Having consider the results of the market research commissioned by the Town Council, it has been decided that future Artisan Markets in Wilmslow will be held on a Sunday.
The Artisan Market was established in Wilmslow two and a half years ago with the aim of supporting local businesses, however a large number of retailers called for the market to be switched to a Sunday as it has been having a detrimental effect on sales on their busiest day of the week.
As a result, Wilmslow Town Council (WTC) commissioned independent research company Wendy Dunn Research, at a cost of approximately £3000, to assess the impact of the Wilmslow Artisan Market and help both the Town Council and Cheshire East Council to determine whether Saturday or Sunday is preferred by the majority of Wilmslow retailers.
222 outlets in the town, including those located on Chapel Lane and Summerfields - as well as the town centre - were survey, which accounts for 81% of all retailers in Wilmslow.
When asked which day they would prefer to have the Artisan Market, 32% said no preference, 23% said a Saturday and 45% said a Sunday.
The research consisted of a 5 minute questionnaire, which was carried out face-to-face (with the exception of a few which took place over the phone) between 21st November and 4th December 2013, which was timed to be shortly after the first Sunday Artisan Market held on 17th November.
Of those questioned 29% said the Saturday market had a positive impact on their business, 38% said it had had no effect and 28% said it had had a negative impact.
When questioned about the impact of the November Sunday Artisan Market, 33% said it had a positive impact on their business, 53% said it had had no effect and 7% said it had had a negative impact. Therefore holding the market on a Sunday appeared to eliminate a considerable amount of the negative impact on businesses, presumably as many of them were closed.
Looking at the type of business, the outlets most negatively impacted included supermarkets, butchers, food shops, clothing retailers and those selling mobile and audio communications. Whilst those most positively impacted included restaurants, coffee shops, travel agents and estate agents.
As part of the research, retailers were also asked about their usual trading hours. 99% opened on a Saturday, whilst only 38% opened on a Sunday. However, 50% of all outlets in Wilmslow do open on Sundays in the run up to Christmas. Therefore, a Saturday market will affect virtually everyone, either positively or negative, whereas a Sunday market will normally have an impact on 38%.
Retailers were asked about the impact on their trading days if the Artisan Market was moved to a Sunday and the majority of outlets said they would not change their trading days as a consequence. 7% said they open on a Sunday if the market moved to a Sunday, 2% said they would close, 88% it would make no difference to their opening hours and 3% did not know.
In the light of the conclusions of the research and the presentation of the findings at the WTC meeting on Monday, 16th December, Cheshire East Councillor Rod Menlove and the Town Centre Manager Diane Smith have asked the organisers of the Artisan Market to retain Sunday as the market trading day.
Cllr Rod Menlove said "During our discussions in early 2011 with Denise Valente on the concept of an Artisan Market our primary objective was to establish an event to benefit the retail trade in Wilmslow. That objective has been achieved beyond expectations and Wilmslow owes a debt of gratitude to the Artisan Market organisers Denise and Vicky.
"Reassessment of an event such as this after a couple of years' experience is sensible and with a market the obvious consideration is the matter of the trading day. I welcome the fact that the independent research is conclusive on Sunday as the trading day. I have every confidence that the Sunday Artisan Market will continue to be a resounding success for the retailers and market traders and an attraction for the residents of Wilmslow."
Speaking at Monday's town council meeting, Cllr Keith Purdom, Chairman of WTC, said "I think one of the worries when we debated whether to spend the money was whether it would tell us anything we didn't already know and would it give us a clear result. Obviously that was a concern of some members and I do think we have a clear result."
Cllr Ruth McNulty added "The reason the Business Group promoted the Artisan Market in the first place was the results of a benchmarking survey conducted by Cheshire East. The lack of a market here in Wilmslow was felt to be a detriment to the footfall in the town so they set this market up, award-winning market, to help bring footfall into the town.
"They've done that in spades but they never intended at all to damage businesses that were here, they were trying to help businesses, and so it is safe to say that the organisers of the market are more than happy to make a go of working the market on a Sunday."
Organiser Denise Valente told wilmslow.co.uk "Our initial aims for the Artisan Market in Wilmslow have far outreached our initial expectations on all fronts.
"To bring an event to the town which enhances what the town has to offer, showcases the town and provide a pull back into town for visitors who would normally shop elsewhere is what we set out to achieve. It has always been our intention to maximize the potential for our permanent retailers whilst providing something extraordinary for our visitors and so we are determined to make a move to Sunday as successful as possible.
"Our incredibly talented artisan traders are unfaltering in their support and loyalty and so I am confident that we can continue to deliver an outstanding event for Wilmslow.
"The challenge to reinvigorate Wilmslow on a Sunday is a big one. Having been shortlisted to the final 4 in the country for the Mary Portas 'High Street Champion of the Year' I am certain we can achieve it with the continued support and patronage of our many wonderful visitors."
Due to a request from Wilmslow Town Council, businesses were also asked whether any other local events (excluding the Artisan Market) had had an impact on their business. Events identified as being positive were: Wilmslow Motor Show (56%), the markets (11%), the Christmas lights switch on (11%), Wilmslow Scarecrow Festival (9%) and Dickinson's Real Deal (4%).
Issues identified as having a negative impact were: parking problems (25%), Wilmslow Car Show (21%), road works (18%), buskers (4%) and theft (4%).
Wilmslow resident Dave Cash independently carried out his own research, with the aim of filling what he described as the "big gap" because the survey only covered local retailers and not customers of the Artisan Market and the market traders.
Dave Cash explained "To that end I did my own straw poll of market traders in November and went out yesterday (Sunday 15th December) to straw poll some of the shoppers. It is not statistically significant as Wendy Dunn's report, as the numbers are so low."
Mr Cash, who interviewed 25 visitors to the market and 81 out of about 110 market traders, asked that when considering the Wendy Dunn research they also considered the "contribution from the shoppers and market stall holders".
Of the 25 visitors questioned by Dave Cash, 5 said they would prefer the market to be on a Saturday, 8 preferred a Sunday, whilst 12 had no preference. Of those he spoke to 14 were Wilmslow residents and 11 were visiting, which whilst a small sample indicates that people do travel into the town from the surrounding area.
Dave Cash also surveyed 81 stallholders on Sunday 17th November, when the first Sunday trial took place. They were asked whether they would prefer the Wilmslow Artisan Market to be held on a Saturday or Sunday, 36 said Saturday, 8 said Sunday, 38 were happy with either and 2 did not reply. Asked whether they would attend the market if it was held monthly on a Sunday, 63 said yes, 8 said no and 10 did not reply.
All 81 stallholders said they would like to see the Wilmslow Artisan Market continue.
The first Wilmslow Artisan Market of 2014 will take place on Sunday 19th January.