A Ramsgate trader has shut down his business after 13 years of trade from shops and more than a decade before that as a stall holder because the lack of the market has ‘killed footfall.’
Jim Brady ran Heaven and Hell gifts in Harbour Street for 10 years before redevelopment of the building meant he had to move to a new site in the High Street in 2021.
But the grandad-of-two says town trade has relied on Friday and Saturday market days for the majority of weekly income and without that there is a lack of people in the High Street. Last year he launched a petition calling for the return of the market to rejuvenate the town.
Jim, 54, says his takings had been down some 60-70% due to the market closure and he was simply unable to carry on. This month he sold his stock and closed the shop.
The town market shut when covid restrictions were brought in during March 2020. It briefly reopened in June of that year but issues around placement meant the market closed again. A new site proposed for Pier Yard car park on the seafront was scuppered at the 11th hour.
Traders were then given the go-ahead to use Staffordshire Street car park, taking space in several disabled parking bays. But there was a drop in traders taking part on Fridays and none willing to set up for business at the site on Saturdays.
The low number of stalls meant falling income, with then-operator Hughmark making a decision to cease trade in the town.
In October 2020 Thanet council said there were plans to create a new Canterbury style format with gazebos and themed days and the market contract would go out to tender. This did not come to fruition.
In June last year Cabinet members approved proposals to secure a new operator for the market, and to remove existing street trading and hawking restrictions on the High Street, King Street and Queen Street. The market was expected to be up and running this Spring but this did not happen.
Last month councillors were told an amendment is needed to traffic regulations over access to the High Street, King Street, Queen Street and Harbour Street and that work is taking place on documents ahead of inviting expressions of interest from operators.
Too late for Jim
But it is all too late for Jim who says he has no idea what the future now holds for him although he may stand for council at a future election.
The dad-of-four said: “There is no footfall in the town since the loss of the market. One day of the market would see more footfall than the rest of the week. It’s affected all the shops because there is no market to bring people into town.
“My takings were down 60 to 70%. The council managed to let Margate have a weekly market in the Old Town. When I spoke to my local councillor she said it is a different council but it’s not, it is Thanet and Kent councils that approve the closure of the roads. Ramsgate had a weekly market for years, for longer than I have been here, but we are still waiting.
“If the market had come back by Easter I might have stood a chance but there is no point hanging on, losing money week after week, when there is no idea of when it will come back.”
Jim says trade has suffered further because toilets in the town are shut and the opening of Home Bargains on the old Aldi site in Boundary Road, with a free car park, means shoppers will use that instead of paying £1.50 for an hour at Staffordshire Street car park.
He said: “In town we all got run off from the other shops, so someone in Card Factory might go and look in Bonmarche or go down to Wilko. But a lot of people come to town for Poundland and Home Bargains does 99% of the same stuff at the same price but with free parking, If you only want a pint of milk why would you pay (£1.50) parking?”
Jim says the High Street area needs help but believes the focus for Ramsgate is the seafront and harbour area.
This is prompted by plans for the £19.8million Levelling Up government grant for Ramsgate with proposals including a Green port, restaurant and hotel and a project for The Clock House which features a town square proposal at Pier Yard car park.
He said: “All the investment is for the seafront and harbour, the council seems to be killing off the town. They have plan to set up a town square by Wetherspoon (Pier Yard car park). Why do you want a town square that is not in the town unless you are trying to move the whole focus of the town to the seafront?”