Growing concerns over the “steady decline” of the Saturday Market have prompted operator Geraud (UK) to reinforce its commitment to Hawick.
The Liverpool-based firm, which manages 55 markets in the UK, has come under increasing fire in recent weeks as stallholders report “dire trading conditions” and their wait goes on for new canopies and the erection of a storage container to house the stalls.
Several frustrated traders are also now calling for the market to be moved from the Common Haugh to the High Street in a bid to attract more customers.
Geraud took over the running of the Hawick site in September and the firm’s area manager, Craig Taylor, admitted there have been “teething troubles”.
Mr Taylor said: “We’re not in Hawick for the ‘quick buck’, which is why we’ve committed to a long-term contract with the council. Our plans include not just revitalising Hawick’s market, but to serve the community and council in a ‘partnership’ rather than as contractor.
“We’ve had teething troubles, granted, which started with the initial delay of the contract award, and then the long wait for the new market area to be demarked.
“But within the coming weeks traders and customers will see our new pop-up stalls and canopies, which will initially be offered free of charge to traders. And we’re also in the process of setting up a dedicated Hawick Market Facebook page, as well as siting a storage container for the stalls at the Common Haugh in the near future.”
Local ward councillors, Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer, have been monitoring the situation at the Common Haugh for several weeks, while Scottish Borders Council is to meet with Geraud representatives to discuss the Hawick market.
Councillor McAteer said: “While much was promised by Geraud when they were granted the Saturday Market contract, I’m afraid very little has been delivered. This is a huge disappointment and I’m seriously concerned for the future of Hawick’s market.
“Councillor Stuart Marshall and I have been visiting the stallholders most weeks and they’ve expressed their frustration that nothing has changed and trading conditions are dire. And a number [of stallholders] have suggested that the market needs to move to the High Street or somewhere nearby.”
Councillor Marshall said: “I know the last few weeks have been pretty dire in terms of the amount of traders at the market, and I’ll be raising the matter at Tuesday’s Common Good Fund meeting to see what the actual state of play is with the new franchisee.”
A council spokesperson added: “There is a meeting later this week between the council and Geraud to discuss Hawick’s market.”