A retired market trader has voice his fears for the future of Huddersfield’s once-thriving open market.
Gordon Wood, 84, a stallholder at the Brook Street market for more than 40 years, said: “I don’t think I have seen a market deteriorate so quickly and so badly.”
Mr Wood, who began on the market in 1961 selling upholstery fabrics and finished in 2009 running a stall selling sweatshirts, blamed Kirklees Council’s “lackadaisical” attitude for a drop in the number of traders and suggested it would be better off in private hands. “There’s no one making any attempt to bring fresh traders in,” he claimed. “I don’t think they are fully committed to it.”
Mr Wood, who lives at Lees, near Oldham, but visits Huddersfield market regularly, contrasted its decline in fortunes with bustling markets in Bury, Keighley, Skipton and Clitheroe, adding: “Lots of traders have uprooted themselves from Huddersfield – not necessarily because they have given up being market traders but because they are trading somewhere else.”
Mr Wood said it had been a mistake some years ago to have markets four days a week instead of two and had argued for the Saturday market to be for regular traders rather than the sale of secondhand goods.
Mr Wood said many years ago stallholders had wanted to leave the Brook Street site all together in favour of a street market in the town centre, but the council had opposed it because no one else would take up the vacated Grade II site at Brook Street.
Mr Wood, who also had stalls at markets including Buxton, Sandbach and Stockport, said: “At one time, Huddersfield would meet all my expenses for the rest of the week. By the end of my time at Huddersfield I couldn’t make enough to cover my stall rent.”
A Kirklees Council spokesperson said a national decline in the number of market traders was being reflected in its own markets. The changing nature of retail meant that more people buying and selling online while more low cost shops on the high streets were competing directly with the traditional market trader.
The spokesperson said: “The council is, however, committed to working with traders, young people and the wider community to look at ways to move the markets forward in a challenging retail environment. We offer rental incentives and support to encourage new traders to use our markets and we are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities.
“Our alternative market project encourages enterprise through markets and helps young people to start a market-based business with support from the council. We are also working with Kirklees College to include market trading as an element in their business and enterprise courses.”
Anyone interested in starting their own business by becoming a market trader could email email@example.com or phone 01484 225930.