THE Covered Market's latest pop-up shop has opened to sell luxury chocolate gifts in time for Valentine's Day.

Before Christmas a series of pop-up shops were opened at the historic market included one run by Graham MacDonald, who owns iScream gelateria.

Based in the former Foot Foundation shoe store, Mr MacDonald started out by using the pop-up shop to sell festive gifts.

Now he and his staff from the ice cream shop are using the extra space to display and sell the luxury chocolate gifts also on sale at the gelateria.

It opened on Friday and will stay open until Easter to take advantage of the demand for Easter eggs.

Mr MacDonald said: "The new pop-up looks great inside and it's much bigger inside than the iScream store so there is a really good opportunity to put our chocolate on display.

"Customers seem pleased with what we are doing so far and we have taken down all the Foot Foundation signs."

The gelato specialist, who makes his ice cream on the premises using locally sourced ingredients, is a director of the Covered Market Tenants Association.

He added: "I think it's good to have pop-up businesses in the empty units because then prospective tenants can see what it will look like when it's up and running."

While new businesses launched in 2018, including The Oxford Soap Company and Fedele Oxford leather store, this followed a number of high-profile closures, including the departure of Haymans fishmongers, which is now operating from Osney Mead.

The city council, landlords of the market, has confirmed that a new fishmonger will take its place and the Teardop microbrewery is already occupying part of the unit.

Blue Blood sports shop run by former Elmer Cotton staff, opened last month in the former Macsamillion shoe shop.

A number of empty units remain, including the former Market News, one third of the former Haymans unit and the council is in discussion with prospective tenants.

The former Dragon’s Den unit is also empty and could be split in two.

McCarthy’s fruit and veg unit remains empty and could be split into three units, and the former Lindsey's butchers unit is also empty.

The council is working with Oxford Preservation Trust to restore and preserve original and historic features, with work expected to start later this year.

The new openings mean that 58 of the Covered Market’s 63 units are now occupied – 92.1 per cent.

The council is investing £3.1m into the Covered Market, which is Grade II-listed, to secure its long-term future.

The investment includes £1.8m to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years, and £1.3m for internal refurbishment, decorations and new flooring.

Mary Clarkson, executive board member for culture and city centre, said: "There is a real buzz to the Covered Market at the moment – new traders are opening, footfall is up and the majority of traders have signed long-term leases.

"Over the coming months and years we will continue to split units in the market with the aim of creating a real hub of micro-stores offering the very best of local crafts, food and drink."