Will St John’s Market close to make way for T J Hughes?

St Johns Market_Moment

I visited St John’s Market today after receiving information that we have lost £800,000 on it in 2 years and are looking at handing it over to other organisations one of which is rumoured to be T J Hughes

In responses to a series of questions from me the City Council it has been revealed that the St John’s Market has lost more than £800,000 since it opened just over 2 years ago; is continuing to make a loss and has only half the number of people visiting it than before it was refurbished. In addition, the Council are negotiating for two organisations to take over the Market and use it for a different purpose than that of the current market function.

The refurbishment of St John’s Market has clearly seen one blunder after another. After spending £2.5 million of borrowed money on the redevelopment and losing almost £1,000,000 they now have half the number of people using the market than there were before the refurbishment. The situation is now so bad that they are negotiating with two organisations to take over this loss-making venture neither of whom will want to keep it in the same format that we have known for more than a century.

Liverpool Council has been the markets authority for the City for more than 800 years. You would think that over that time they would have learned how to work with stall holders and market users to provide a facility that people want to use.

Clearly the market is facing huge pressure as is every other retail site from on line marketing and the growth of cheap stores like Poundland. But in other Countries and other cities where there are the same pressures the Councils are coping better.

There are strong suggestions that one of the organisations wishing to move into the market is T J Hughes. This would have huge implications for the future of London Road as well as for the future of the traders eking out a living in the market.

To spend £2.5 million on a refurbishment with no consultation and no clear idea of what the market was for is an act of gross incompetence.

The council must safeguard and stand by the market tenants who have stood by the Council and ensure that there is somewhere that they can carry on trading. They need to launch a consultation programme with the people of the City to see what they want this key city centre location used for”.

The full set of questions and answers are attached below:

Since St John’s Market was reopened in November 2016:

  1.   How much rent has been paid by tenants?

Response: The total amount paid by tenants from November 2016 is £299,744.24 

  1.   Are ‘full rents’ currently being charged and if not when will they be charged?

Response: No, negotiations are underway with a number of parties regarding the future of the market.  The market traders will be a key consultee in any future changes to the market and as part of these discussions the Council will decide when to re-start charging rent.

  1.   How much has been spent on running the market since it reopened?

Response: St John’s Market is located within a space that Liverpool City Council has on a long term lease from Infrared, the current owners of St John’s precinct.  The space is shared with a trading events company (WIGIG), a combined Council one-stop shop and job centre and other space which is used by the Council for ad hoc events.  As such, as well as the direct attributable market costs (staffing, admin etc) there are a range of shared costs related to the management of the wider space.  Once these costs are included on an estimated pro-rata basis, the total costs for running of the market since it reopened are £1.03m.

  1.   How much has been spent on marketing the market since it reopened?

Response: Direct expenditure of £51,485.61 has been spent on PR and Advertising through the Markets Company.  There has been other media coverage through the Council’s media department and through the provision of a Christmas grotto and other events (Scouse of Horrors) but these do not have a direct, attributable financial value; we estimate this investment to have a value of circa a further £100,000.  This does not include any monies that the market traders may have spent advertising their own business which will also have promoted the markets.

  1.   How much has been spent on improving and decorating the market since it reopened?

Response: A number of cosmetic changes (enhanced signage etc) have been undertaken throughout the market.  In general, these changes have been included in other pieces of budgetary expenditure and other contracts for work including the PR and Advertising budget.  Total spend is circa £41,908.

  1.   How much has been spent on interest and capital repayments since it reopened?

Response: Since the market opened, £63,700 has been spent on interest and capital repayments on the initial investments made.

  1.   What footfall measurements have been taken and how do they compare with the footfall prior to the market closing for refurbishment?

Response: Current footfall falls between 5000 and 6000 people per week based upon available data.  In 2014/15 footfall was circa 10,000-10,500 per week.  We believe there are a number of contributory factors to this decline and note that the footfall decline had started prior to the Council refurbishment (footfall declined by circa 1000 people per week between 2014 and 2015).  Specifically, the overall decline in the national retail market as well as increased high street competition from shops such as Primark, Aldi etc who serve as competition for traditional market traders.  Nationally, footfall was down across the UK by 3.3% in April 2018 compared to April 2017 and this reflects a long-term high-street trend which is affecting every element of the high street market.

  1.   Is the Council talking to any individual or company about the future of the Market outside the control of the Council?

Response: The Council are currently in conversation with two external organisations regarding the future of the market.  No decision has been reached on either discussion and the detail of these discussions are therefore commercially confidential.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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