CHARLES GRAHAM - At last, a Plus for the markets

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ORGANISERS of Wigan Food and Drink Festival may be giving the town’s markets a wide berth this year but I’m pleased that at least someone is giving these marvellous facilities the time of day.

No sooner had I gone to press with last week’s grouse about the festival’s complete neglect of the part of town where you can buy most of your fresh produce and is most in need of succour, an article was published about how the WiganPlus loyalty scheme is helping our stallholders.

The scheme, Revitalising the Markets Experience, aims to attract more customers to both markets while developing more knowledge of what they have to offer.

The WiganPlus card will now feature the markets on a regular basis, with special offers being highlighted as a “loyalty bonus” when making purchases on certain stalls. It will also advertise link-ups between the two organisations and displays of stall goods will be put on in the WiganPlus shop.

The scheme hopes to generate interest from outside the town by encouraging local coach companies to consider Market Experience trips to Wigan.

The market traders chairman, Mike O’Connor, has made a point of saying that these ideas are an independent venture and that there had been little or no input from the council.

Well, at least they have shown willing to reassess stall rents this week which might help to boost the cause. But the markets are not being exploited to their full potential.

Having recently visited the thriving Bury market for the first time, I have been able to see just how thriving such old fashioned retail can be, even when positioned slap bang next to newer arcades and department stores.

I do hope our authorities begin recognising these assets soon.