates to develop flats on in a few years time 😀

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