Covered Market Survey Results

Results from the survey we ran in March/April

18 May 2021

Covered Market shops
Oxford Covered Market (under Covid restrictions)
Photo: Roddy Maddocks


The Survey was an OCS initiative seen as a useful tool to inform and facilitate discussion with those involved in putting together a proposal to revitalise the historic Covered Market. Working with the City’s Regeneration Manager and other stakeholders a fully worked-up scheme will be submitted to the Council towards the end of 2021 for approval and the necessary funding.

OCS authored and issued the Survey via its website to provide the opportunity for OCS members and members of the public, (i) to have their say on what they would like to see in a regenerated Market and (ii) to comment on a wide range of ideas relating to the form and function of the Market.

Given the prevailing and unusual circumstances as a result of COVID-19, we asked individuals to think back to the time before COVID when there was freedom to move around without restriction.

The Survey opened on 16th March with a closing date of 8 April 2021. It contained 12 questions, four of which allowed free text answers.

We have made the full results available online – see below for details.


The Survey generated a total of 426 responses, not all respondents answered all the questions. The range was between 188 (44%, Q8) and 423 (99.3%, Q12). Not all respondents were members of OCS – of the 423 who responded to Q12, 189 (44.4%) were members, 234 (54.9%) were non-members.


Click a chart to enlarge.

According to the answers provided, the profile of a typical Market shopper is one who lives in OX2, cycles/walks to the market once a week (Q1, Q3) to visit the cafes/take-away establishments and do food shopping(Q2) and most values the presence of independent shops in the market (Q5). Those who use the market less frequently (Q7) would shop in the Market if there was a more significant presence of small, independent, local businesses.

When analysing the responses, it must be said there were no real surprises. The Working Group are cognizant of the fact that the regeneration of the Market is essential and not only because of the economic impact brought about by COVID-19. It has become old and tired and has many empty units.

When asked ‘What needs to be improved in the Market ‘(Q6) 361 (84.7%) respondents identified the need for more designated social spaces; extended opening hours; improved lighting, ventilation and heating, signage and the enhancement of entrances on both The High and Market Street sides of the Market. Some consideration should be made to encourage tourists to visit the Market. Locating the Tourist Information shop (now closed) in the Market would add to general footfall. Similarly, the hosting of pop-up market kiosks within the central area on different days to enable small, independent craft businesses to have a presence in the City.

The removal of the public toilets in Market Street, and the opening up of Gwynne’s colonnaded walkway would provide a pleasant area for outside tables and chairs, adding further to the social space of the Market.

OCS’ vision is that the Covered Market should more closely follow the European model where markets are a lively shopping and socializing venue used equally by residents and visitors of all ages. To this end answers to Q9 ‘Would you support the hosting of lunchtime/evening music or arts performances’ was encouraging – 422 responded to this question, and 292 (69.2%) supported the idea.

German indoor market, Berlin
Markthalle 9, Berlin
Photo: Der Tagesspiegel

Answers to Q10 ‘Is there is anything you think the design team need to know in order to do the project well? drew a great deal of comment from respondents (226, 53%) and considerable agreement on issues which had been identified in Q6 (as described above).

One further issue, which is not within the remit of the Working Group or the designers but has a significant impact on the viability of the Market, is the Council’s policy on the cost of unit rentals in the Market. If a policy were adopted that took account of the business type based (perhaps) on the low margins on their sale product this could facilitate a larger presence of small independent businesses. OCS hope that the Council will seriously consider such a policy.


The Survey has revealed that the Market has the support of the people who live in Oxford but it is in need of change – change that will enhance the historic fabric of the building, that will accommodate quality independent businesses, provide opportunity for small businesses to have a presence, and to become a more lively and pleasant environment in which to shop and socialize. The introduction of longer opening hours, more seating areas, and also the hosting of music and arts performances at lunchtime or in the evening will add to its interest and vibrancy. Tourism is important to Oxford’s economy and by revitalizing this centrally located facility by giving it more visibility, creating a pleasant physical environment, making it more attractive and interesting, and a place where people can sit and watch the world go slowly by, can only add to its value to the city.

Full results

The analyses of the responses to each question can be viewed either as a pdf file or a PowerPoint slideshow. We have also prepared a pdf file containing all the free text answers to those questions that allowed them.

Survey results slideshow front page

2 thoughts on “Covered Market Survey Results”

  1. The debate about the public toilets links with discussions about making the west end (initially) of Broad Street car-free and available for outdoor events, seating etc. There was at one stage the proposal to install temporary (ugly) toilets, but this has been dropped, I think, because of the existence of the Market Street ones.

    Secondly, there could be more emphasis on sustainable produce being sold in the Covered Market. Perhaps linked to lower rents. Might well be a pull for visitors as too many of the shops in the centre of Oxford are highly commercial.

  2. During lockdown, Oxford city centre has been a more congenial place without the plane-loads of tourists blocking pavements.
    Pre pandemic, the public lavatories in Market Street had queues lining the pavement outside. The men’s lavatories were used
    by the homeless, sleeping in shop doorways. Where will alternative lavatories be built if Market Street becomes an outdoor cafe?

    I hope that space can be found in the Covered Market for a hardware store. Many Oxford residents still lament the disappearance
    of the hardware store down an alley off the High. And we have also lost Boswells.

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