Traders having a blue Christmas!

Mike O' Connor on his stall on Wigan market
Mike O' Connor on his stall on Wigan market

MARKET traders are having such a miserable festive season, they are already demanding action - for Christmas 2012!

And they have accused council retail chiefs of not doing enough to keep shoppers in Wigan town centre, rather than see them poached by the twinkling delights of Manchester or Liverpool and neighbouring Bolton and Warrington.

Market Taders Federation chairman Mike O’Connor is now calling for agreement to next year hold a 10-day long old fashioned outdoor Christmas Market full of carols and brass bands, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, that fill the “yawning gap” between the Grand Shopping Centre and the Market Hall via Hope Street.

Mr O’Connor says it would link up Wigan town centre’s disparate trading centres, benefitting all businesses.

But he warns that it “may already be too late” to save this year’s Christmas shopping spend.

The stallholders leader, who has run a trainers and sports wear business near the market entrance for the past two decades, raised his concerns at a meeting with director of development Steve Normington and Cabinet member for the economy Coun David Molyneux, this week.

Mr O’Connor said: “The council will say that it is a national problem and everybody is suffering.

“But I am only interested in Wigan and I can see from my own eyes, being on the front line of retail how quiet things are.

“All I am hearing is that people are going elsewhere because the atmosphere is so dismal and rubbish here in the town centre.

“When I hear from customers that they are going to Liverpool or Manchester instead of their own home town it is so soul destroying, never mind the thousands and thousands of pounds that are going of Wigan.

“There has been little or no effort this year to attract people to the northern quadrant (the Market) and we are know paying the price.”

Coun Molyneux acknowledged that Wigan town centre “like many, many others” had been hit by the economic down turn.

But he predicted that both Wigan and Leigh’s trading hearts would “more than hold their own” in the longer term.

Coun Molyneux added that the Christmas Market scheme proposed by Mr O’Connor wasn’t a new proposal but would now be actively evaluated as part of the current consultation on the future of Wigan and Leigh markets.

He said: “There is no question that we fully accept that Wigan and Leigh indoor markets are an integral part of a vibrant town centre retail scene and that will be the case in the future.

“We are asking the traders at this present time to put ideas forward and we are doing our part with an extra package of Rate Relief I was able to tell him about at the meeting.

“We have held a series of successful continental markets, so we are open to this kind of project and the Christmas Market proposal will be looked at carefully as part of the consultation.

“The council is trying its best, with the Sunday parking session and the Christmas lights, to encourage Wigan people to do their Christmas shopping in their own town but at the end of the day, if people want to sit in huge traffic jams for hours to get into the Trafford Centre, we can’t stop them doing that.”