THE COVERED MARKET

The Covered Market is an historic market building in the centre of Oxford. Comprising over 50 retail units, it opened in the late 1770s and has been in continuous use ever since.

In 2021, following numerous lockdowns, the Covered Market was seeing reduced footfall and unit occupancy in line with national trends. We partnered with the Market to bring some of their empty units into temporary or meanwhile use, helping to increase occupancy rates and provide small businesses with an exciting opportunity to occupy their own spaces.

Through the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ programme, we supported four independent, purpose-led organisations into units on short-term leases.

Combined Unit Size

145 square metres

Location

Central Oxford

Building Type

Retail Market

Landlord

The Covered Market

Years Previously Empty

0-6 months

THE PROCESS

Photograph of The Covered Market Unit Empty, with White Walls and Red Tile FloorsPhotograph of YOU Underwear Founder Sarah Jordan in unit at The Covered Market

THE OPPORTUNITY

While The Covered Market had long-term plans to redevelop some of the empty units within the building, we saw the interim period as a great opportunity for a handful of small businesses to trial having access to a bricks-and-mortar space, whilst also joining a strong network of businesses and increasing their exposure in the city.

We also saw this partnership as a way to introduce a number of purpose-led organisations to the Market, increasing the representation of ethical businesses in our city centre and providing more sustainable retail options to visitors.

Together with the team at The Covered Market, we selected four empty units and began to prepare them for occupancy. 

BARRIERS TO USE

Unlike many of our other spaces, the Covered Market’s units had not been empty for very long and required minimal work and investment to be brought to an occupiable standard.

What served as a barrier to access for a number of small businesses, however, were rental costs for retail units, which were on par with similar spaces in Oxford City Centre. In working with the Covered Market team, we agreed a revenue-share rent model that would make it possible for smaller, fledgling businesses to occupy the units. This meant that residents would pay based on the revenue generated from the space, and were not tied into lengthy lease agreements that might have posed a risk to their businesses.

THE OUTCOME

Having reached an agreement with The Covered Market on timelines and lease structures, we took to our pool of applicants through the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…” programme to find the organisations best suited to the units.

In November of 2021, we handed the keys over to four ethical, purpose-led retailers to run short-term, pop-up shops over the festive period. The resident organisations were Ducky Zebra, a start-up creating colourful, sustainable clothing for children; Y.O.U Underwear, a social enterprise making a difference selling sustainable, organic undergarments with a focus on ethical supply chains; The Woolhound, an independent yarn and craft store; and Headington Fair Trade, a shop selling ethical and fairly-traded food, homewares, stationery and more.

Headington Fairtrade have now vacated their unit, but the three other businesses remain in the market and are hoping to extend their stays further as active and valued members of the market community.

0 Organisations supported

All of which have social, environmental or cultural impact at their core

0 Jobs created and sustained

By providing affordable space and a platform for businesses and organisations to grow

0 Square metres brought back into use

Giving sustainable and ethical businesses pride of place in our urban centre

THE IMPACT

The impacts of our meanwhile takeover in the Covered Market have been multi-faceted, providing benefits to the market, the residents, and the wider community.

It has increased occupancy rates in the Market, contributing to a more diverse and sustainable offer in a challenging post-covid retail landscape. At the same time, it’s provided the resident businesses with a unique opportunity to trial access to space without taking on the risks typically involved in renting long term, whilst building brand awareness and increasing exposure in the city. In a broader sense, it has provided the local community and Covered Market customers with more opportunities to engage with and support ethical, sustainable brands that are otherwise priced out of central space.

The programme has made a huge difference to Ducky Zebra. It’s been amazing to meet customers and build awareness for our brand. It’s also allowed us to be part of a fantastic community within the covered market. I'm a small, one-person business and without Makespace Oxford’s input, I never would have dreamt to have had a physical space.
Sally Founder, Ducky Zebra
The experience of working in the Market community has been positive, providing valuable pointers for development from our existing retail base.
John Manager, Headington Fairtrade
Two people hold a large red key outside and empty retail unit in Oxford's Covered Market

Hear from the residents...

Sarah, Founder
Y.O.U. Underwear

Sally, Founder
Ducky Zebra

Screenshot of Jess from OCC MiO Video in front of shelves of brightly coloured wool

Jess, Founder
The Woolhound

RESIDENT ORGANISATIONS

LOCATION