Biddulph could replace its daytime market with “twilight” traders to accommodate new stallholders who work during the week.
The town’s artisan market is usually held on the first Friday of the month, but fewer traders have been setting up stalls post-lockdown, according to the town council.
In a bid to combat the “dwindling number” of traders, a new idea has been mooted which would see the 9am to 3pm event switched to the evening in the hope of encouraging more people to take part, reinventing the town centre as a “social space”.
The town council’s chief officer, Sarah Haydon presented the plan at a meeting of the Town and Community Committee last Tuesday.
“We have noticed that quite a number of traders decided to do something else during lockdown instead of returning to the market, so we have seen a dwindling number and they haven’t been replaced by a brand new cohort of people,” she said.
“The fact that the market is on a Friday does put some people off because they might want to work in the week and trade at the weekend.
“We wondered whether we could hold a twilight market, which would start at 3pm as the schools are finishing, so parents picking up kids could come along. Then, it would run into the evening as people are finishing work.”
Biddulph is prohibited from holding a Saturday market by Congleton’s 750-year-old charter, which dictates that anyone wanting to trade outdoors on that day within seven miles of Congleton must first apply to Cheshire East Council, in order to not create unwanted competition.
Congleton has traditionally held a market every Saturday for hundreds of years, but in November, a petition against the medieval charter gathered hundreds of signatures.
Mrs Haydon added: “We have always said that we wouldn’t get rid of the artisan market until we came up with something to replace it with. The traders we spoke to over Christmas said that they would be happy to do something like that.
“It is not that we need to do the twilight market to reinvigorate something that is failing, it is just another idea to get people back onto the high street. Compared to other town centres, Biddulph is looking pretty good and healthy, but we are not resting on our laurels.”
Coun John Jones said: “I like the idea of a twilight market and I think it lends itself more to summertime.
“Having street food in the evening with the town centre lit up would make it a very social attraction, especially with pubs not too far away. I have always said that if we ever get the high street pedestrianised, it would be a great social space.
“There are towns the size of Biddulph in France with trees decorated with fairy lights and outdoor seating, but people say that it wouldn’t work here because of the weather. Well, the weather is not that different to northern France.
“We have to reinvent the high street as more of a social space than a retail space because with online shopping we are never going to get it back in the same way.”
Coun Jim Garvey agreed: “It would provide an introduction to the weekend. You only have to look at the treacle market in Macclesfield, which features a variety of food vendors.
“That sort of event would fit in very nicely for a summer evening in Biddulph – it would reinvigorate the town centre and make it more of an evening destination.”
It was agreed that an entire rebranding of the market would be needed to alert people to the change in strategy, rather than sticking with the town’s existing artisan market label.
Coun Wayne Rogers said: “People see the word artisan and think it is a specialist thing that isn’t for them. If we are going to change the market, let’s simply call it Biddulph Twilight Market.”
After winning the support of councillors, a more detailed proposal with costings and dates is expected to be delivered to a future council meeting, before a final decision is made.