Major review of markets launched
A major review of how the borough's markets are managed has been launched by Wigan Council.
The town hall is speaking to traders about the best way forward to enable indoor and outdoor markets to thrive.
Options being suggested including retaining council management, transferring major markets to external operators or look at ways for stallholders to run the retail venues themselves.
The local authority is not ruling out putting more money into the markets to get more shoppers through the door if that is thought necessary to secure their futures.
However, the council stressed that under no circumstances would the buildings be sold to a private firm.
Wigan Council deputy leader Coun David Molyneux said: “We need to make it clear we are not selling the markets. They are an important part of our retail offer, of our plans for shopping and the economy and of the town centre moving forwards.
“We want to be as supportive as we can but I think we need to consult the traders themselves to look at the best way forward.
“We are pleased to be able to take this forward and explore the opportunities this presents.
“We want to explore for the benefit of all parties if there are new ways the markets can operate which will help them thrive and be sustainable into the future.
“This is very much an open book. We need to see the picture as the traders see it and if we need to spend money to make that become a reality that’s what we will need to do.
“It’s no use thinking we as a council know everything about what’s right for traders. They know their business inside out, some of the stalls have been in the same family for years, and we want them to get involved with that expertise.
“I’m sure they will have quite a bit to say and we want them to help us point the markets in the right direction.”
Traders received notice of the review on Monday and consultation sessions with them are taking place throughout the week.
Coun Molyneux said the review came about after traders themselves had previously suggested exploring opportunities to engage with the private sector.
Establishing a new body to look after the markets and doing a community asset transfer or management transfer to local traders’ association are also under consideration.
Coun Molyneux said it is an exciting time for the market with the new armed forces facility set to move into the market hall and said he was keen to find ways of increasing the numbers of visitors.
He praised the performance of Leigh Market in particular, said Wigan was doing better than was sometimes suggested and welcomed suggestions for smaller markets in Hindley, Atherton and Tyldesley.
Coun Molyneux said: “The veterans’ hub will help to increase footfall around that area and it’s important we serve the 22,000 veterans in the borough.
“Wigan is still strong in terms of footfall but it’s important to get people coming through the market and the bus station redevelopment will bring more interest to that bottom end of town.
“There has been a change in people’s attitudes and the loyal customer base is probably not at the younger end, but we want to show younger people what the market has to offer.
“Wigan Market is close to the youth zone, the UTC and the college and I think if the traders can entice them through the building they will see the offer is as good as online or the places where they travel to shop.”
The consultation is expected to run until the end of the month.
Traders wanting to find out more should contact Wigan Council.