There’s clearly a consumer appetite for after-hours markets, can retailers really afford to ignore our changing shopping habits?

Up here in the Northeast, markets are part of the retail fabric – welcome splashes of colour and history that help to keep our town centres interesting.

Like anywhere we have the good, the not so good, and the occasionally ugly.

Durham’s indoor market is superbly eclectic, abuzz six days a week with independent traders selling everything from footwear to fossils.

In Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool, reinvigorated market halls delight the canny local shoppers. And in town centres across the region, we have the gamut of street market experiences, from blokes selling questionable tat to lively farmers’ markets that pull in traders and punters from miles around.

Among all these, the pinnacle is surely Newcastle’s Grainger Market, a magnificent Grade I listed building that houses more than 100 businesses in the city centre.

Somewhat downtrodden by the 1990s, the Grainger Market has since been transformed, blending new foodie outlets and specialist shops with traditional butchers, fishmongers and fruiterers. Spruced up and with a modernised offer, it’s as popular as ever.

Recently, debate has turned to the market’s restricted opening hours. Thanks to the local BID, Newcastle city centre as a whole is permanently ‘alive after five’, with shops open until 8pm every weeknight.

Head to the Grainger Market, though, and you’ll find it shut by 5.30pm – and it’s closed on Sundays and bank holidays.

Yet there’s clearly a consumer appetite for after-hours markets. While the Grainger Market is shuttered, market stalls thrive until late in the surrounding streets.

There isn’t an easy answer. Independent traders need some downtime too, especially if they’ve been up handling produce since dawn. But can market halls really afford to ignore our changing shopping habits?

In the late 1800s, you were stuffed if you wanted to stock up on cattle from Durham Indoor Market any day other than Saturday. Markets have always evolved. Now, more than ever, we must futureproof these retail jewels.

  • Graham Soult, retail consultant, CannyInsights.com