Market proves high street has prospects
WITH a spate of shop closures and shock administrations, the high street is facing one of the biggest transformations in living memory.
However, one entrepreneurial businesswoman has proved there is plenty of life in the city centre, thanks to an innovative market, attracting thousands of people every month.
Held in the Atrium – the Prospect Shopping Centre's former food court area –the first Up Market took place in November and drew in more than 2,200 visitors.
The following month, this figure increased to more than 2,500 and the footfall is increasing month-on-month.
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Up Market is the brainchild of Eve Lomax, who has worked closely with the Prospect Shopping Centre and fellow stall-holders to make the event a reality.
Eve, who sells organic and fairtrade baby clothes, as well as making her own shopper and jute bags, said: "I had been looking for somewhere to set up a pop-up shop in the run-up to Christmas and approached the Prospect Centre to see if they had anywhere suitable. The centre was fantastic, particularly the manager, Lee Appleton, who offered me the former food court. It has been used for events before and is a huge, bright and airy space, so I contacted some of my stall-holder friends to see if they were interested in sharing it."
As a keen crafter herself, Eve was determined to provide other crafters with a place to sell their products while giving Hull shoppers the chance to buy something unique and handmade in East Yorkshire.
And the idea was so successful, Eve instantly had a waiting list of people wanting to showcase their wares.
The monthly event now features about 50 stalls, selling everything from handmade soap and artisan chocolate to bespoke glass jewellery, custom clothing and lamps made from upcycled beer and whisky bottles.
"I try to make sure all the local stall-holders can get a chance to attend Up Market, so stalls change every month," said Eve, who juggles running her own business and organising events with voluntary work, two jobs and training to be a teaching assistant. "This also means customers will see something different every time they come up the escalator."
Last year, Mary Portas released a report on the changing face of Britain's high streets, as part of a Government review.
Portas pointed out high streets were changing, but encouraged traders and councils to work together to ensure people had a reason to visit town and city centres.
Speaking at the Yorkshire International Business Convention in Bridlington last year, she said: "All the old perceptions of what a high street used to be are now irrelevant.
"In the boom years, we spent and spent and spent, and the thing was, we spent on some pretty rank, mediocre old retailers.
"I'm not sure I miss the likes of MFI or the old Clinton Cards, and Woolworths was run by a bunch of muppets.
"The issues we face today should be looked at as an opportunity to create a high street relevant and fit for purpose, which puts the people of the community at the heart of it."
Eve agreed that providing customers with something unique would draw them into the city centre, saying: "We are offering something the high street cannot offer.
"Up Market is a local market featuring unique items and gifts you would not find anywhere else.
"But it also gives us the opportunity to meet customers and potential retailers who may want to buy our goods in bulk.
"Many of us have nine-to-five jobs to allow us to 'carry on crafting'. Being able to show our work in a high-profile venue gives us more exposure, which, for small traders, is essential for us to develop our businesses."
The next Up Market takes place on Saturday at the Atrium in the Prospect Shopping Centre, from 10am to 4pm, and will feature an array of craft stalls, as well as organic fruit and vegetables and artisan bread.