TRADERS have urged people to visit Bolton Market – with people across the borough told to "use it or lose it".

Independent stall holders are fighting to keep their heads above water after footfall dropped significantly.

Business owners have been forced to try new ways to bring in customers, as fewer and fewer people visit the hall.

Daz Hamer, from the D P Hamer butchers, has been offering home deliveries for months, but is still finding the situation difficult.

He said: "It's hard work, we're not getting the footfall anymore.

"We've been doing deliveries for four months and it's been going well but it doesn't make up for the shortage.

"If people don't start using it then they're going to lose it, which would be an awful shame."

The number of people passing through the market hall has declined over the last few months, dropping even further after stricter restrictions forced both bars in the building to close temporarily.

A number of other traders have struggled with the lower numbers, including Alain Job, from Nkono.

The African food stall has been part of the market for six years, but could struggle to survive for much longer than six weeks unless more customers come through the door.

Mr Job said: "It's been quite slow – not just for us but for the whole market.

"It's been a very, very difficult time. We cook everything fresh so if we have lots of people coming through that we've not prepared for, people leave because they don't want to wait too long, but if we cook too much expecting people to come through then that's wasted food.

"We didn't have much support for staff because we have casual people who come in when we need them which was extremely hard, and mentally draining.

"I don't think we have the reserves for the next six weeks and if our supporters don't come in en masse then we will really struggle.

"We've been here six years and we were just starting to feel the benefits of that. It's tough."

Other traders have seen similar drops in footfall, and are keen to remind local people how lucky they are to have a great market.

Martin Farrimond, from the Deli Boys at Unsworth Delicatessen, has regular customers who travel from as far as Carlisle to enjoy his stall.

He said: "We get people coming from Leeds, Stoke, Carlisle, places without markets and they say 'you don't know how lucky you are' but I do – unless people keep coming then it'll die.

"You just have to crack on, we're all doing our best but I don't think the people of Bolton know what's on offer.

"I understand people don't want to come out at the moment so we're still doing deliveries but surely it's better to spend your money keeping a local business going than the big companies like Asda.

"It's been quiet. We've been doing a lot of deliveries which is making up a tiny bit of the shortfall but it's just not enough."

Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member responsible for Bolton Market, Cllr Hilary Fairclough, has urged people to shop local, and support the traders.

She said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our market traders have done a remarkable job helping some of the most vulnerable residents to access fresh food and other supplies.

“Many quickly set up click-and-collect as well as home delivery service. Some traders continue to provide this valuable service for those who cannot leave their home or feel more comfortable having food delivered.

“Like all retail environments Bolton Market has seen a decline in footfall particularly since local restrictions were introduced in Bolton in September and more recently since the move from a Tier 2 to Tier 3 local COVID alert level.

“We urge people to shop local, and support their independent local market traders through this difficult time.”