This is where Blackpool businesses who left the Abingdon Street Market have set up shop
These Blackpool retail businesses, left homeless after the closure of Abingdon Street Market, have found themselves new spaces in the town centre.
When the council closed the market for a £3.6m refurbishment in July 2021, many of the stall holders were moved to the former Top Shop in Victoria Street to set up a makeshift market there.
But after the council’s contract with the owners of that shop came to an end in June, the businesses, many of whom have traded for more than 10 years, were all facing the prospect of losing all of their customers.
With their future uncertain and no indication of when or indeed if they might return to Abindgon Street, the entrepreneurial stall holders got into gear and found themselves new premises around town.
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Many of the stallholders have said they wanted to return to Abingdon Street when it re-opens, but they fear the plans for artisan stalls, a wine bar and eating areas for up to 250 diners will leave no room for them.
When the temporary Victoria Street premises shut, five of the businesses there decided to team up and no longer rely on the council’s support.
Little Gem (fancy dress), Duty Free Cosmetics, The Book Shack Blackpool, Pam’s Wigs and Cosmetics World stall got together in a shop unit nearby, next to Specsavers, They have named it Victoria Street Market.
Tony Townsend from the Book Shack said: “In June, the council told us we had to be out of the former Top Shop by June 17 and to find our own place. We had no help from them.
"I did ask if we were going to go back to the old market after it has been refurbished, but we were told no and instead why not try Fox Hall Market?
“But we decided to find our own premises, rented the shop next door privately and have called it Victoria Street market.
"We have made it work between us all and I think it looks quite impressive given that it was an empty shell when we took it on. We had to build our own stalls.”
Another pair of former stall holders who have since moved to a new shop are Sara Gill and Uzia Jacob from Smart Menswear, which has set up at 39 Church Street, Blackpool
Sara said: “Smart menswear has been trading in Abingdon street market from past 20 plus years and changed hands just over a year ago. We have a loyal customer base who are local as well as others who used to come to the market from all across the UK.
“We sell men’s trousers, jeans, shirts, jackets, workwear and accessories at affordable prices.
"It was extremely difficult to find a relocation. When we were handed the notice to quit we were disappointed and were also sad to see the only traditional market in Blackpool go.
“We are happy to advise our customers that we are now open seven days a week at our shop on Church street. We are continuing to add more products and will do our best to meet the demand and make sure to provide best customer service.
Another former stallholder is barber Alistair Taylor who has recently opened his new premises Alistair's Barber and Hair Studio in Topping Street and has built up his business since lockdown to employ another member of staff.
He said: "I was in the market since July 2013 so when Covid hit in 2019 I was well established. I have a strong local clientele and the beauty of Blackpool is during the season between March and November I practically double my clients.
“Of course, when Covid hit we had limited visitors and locals would start to increase their time between appointments. We had bursts of clients every time we came out of lockdown with queues out the door.
“I was fortunate enough that when I managed to move premises, I was able to open just as the last lockdown ended resulting in high demand and I'd say most clients were able to find me.
"However, this pattern of clients leaving their appointments longer has become the new normal. It's become a nationwide issue where two week haircuts have become every two months. Six week hair cuts have become three, even four month hair cuts.
“I believe the biggest factor affecting our industry is that people are still working from home. It's common for clients to say , ‘Oh I don't mind what I look like when I'm at home’.
“I am looking forward to the new DWP office being built on king Street, it will definitely boost the footfall in my area and I am hoping it brings people back to the work place and into the shop for more regular services.”
Another stall which found a new home earlier this year is Gill’s House of Fashion, which has taken the place of the former Ukio clothing store, opposite Starbucks in Victoria Street.
When it is completed, the revamped market in Abingdon Street Market is set to have new entrances from Cedar Square, Queen Vera’s Road and Church Street, while the exterior of the market will include new glazing to draw more light in to the building.
Plans show the ground floor having a large food and drink area at the Edward Street end with a beer bar, wine bar and coffee stall, three separate seating areas totalling 250 covers, and five food and beverage units.
The retail element opens onto Abingdon Street, and there are also male and female toilets.