VISITOR numbers to Oxford’s Covered Market have grown year on year, even staying strong during the January lull.

Oxford Covered Market had almost one million visits in 2019 and a jump in year-on-year footfall in the run-up to Christmas, new data from Oxford City Council has shown.

The news has been welcomed by Mary Clarkson, the city council’s cabinet member for culture and city centre.

Ms Clarkson said: “I always do lots of my Christmas shopping in the Covered Market, and I was delighted to see it looking so busy and festive throughout December.”

She added: “Lots of people say the Covered Market is at its best in the run-up to Christmas, but it’s still busy and still selling lots of excellent fresh food and gifts now, so it’s worth visiting all year round.”

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Footfall was up 4.22 per cent in the run-up to Christmas, with 115,941 visits in the six weeks to the end of 2019, compared to 111,248 visits over the same period in 2018.

During 2019, there were a total of 997,760 visits to the 18th century market.

Since Christmas there has been an expected drop in monthly visitors, with January figures of 75,279 visitors in 2019, falling to 74,800 this year: a 0.6 per cent fall.

The city council, which manages the market, installed the footfall counters late in 2018 to measure the effectiveness of promotional and advertising activities.

In the run-up to Christmas, the council worked with local creative agency Monchu and filmmaker Adam Hale to produce an advert to promote the market.

All 61 of the available units in the market were also occupied during December, with a waiting list of would-be tenants.

The council is now talking to businesses and organisations about taking on the small number of units that have become vacant since Christmas.

A new Japanese food business, Donburi Inn, opened in the market in January after the owners of Jeongs Dosirak (Korean Lunchbox) transferred their lease.

Earlier this month, award-winning social enterprise Tap Social announced it would open a bar and events space in the Covered Market this summer.

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

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The investment includes £1.8m to make sure the roof lasts another 60 to 80 years, and £1.3m for internal refurbishment.

The long-term aspiration is to transform the Covered Market to improve the entrances and facades in Market Street, High Street and the Golden Cross; make more of the communal spaces in the market; improve the existing units to enable more flexible and shared uses; and improve the market’s servicing.

Oxford City Council is currently looking at funding options and aims to produce a masterplan for the future of the market by the end of 2020.

Oxford Covered Market was first opened in November 1774, sells food, gifts, shoes, fashion, flowers and jewellery.