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Stallholders’ fears over future of Kirkgate market as they report “definite downturn”

Kirkgate Market in Leeds

Traders at Leeds’ Kirkgate Market say they are concerned about its future as the economy takes a fall this year.

Since opening in 1822, millions have commended the variety of produce, imported goods and accessible materials on offer at Kirkgate Market.

Now with over 600 stalls, making it the largest covered market in Europe, the once bustling atmosphere has been diminishing according to traders.

A concerned shop owner, Steve Fitzpatrick, of The Baobab Tree, has seen a “definite downturn” in visitors this year as people are not spending as much.

Steve believes that Leeds City Council needs to open up more units for rental but decrease the high rent prices in order for stallholders to continue their trade at the market.

He said: “I live in York. I can get a shop double the size for the same price. If things don’t start improving…in the next year or so, I will be packing up.”

Inside Leeds Kirkgate market by Roxanna Alam

Another trader at Rafi’s Spicebox, divulged that business had picked up after the summer period due to the colder weather.

Anna Cepurnaja, 20, explained that the cost of living crisis has caused the company to increase the prices of their curry packs.

Renovations have been ongoing for the last seven years, while old stalls are yet to be reopened. Customers have described the market as “grotty”, as the Council is yet to finish what they started.

When asked about how she sees the market, Anna said: “It needs a revamp. It used it be quite nice, people used to come here in the 90s and 2000s. Now it’s just not what it used to be.”

Price increases at food stall by Roxanna Alam

Tyrone, a worker at the market’s community library, also reminisced about the market’s earlier days. He said: “When I was six years old my mum brought me to the market. It’s now a totally different place.”

He is hopeful that the food court will continue to grow more successful and secure the future of Kirkgate.

R.Bethell Fishmongers have been supplying Kirkgate with fresh, international seafood for over one hundred years.

While not worried about the future of the business due to it being a small stall with less rent to pay than larger ones, Tyler Dean, 21, is another trader who has had to “massively” increase prices.

Usually seeing two to three times the amount of customers on a Thursday, Tyler believes enough is not being done to maintain the market, as old stalls haven’t been boarded up and wooden pallets are left out in a mess in the aisles.

He said: ‘I don’t think it can last too much longer, can it? A third of us have been cut off already.”

Whitaker’s Farmhouse Eggs & Cheese by Media Library

Two stalls selling pasta and health foods closed in early August as the lack of business forced them out.

Their neighbouring Italian bakery stall run by Georgia Waldron, 26, from Nottingham, found it a great shame.

She said: “I love the market. There’s such a nice community spirit, everyone supports one another around here.”

Leeds City Council were contacted for a comment on the market’s proceedings and their relationship with its traders.

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