'We're in Gorton Market... it's not the Trafford Centre'

Gorton Market, Manchester. May 21, 2024
-Credit: (Image: Sean Hansford)

They survived the pandemic and have battled to carry on as energy costs have soared. But this is the last straw for some traders at Gorton Market.

Several businesses at the indoor space, off Garratt Way, have told the Manchester Evening News they might leave due to the 'extortionate' costs involved. Some claim their outgoings have risen by 50 per cent or more, with bills up by thousands of pounds a month.

It comes after Manchester ice cream makers Sivori's closed its café at the market last year after nearly five decades. Customers and traders have said the loss of the family-run business - which would attract visitors from far and wide - has damaged other businesses.

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Manchester council says it is not aware of any businesses looking to vacate their place in the market at this time. The council has said that while rent has not increased, service charges have gone up to help maintain the market which is run at a loss.

Gorton councillor Julie Reid said the market is 'thriving', despite the financial difficulties facing the traders and the town hall, adding: "Over my dead body will that market close." But locals fear the decline of the market could mean the loss of a vital community hub.

Emma Brennan, a regular customer at Gorton Market. May 2024
Emma Brennan is a regular customer at the market -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Emma Brennan, who turned 35 this week, has been coming to the market all her life. Living across the road, she is there 'all the time'.

"I know some of the traders from being small," she said. "I come for the café. I use the card shop and the meat stall. I think for the elderly people, a lot come and meet in the market. If you're lonely, those that are a bit isolated, they come and they speak to people. My nan loves going to the butchers for her meats and she knows the greengrocers."

But Emma fears the rise of online shopping and competition from the Tesco supermarket next door could be killing off trade. "I don't know if it's just dying out," she said.

"They're supposed to be opening a night cafe. Whether that's a good idea in Gorton - it depends what they do. I think it would be alright. But they'd have problems if they serve alcohol."

Gorton Market, Manchester. May 21, 2024
Money is being invested into Gorton Market -Credit:Sean Hansford

Last year, Manchester council gave the green light to a new masterplan for Gorton. The plan sets out aspirations for the area such as creating more of a night-time economy, building a new town square and expanding the existing market to offer more food and drink.

Coun Reid, who represents the area, says she and her colleagues are supporting stallholders through difficult times and doing their best to make the market successful, insisting that not all traders are unhappy. But she says the town hall cannot absorb the extra costs of running the market - which ran at a loss of £89,000 last year - especially after the council has faced £450m worth of cuts.

"Gorton is a really good old fashioned market," she said. "Against the odds, it's thriving. We've got money to put in a square and put in trees."

The local authority has recently increased service charge for traders to cover the rising costs of running the market. For Ian Ashton, this means the total cost of rent and service charge for the card shop he owns, will be nearly £70,000 over a 12-month period.

The council has confirmed that, in April, the total monthly costs for Card Academy increased from £882 to £1,312. Mr Ashton is now looking at leaving the market and moving his 'viable' business somewhere cheaper, saying: "I don't think I'll survive."

"In my opinion, they're forcing me to make a decision that I don't want to make," he said. "To close down or relocate a viable business."

Gorton Market, Manchester. May 21, 2024
Edwards Fruit and Veg is facing a hike in costs -Credit:Sean Hansford

Edwards Fruit and Veg, a family business which has been in Gorton for 100 years, is also facing a rent and service charge increase of more than £1,000 a month. The family said that traders found out about the increase on Friday (May 17) and many are still 'up in arms'.

One member of the family, who asked not to be named, said they still haven't decided what to do about the hike. "We can only pass so much of this percentage on [to customers]," they said, "At the end of the day, we're in Gorton Market. It's not the Trafford Centre."

Dessalegne Wondim, who owns Heaven cafe with his wife, faces a similar predicament. The 'community cafe' charges just £1 for a cup of tea and £2.15 for a latte - much cheaper than the big high street chains, Mr Wondim says. They will now have to put the prices up.

"Our prices are cheap because it's a community market," he said. "If the prices are higher outside, it's alright. But this is a council market. It's lower. It's got to be cheaper because it's a council market."

Clothes-maker Stiches at Floes has already decided to leave. The owner of the business, which saw its weekly costs increase from just over £1,000 to nearly £1,395 in April, according to the council, told the M.E.N. that she will be moving out of Gorton market next month.

Gorton Market, Manchester. May 21, 2024
Some traders have already decided to leave -Credit:Sean Hansford

"I wouldn't even dream of staying," she said. "I don't want the stress myself. I'm not happy but that's the only option I've got. I've been left without an option."

Simon Knott, who used to live in Gorton, does not come to the market much any more. But he believes it is important for the area.

"It's people's jobs," he said. "It's people's livelihoods. It's a bit of a hub where people meet up and stuff. A lot of food places get busy.

"But to increase the rent, it's just taking the businesses out of Gorton. Manchester council says that footfall in the market increased by nearly 1 per cent last year. But the market ran at a loss of £89,000.

Simon Knott, a customer at Gorton Market. May 2024
Simon Knott used to come to the market more when he lives in the area -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Traders are currently going through a new application process to renew their five-year lease. According to the council, no new leases have been issued yet, but when they come into effect in July, rent will not rise as a result, unless tenants agree to a phased increase.

The service charge however has increased based on the council's expenditure to run and maintain the market. The service charge is calculated according to the number of square metres each business occupies on the market, regardless of the type of business it is.

A Manchester council spokesperson said: "The council has dedicated a huge amount of resource towards the Market Service in recent years to ensure that traders are able to keep their businesses running during an incredibly difficult economic climate. We are incredibly sympathetic to any business which has struggled or is currently struggling with the current economic climate.

"The council has no intention of closing the market and will continue to operate the service in a way that preserves its place in the community. Across our entire Markets service, numerous traders have been provided with a range of support, including discounts on charges, in order to allow them to continue operating.

"We recognise the value of all our markets and appreciate the difficulties that traders face due to elements outside the Council’s control. We will continue to support traders and would always encourage them to contact the council direct if they have any concerns.

"The council has for a number of years worked very hard to keep rents and costs down to ensure that businesses can continue to trade. But as the service is run on a cost-recovery model steps have to be made to ensure that the service is run on sound financial principles."