Market day: The rise of the artisan market in Liverpool
Words by Christine Toner
As more creatives set up stalls in the city we take a look at the rise of the artisan market and what it means for Liverpool’s artistic community.
Liverpool has long been a shopper’s dream. From high end designer stores to bespoke boutiques the city really does have something for everyone. In recent years though, a new kind of retailer has sprung to prominence – the artisan market.
Providing platforms for creatives and craftsmen and women, these markets attract thousands of visitors from across the region and beyond as they look to bag themselves something unique.
Just last month the popular Makers Market held its inaugural monthly Liverpool event on Hope Street, and the trend doesn’t stop at crafts. Earlier this year the Graffiti Spirits Group – the team behind Salt Dog Slim’s and Santa Chupitos – announced plans for its forthcoming indoor food market on Duke Street.
“We have been far behind continental Europe on these offerings and it is now fast becoming a tourism favourite for the UK as well,” says Graffiti Spirits Group director, Matt Farrell.
“We want this to be something the city is proud of and the first culinary experience on visitors’ lists of things to do.”
“The uptrend of food and drink experiences has become one of the first activities on peoples’ lists. Duke Street will have an emphasis on quality, both locally and with the best the UK has to offer. We have already lined up some of the best operators and the in-house restaurant will be a gateway for many local chefs to showcase their talents. We want this to be something the city is proud of and the first culinary experience on visitors’ and locals’ lists of things to do.”
The markets are a welcome addition to the city. But far from simply being a nice place to visit, they play a much more important role in the creative community – helping to foster home grown talent and giving people their first step into the business world.
“They’re very important”, says Joolz Smith, organiser at The Artisan Collective which runs handmade events. “Running any kind of business, especially in today’s challenging environment, is tough. Starting a business is easy, but it’s finding the opportunities to sell directly to the general public that is the challenge.
“Pop-up markets like ours allow new and established creatives to sell directly to the public with minimum risk and outlay, making [the outlet] more accessible. As stallholders ourselves we understand the challenges of starting a creative business.”
Jewellery and crafts maker Sarah McCormick co-owns popular gift and accessories store Ruby Blue Lane on St John’s Road in Waterloo. She began her creative career by attending artisan markets across the city and beyond.
“Creative markets were the initial launch pad for me and my business, and without them I’d still be in the day job,” she says. “They are a brilliant way of testing to see if your products have a market and also who that market is. After four years of taking part in craft fairs and arts markets across the North West I felt like I had enough confidence to open a shop, which I would not have had without the experience the markets provided.”
“Creative markets are important to the creative community because they offer an opportunity to sell our handmade products which we otherwise may not have had”.
And it’s not just the sellers themselves who benefit.
“Creative markets are important to the creative community because they offer an opportunity to sell our handmade products which we otherwise may not have had,” says Sarah. “But they’re also great for the city as they add to the local economy when a lot of local people attend these markets, as well as people visiting from other cities.”
In the last few years Liverpool has seen a huge amount of interest in creative markets with new events popping up in all corners of the city.
However, Joolz believes this momentum is actually gathering across the country as a whole.
“I don’t think it’s just Liverpool where these events are successful, I think there is a general movement in the UK,” she says. “People are looking for something different, and quality with some authenticity. They are getting jaded by the same old ‘made in China’ high street offering, and there is so much creative choice out there that handmade arts and crafts markets are making alternatives more accessible to the public.”
For crafty and creative types looking to sell their wares for the first time there are a number of events on offer, though they’re not without their challenges.
“The biggest barrier to entry is the cost with table prices ranging from £15 – £90 per 6ft x 2ft table, and the average is £25,” explains Joolz. “In Liverpool the crème de la crème that most creatives want to get into is run by Open Culture.
It’s the Summer and Winter Arts Market, but it only happens one day twice a year so, although the attendance is fantastic, it will not sustain a business.”
“Be sure to network within the creative community as its members will have the ‘inside scoop’.”
In order to sustain a business sellers should also look to “a bread and butter market” – one that runs on a regular basis so that your customers know where to find you.
“Currently the handmade crafts and arts markets in Liverpool are in flux, with regular events disappearing or being taken over by a new person/organisation, some moving venues and new players coming into the area,” says Joolz. “Always look out for the arts and crafts markets, and be wary of the gift fayres/markets as they tend to include bought in objects which means you will find it hard to compete on price.”
There are various websites that advertise handmade markets geographically, including stallfinder.com and Stall and Craft Collective, but the best thing to do is to visit and talk to the stallholders.
“Most are open and answer your questions,” says Joolz. “Be sure to network within the creative community as its members will have the ‘inside scoop’.”