It’s scary how fast things change. I was only at the Oxford Market last year and wrote about how wonderful it was. This trip though, I have to say, my heart sank. Some of the lovely shops are still there, the butcher, the organic veg, the saddle shop, the print shop, the local coffee shops, but there was a new face in the market, and one that spells a steep downward trend.
There was a phone shop. Now there is nothing wrong with a phone shop, but who needs this inside a market that is in the heart of Oxford with endless tourists walking about? Who is that desperate for a new phone cover? I know I am being difficult, and I tried to walk past it without tsk tsking, but then I came across another shop that sells Mulberry Bags look alikes. These look alikes are so cheaply made, but not so cheaply priced, that it is a wonder anyone buys them. However the shop is open with its tatty kit. Not the kind of market I would want to promote.
There are some shops that should be encouraged, the bespoke hat maker, the independent bakery, and the independent coffee shop. Surely the Market which is run by the local council, could think to encourage more shops like this? Individual shops of high quality that can’t be found anywhere else? Simple logic would tell you, this would draw in the tourist trade. No one wants to travel to a historic market only to find a copy of the High Street big box shops, or a sad version of a pence to a pound type of shop.
I spoke to some of the merchants, faced with outrageous rent hikes on the High Street, just outside the market entrance, with a 44 percent rent rise in one year. Inside the market, it is worse. How on earth is that even…I can’t even use the word fair. Business is business, but when you have a paying tenant surely shouldn’t some consideration be given? Yes, by all means raise the rent, but at a human price point. No one can sustain that sort of rise. After all, 44 percent is a bit over the top. It would be one thing to raise the rent to attract a better tenant, but, to replace it with shops that sell tat? For the shops that are selling the better fare, how are they supposed to increase trade by 44% sitting next to shops that are selling goods even the outlets have let go? I suppose it all depends on the type of market you desire. There is a place for everything in this world.
Some rents inside the market are going up by 70%. I am dumbfounded by this figure. Speechless.
The little pastry shop was closing this year. The rents have been raised to a point it is now impossible to make a living. So it goes, and I imagine another store selling cheap kit, or phone covers will pop in. They too will struggle to make ends meet, close, and so on, before long the betting shops, and charity shops will line the streets. Years later, the powers that be, will have think tank sessions…why did the Historic markets fail? I will have no answer for them, other than a sad shake of the head.
Is this the image the Oxford Market really wants to portray to the thousands of tourists that tread the pavement? Isn’t there a way to come up with fair rent rises that support both parties? I wonder…