Malcolm Michaels: Famous Yorkshire butcher moves out of Kirkgate Market due to rising cost of rents, bills and produce
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Malcolm Michaels, 54, started working at the market aged 14 and “got a bug for the place” before opening up his own shop - Malcolm Michaels Quality Butchers Ltd - with his uncle on the beloved Butcher’s Row when he was just 23.
He said: “We traded there successfully until the markets chose to move us from our preferred site. We opened in 2016. It was a big gamble. We never really settled in our new shop and before lockdown we were going to call it a day as trading was at its lowest, footfall dramatically down, and management not really adapting to people's shopping habits.”
Lockdown gave the butchers their second wind, and with their click and collect service and reduced outgoings due to rent concessions, they got themselves back on their feet.
But Mr Michaels said: “Unfortunately as things went back to normal so did the footfall in the market. We could see it getting exactly back to where we were previously. We weren't getting on great with management and the stress of the place was creeping back.”
He claims he was forced to move his shop from the market which had been open for almost 30 years, due to hefty rent, low footfall and an undesirable location. “We could turnover £30,000 a week but once we had paid our outgoings we were running at a loss,” he said.
Mr Michaels said he can get three locations with better parking for the price of one at Leeds Market. He added: “Parking in town is impossible. It has a massive impact on trade, not only the expense but also the availability.
“The cost of running a small business is horrendous. Being self-employed in this climate is a constant battle. The price of stock, the cost of running vans, fuel, employees taxes, employees national insurance.”
Mr Michaels had originally set about finding a city centre shop location but he said the business rates were higher than the rent.
“We looked on the outskirts of Leeds and found a perfect location, in Crossgates shopping centre,” he said. “We fit in like hand in glove - n the market we were like a glove on a foot. We are now looking at Penny Hill in Hunslet and Bramley Shopping Centre, that’s east south and west Leeds covered, then we will be on the lookout for north Leeds.
“This way we can cover all our Leeds city centre customer base and friends without the extortionate town centre prices.”
Leeds City Council said the market's rents haven’t been increased since 2011 and the council supported its traders with rent concessions during and after the pandemic, which equated to just over £1m of rental support, as well as helping them secure grants provided by the Government.
The spokesperson said: “Over the past two years all traders were able to access free social media training from the team at Leeds Boost.
“Last year the market partnered with Goodsixty who are an online fresh food delivery service giving market traders the ability to compete with supermarkets and enable new and existing customers to have fresh food delivered to their door.”
The council also said it is currently refurbishing the most historic part of the market to ensure these retail units are fit for the modern day retailer as well as improving the look and feel of the market, with phase one of three due for completion at the end of this year.