The closure of an historic Blackpool market hall was today branded “another nail in the coffin” for part of the resort.
Traders in New Market, on Waterloo Road, South Shore, have been served notice by owners In Shops that the centre is to close its doors for the final time on Friday after the company went bust.
The news will see more than 20 traders – selling groceries, meat, jewellery, DIY goods and stationery – lose their stalls in the market.
Willy Penman, area manager for In Shops, said: “The New Market will close on Friday as a result of In Shops Centres Ltd going bankrupt.
“Every one of the retailers will be affected and the centre will close.”
Traders, some of who have been trading there for more than two decades, said they did not hold out much hope of a last minute reprieve.
Mr Penman added the buildings’ owners have had interest from others seeking to take control, but as yet nothing had been agreed.
Confectionery specialist Ruth Percival, 27, finally achieved her lifelong dream of opening her own her cakes and confectionery stall last Monday.
Just five days later she received a letter from market bosses telling her the dream was over.
She said: “This was my big dream, setting up my own business and it lasted less than a week. It’s just devastating, shocking.”
Ruth, however, plans to continue running her business from home in the short term before looking for new premises.
She said: “It was very early days but business was picking up and hopefully I can keep some of the customers and continue to do business with them.”
Natalie Harter opened Gelicious Nails and partner business Gelicious Baskets and Gifts six months ago.
She said: “Everyone is absolutely gutted. A big part of it is that I will feel like my family has gone.
“My heart really goes out to the traders who have been here all their working lives –it’s like they’re being turfed out of their homes, it’s a real tragedy.”
Another trader said: “Nobody here is behind with rent or owes money, but they’re being chucked out.”
Other businesses along Waterloo Road have said the loss of the market would make trading even tougher for others in the shopping district.
Mark Yates, owner of Brooks Collectables, said: “I’m devastated for the traders and for the area, they’re all businesses that I use.
“It’s another nail in the coffin for the south end of town.
“It was time served but businesses that survived there were competitive and good value.”
Darren Thickett, who owns Dolls Houses Are Us on Waterloo Road said the closure of the market could sound a “death knell” for area.
He added: “The closure of this market means there will be no butchers, grocers or DIY shop for the area – it’s just a nail in the coffin for South Shore.
“I know there are quite a few empty stalls in there, but the ones that are there are all good. It’s a crying shame.”
Councillors for the ward said they will look at how they can offer support to stallholders. Coun David O’Hara, ward councillor for Waterloo, said: “We’ll look at what we can do to sort it out and do something with the empty building.
“We’ll do all we can to boost footfall in the area and success for businesses on that road.”
Mr Thickett, who is also vice chairman of the Blackpool and Wyre Federation of Small Businesses, said many of the stall holders would not be able to afford the higher rents of shop units available on Waterloo Road.
“It’s game over for a lot of them”, he said.
“These people are going to need help to carry on.”
Mr Yates said in the past ideas had been mooted for the market to be transformed into a farmers market with a number of artisan and fresh food produce stalls.
He added: “The market was always key to the regeneration of the street because of the memories people have of it. So much has been spent turning hotels into houses to create a community again, yet there won’t be a butchers or greengrocers now because the market’s going.
“I hope some of those traders can move into other empty units in the area.”
Trader John Harrison, who runs a jewellery stall in the market, said: “It’s unfortunate because some people have been here for years.
“I came for one week but lasted 18 months, I do very well here. I was looking for somewhere bigger anyway and I sell online too.”