Three of the participants in our Spotlight on Oxford event last week referred to the significance of the city’s Covered Market.
When you think of the global importance of Oxford, a leader in education, various areas of cutting-edge technology and its remarkable history and architecture, something as simple as a covered market would seem a strange attraction.
But by recognising its importance, Oxford has done towns and cities everywhere a favour.
Those of a certain age in Reading have long lamented the loss of an indoor market called Traders, a classic Aladdin’s Cave of random sellers, operating in a key town centre spot during much of the 1980s.
But throughout the 1990s and even during most of the previous two decades, the emphasis of towns has been on attracting big retail brands; those who won’t go bust and default on the rent.
But for the consumer, that just meant endless clone towns and little reason to visit others.
Now, with new developments showing an emphasis on offering the retail people want rather than seeking just those with the deepest pockets, the covered market concept fits perfectly into this, more vibrant, scene.
Conversations with various town centre managers over the years, suggest a certain snobbery about such venues. However, our conversations with those currently running towns in the region has been more encouraging. A more open approach to the independent trader is definitely evident.
Moorgarth, asset manager of Reading’s Broad Street Mall, has made suggestions about events and markets in its central square and had wanted a box park style area at its Southern Court area until police objected over it also being a drinking venue.
But now, more than ever, the independent retailer should have a place in the town centre and, as our webinar pointed out, Oxford plans to support its local businesses to rebuild its tourism and, subsequently, its economy.
If one of the most architecturally and academically significant cities in the world rates a covered market as a key tourist attraction, surely others should take note.
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