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First day of trading… Shambles Market. Photograph: Richard McDougall. Click to see the full image

York market moved back to its old home with a new look and a fresh name on Monday (November 10).

Shambles Market occupies the same space as its predecessor, Newgate Market. But the site has been undergoing a £1.6 million refurbishment, with new-look stalls and kiosks, improved weatherproofing and lighting.

City of York Council, which is overseeing the update, says the move has encouraged more people to take up stalls.

“I’m delighted that the lure of a much-enhanced market, a new brand and improved pedestrian flow, has so far encouraged 12 new traders to sign up for regular pitches on the daily market,” said Cllr Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism.

“They include retailers selling quilts and linens, woodcarvings, daily chinaware as well as beads and crafting materials.”

The market had been relocated to Parliament Street while the works went on. It had to return now to make way for the St Nicholas Fair

We asked traders spending their first day in Shambles Market for their reaction to their refurbished surroundings.

‘It certainly is a shambles’

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Paula Hind, who co-runs the Sheila’s Fruit and Veg stall
Sheila’s Fruit and Veg is run by David and Paula Hind, and David’s mother ran it before them.

Paula liked the new, smarter canopies and stalls but said the market wasn’t yet ready. Stallholders should have stayed on Parliament Street until problems had been fixed.

She cited a hole in the main thoroughfare, which had been dug up, filled with sand and surrounded by plastic barriers; a dirty canopy on the top of one of the temporary stalls at the King’s Court end of the market; and uneven cobbles.

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The hole and the dirty canopy. Click to see the full images

“We shouldn’t have been moved back in here. Part of it is all right, but part of it is disgusting.

“They call it Shambles Market. It certainly is a shambles.”

Paula said trade went up while they were on Parliament Street.

“We got a lot more passing trade especially on a night. People were still coming up to be served when the were leaving work.”

Now the challenge was to increase footfall into the permanent market. “I don’t know how they can increase footfall when it looks a mess like this,” she said.

‘Like a building site’

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On his shoes stall, Steve Franks
Steve Franks, who runs his shoe stall on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, agreed.

“The stalls are quite bright, which is good,” he said.

But he added: “I think we’ve been rushed back in, because the whole thing was behind schedule. It’s a bit awkward trying to trade in a building site.”

During their time on Parliament Street, customers told Steve “‘this is where you should be’ – it’s where the market used to be.

“But I know times change, and priorities change.”

However he would like to see a return to the time when York market traded on Parliament Street at least one day a week. As things stand, only the speciality markets can trade on the street.

“These outside bods, without any allegiance whatsoever to York, they come and take the cream, whereas we are pushed out the back.”

He also urged the city to do more to promoted the refurbished market. “We want to see billboards at the Park and Ride sites, at the train station, so that everyone coming in to York will have no doubt where the market is.”

The timing was another cause for concern.

“This now is our prime time. For me, with slippers and shoes, and for people selling scarves, hats, jewellery, it’s Christmas present time. It’s where we put the meat on the bones of January and February.”

But he and other stallholders had been allocated reduced stall space which would “hit me in the pocket and that’s not right”.

‘Need more customers’

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Other traders spoke to YorkMix only with a guarantee of anonymity.

They told us they were worried if they were publicly critical of the council they might face repercussions, such as failing to be given a pitch on Christmas markets.

One said: “It’s nice to have new stalls, but the bottom line is we need to get more customers coming in.

“For the majority of traders I have spoken to, it’s about how we get people in to the market.”

Another expressed concern at having their stall space reduced even when many other stalls were empty.

“We had three stalls – now we have got only one stall. But several are empty.

“They should have had somebody here saying ‘you can have that one for half price today’.”

A third trader expressed concern that if the market was not better run in future “it won’t be here in a couple of years”.

‘Lighter and brighter’

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Click to see the full image

City centre and market project manager Gill Cooper emphasised that the work was ongoing.

“We’ve always said it would be back in the Shambles market place ready for St Nicholas Fair and we’ve honoured that promise to our traders,” she said.

“As we’ve said before, work to the site between Parliament Street and the Shambles will be completed early next year when the full effect of the benefits for traders and, importantly, their customers can be felt.

“Meanwhile, traders are saying the stalls are lighter and brighter, and we’re working with them to limit the impact of the works on their business while we’ve a whole raft of promotional events that started before the move and will continue well after completion.”