The majority of traders have signed new long-term leases to continue trading in Oxford Covered Market.
The 15-year leases for 56 of the Covered Market’s units (93%) came up for renewal in March 2017. At the time there were 60 units in the market.
Oxford City Council, which looks after the Grade II-listed building, has now completed on leases with the tenants of 43 units. The City Council expects to complete a further three leases shortly.
Oxford City Council is flexible about the length of Covered Market tenancies, but the majority of traders have opted again for 15-year leases.
Since March 2017, tenants from 10 units have decided, for a variety of reasons, not to renew their leases. This was the first opportunity that the local and independent traders had to review their tenancies and take stock of their situation in 15 years.
During the same period, The Souvlaki Brothers and Leonard Jay opened have in the Covered Market. Oxford Soap Company opened last week (13/11), and Fedele of Oxford, selling high-quality leather goods, will open soon.
The Covered Market now has 61 units, but this is set to rise to 63 later this year because the City Council is currently splitting the former fishmonger’s unit to meet the needs of new traders.
Oxford City Council is investing £3.1m into the Covered Market to secure its long-term future. The investment includes £1.8m to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years, and £1.3m for internal refurbishment, decorations and new flooring.
The public realm around the Market Street entrance to the Covered Market could also see significant improvements in the coming years, in particular with Jesus College’s redevelopment plans for Northgate House.
Oxford Covered Market, which first opened in 1774, sells food, gifts, shoes, fashion, flowers and jewellery, and the market provides a unique showcase for the very best in local crafts, food and drink.
Graham MacDonald, director of the Covered Market Traders’ Association and owner of iScream & Wicked Chocolate, said: “Last year, upon renewal of the leases, the majority of the Covered Market traders had, for the first time in fifteen years, an opportunity to review their futures. Some traders chose to retire and some chose to explore business opportunities elsewhere, but the overwhelming majority are now committed to the future of their business and to the future of the Oxford Covered Market.
“This has been a difficult period with so many units closing at once, which led to rumours circulating about the future of the Covered Market. I am glad the City Council has let new units on varying terms, which means we should avoid the lease renewal process occurring at the same time. We have now moved through this difficult period and put the rumours to bed.
“There are exciting new shops opening in the Covered Market almost every week. At the moment the City Council is busy subdividing the larger units to make it considerably more attractive and affordable for yet more unique and independent shops to open shortly. The Covered Market has a bright future and I would encourage everyone to visit to see what the Covered Market now has to offer, especially in the lead up to Christmas.”
Councillor Mary Clarkson, Executive Board Member for Culture and City Centre, said: “I am delighted that so many Covered Market traders have decided to renew their tenancies with the City Council. It means we can now all work together to secure the long-term future of the market.
“This month is the Covered Market’s 244th birthday, and our hope is that we can pass a successful and thriving market on to the next generation so that we can continue this Oxford tradition for at least another 244 years.”