The Altrincham Market Revamp

The Altrincham market revamp has updated and brough the market into modern times with places to go for something to eats, for somewhere to bring the family for treats and weekend fun.The tale of Altrincham Market tells in microcosm the story of British retailing. It started life all bright and shiny: dating back to 1290, it was one of Manchester’s most successful. Then followed decline, with the behemoth Trafford Centre and the latest (current?) recession hastening its demise. Empty shop units sprang up like mushrooms under a diseased tree; shoppers deserted the place – high street, market, the lot. And then came a man with a big idea. He reinvented Alty Market, scrubbed it up, added a whole lot of street food – and about-turned the slow death of this grand old retail dame.That man was local lad Nick Johnson, formerly of property development company Urban Splash, and while he would be the first to admit we have over-simplified the story ever so slightly, he (and his wife Jenny) can take credit for the relaunch of Altrincham Market last year.

They gathered in new traders under the Victorian roof of the covered market, introduced themed weekend markets (such as vintage one weekend, food and drink another), expanded the week-day market onto a nearby street and oversaw the £750,000 renovation of the 19th-century Market House nearby.Market House now forms the centrepiece of the new market. Inside, five specialist food outlets cluster around communal tables that seat 180. Artisan coffee using Lancaster-blended beans, Honest Crust’s wood-fired pizza, salads, bagels, chocolate and wine served by the glass from Didsbury-based outfit, Reserve, are all on offer; the existence of a small play area for small, playful people (complete with cushions, chalkboards and picture books) explains why the place is packed out with families.Outside, in the covered market, stallholders sell everything from fresh fish and locally produced cheese to vintage knick-knackery and furniture. More food is available in a seating area here, with a live music stage supplying the soundtrack to the weekend markets.It’s still early days for Alty Market. There have been naysayers and Market House can get deafeningly busy at times.

Leaflets apologise for the fact that you might have to wait a while for food, but argue “we want to get it right – Market House is at the start of a journey.” Yet it’s clear that the market is having a positive impact. It’s heaving, for a start. Older restaurants and shops around the market appear busier, and new places have sprung up.It is all very enjoyable and it is all very deliberately positioned: the Johnsons are canny enough to understand that a market such as this can’t compete with out of town retail parks, or with online prices. Where Alty Market can compete, though, is in creating an experience; it’s the sort of place you can take the kids, your mum or your partner to. Heck, you can even take your dog. It’s old-fashioned and defiantly local, and it is reinventing the old-fashioned market for a more modern shopper. So what would you rather have – a place that was too busy or a place that was not busy at all? The redesign of Altrincham has made it much friendlier place for visitors, shoppers and traders. It has also helped to develop a booming night time economy with 26 new restaurants and bars opening since the project began. So far £3m has been spent on improving the town centre to create better streets, footpaths, parking, drainage and crossing points.