WREXHAM must “get away” from its image as a market town to match a major change in shopping habits, a politician has said.
The town has long been known for both its indoor and outdoor markets, which have historically drawn visitors to the main shopping area.
However, the Butchers Market, General Market and Tŷ Pawb have experienced a significant drop in footfall in the last 14 months as a result of lockdown measures.
Wrexham Council has urged shoppers to back traders in the face of a difficult economic climate after previously revealing plans worth £2m to regenerate the markets.
But with online shopping rapidly increasing in recent years, one councillor has questioned whether it should focus on other ways to attract footfall into the town centre.
Speaking at a meeting on plans to tackle empty properties, Conservative councillor Rodney Skelland said: “In my opinion Wrexham isn’t a market town anymore.
“I was part of that market town when I used to bring sheep and cattle to the auction where Mecca Bingo is.
“But once the auction finished and Mecca Bingo was built there, Wrexham ceased to be a market town as such because the surrounding rural areas didn’t use Wrexham’s market anymore.
“We’ve got to get away a little bit from Wrexham as a market town.”
He later added: “From my perspective, I find shopping choices fantastic these days, but it’s all online and you’re not going to change that.
“Because there’s going to be so many more people around, town centres are going to have become social areas where everyone meets.”
The local authority has been looking to support market traders during the current crisis by offering concessions on their bills.
It follows improvement works at both the General and Butcher’s
markets being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Cllr Skelland’s comments were made despite one of his colleagues insisting that markets could still be used as a way of bringing visitors to Wrexham.
New Broughton councillor Nigel Williams (Ind) told members of the council’s employment, business and investment scrutiny committee that the town’s weekly outdoor market on Queen’s Square should also be better advertised.
He said: “Traditionally Wrexham has always been known as a market town and I know there is working ongoing with the indoor markets.
“It has always been well-known for the outdoor market on a Monday as well, which over the years has gone smaller and smaller.
“I think that’s an untapped market we could still look at.”
Cllr Williams suggested the council should aim to attract artisan market traders into the town.
Markets and events manager Amanda Davies said measures to improve the range of stalls were put on hold because of the pandemic, but were now being revisited as lockdown measures ease.
She said: “We’ve got a team working on that now where we are looking at food, which is a good offer.
“Street markets particularly have to compete with shops on the high street and provide something different.
“That is something we are working on because the Monday market is very popular and is still one of our busiest days within the town centre.”