Birmingham's Bull Ring Market traders reveal struggles as they wait for Smithfield move

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Bull Ring Markets are the perfect place to find hidden treasures and everyday goods but the traders working there are worried about their future

Our historic Bull Ring markets have been attracting shoppers every day since the Middle Ages.

From food to flowers to antiques and vintage goods, they are the perfect place to find hidden treasures and everyday goods. 

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And an astonishing 823 years since the Bull Ring traders opened up shop they continue to rank among the top 10 most popular markets in the UK.  

Capital on Tap analysed 30 of Britain’s biggest markets - including London’s Portobello and Camden Markets - and ranked them based on a variety of metrics, including the monthly search demand and Google ratings and popularity on social media. And, the Bull Ring Markets ranked at number seven - you can see the full list below. 

UK's Most Popular Markets - Bullring Markets (Credit - Capital on Tap)UK's Most Popular Markets - Bullring Markets (Credit - Capital on Tap)
UK's Most Popular Markets - Bullring Markets (Credit - Capital on Tap)

Birmingham City Council told BirminghamWorld: “Markets in the Bull Ring area have played a vital role in Birmingham’s history since the 12th century and the Bull Ring’s Open, Indoor and Rag Markets continue to offer everything from fresh food to clothing and homewares in the 21st Century, so it’s great to see them in this Top 10 list of best markets in the UK.”

But amid the praise, market traders have raised serious concerns about their livelihoods - with some saying their business might fold. These self-employed vendors, who are the lifeblood of the markets, greet shoppers with a friendly smile while hiding their concerns about their livelihood. 

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One trader, H.Hamidi, who sold luggage, carpets, and rugs in the open market said: “I have been working here for five years. After Coronavirus, congestion charge was applied here. A lot of people have old cars and parking is around £4 or £5. People come here only if they can’t find something anywhere else now.

Bullring Outdoor marketBullring Outdoor market
Bullring Outdoor market

“Many stalls are now empty and business has gone down. That is our problem. About this, the government cannot do anything. I don’t know what I should do, I have a lot of credit from the companies and maybe, I have to close my shop in the future.”  

Meanwhile, Andrea McGee, who runs The Knitting Market at the Birmingham Rag Market, said she was proud of the market and was happy to be trading here. However, she too was worried about the road and Metro works stopping shoppers from coming to the Bullring markets. 

Andrea said: “When you get people who come to these markets from out of town, they say there is not a market like this anywhere where they live any longer, and I think it's amazing. The amount of variety and diversity that's in this market because you can get so many different things."

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Bullring Rag MarketBullring Rag Market
Bullring Rag Market

She added: “The transport systems are bad, parking's bad, there's no car parks, but once people get into the market, you've got things you won't get from anywhere else in the city centre. The train strikes have affected business as well. 

“There's no haberdashery or fabrics or yarn, or craft shops in the city centre but there is in this market and it’s value for money. We get lots of youngsters in here. We are surrounded by lots of student accommodation and 50% of my customers now are young people and students mainly because they can walk in.

"Even though people from out of town can't get here, people living in the city centre can. It’s council-owned but the people who run these markets really are the traders because they're the ones who put effort in and they're the ones who want to keep this market going. A new market is planned but that's been ongoing for at least 10 years now. So, that's probably going to be another 10 years.”

Construction work on the Smithfield development could begin by August 2024

The £1.9bn Smithfield regeneration site will provide a new home for the city’s historic Bull Ring markets and is located where the former wholesale markets were. It is expected to include new leisure and cultural spaces, including a festival square and landscaped park, integrated public transport, and thousands of new homes alongside community facilities. 

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A Birmingham City Council spokesperson:“Revised plans for the Smithfield development will be considered by city planners early next year and, subject to planning approval being granted, construction work is due to begin by next Autumn.

Bullring Rag MarketBullring Rag Market
Bullring Rag Market

“These proposals provide a new home for the city’s historic Bull Ring markets as part of an iconic new centrepiece for the city centre; and we anticipate the markets will be able to move into their new home from 2028.

“Our market traders are tenants who operate their own businesses from council-run sites, so they are expected to pay their fees and charges. There is plenty of car parking available across the city centre, as well as good public transport links, for shoppers to use to visit the markets. It’s also worth noting that consumers’ shopping habits have changed since the pandemic, with many more people now doing their shopping online.”

Why visit Bull Ring Markets?

With two indoor and one outdoor market, these traditional and council-owned spaces are a haven for those who are looking for fresh goods and something special. From exotic fruits to lamps, fabrics, yarn, sewing and craft tools, vintage and second-hand clothing, cheeses, hot food and a massive fish market - you can find everything at this one destination. 

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With less than three weeks until Christmas, we found people from all over the West Midlands at the markets. And, not just Midlands folks, but international tourists had also made their way to the popular shopping destination. 

A Spanish tourist, Alexandro Luana, said: “This is a nice market and it’s different from what we have back home.” 

Tourist Alexandro LuanaTourist Alexandro Luana
Tourist Alexandro Luana

Santa’s Grotto at the Bullring Rag Market

The Rag Market is all set to host a free family-friendly Christmas extravaganza on December 16 from 11am to 4pm. There’s a Santa’s grotto, children’s workshops, write-a-letter-to-Santa and Elf-yourself face-painting, a snow globe, Christmas walk-around characters, reindeer stilt walkers, MC/DJ with booths – and lots of street entertainment. 

Bullring markets opening hours

The Open market is open Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturday, 9am to 5:30pm. The Rag Market is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturday, 9am to 5:30pm. The Bull Ring Indoor Market, which is one of the UK's largest fish markets - is open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5:30pm.

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