Four empty units in the Covered Market have been transformed into pop-up shops for retailers during the festive season.

The short-term use of these spaces is part of the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme, commissioned by market landlords the city council and delivered by Makespace Oxford, which seeks to re-use space in Oxfordshire’s urban centres.

The Covered Market and Makespace Oxford have linked up to offer short-term leases to four retailers that have social and environmental ideals close to their hearts.

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The arrangement, which is currently set to run until February 2022, has revitalised the empty units in the market and provided businesses with a valuable opportunity to access space to grow.

The businesses, who were matched with the units from a pool of over 300 applicants to the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme, are Ducky Zebra, a start-up creating colourful, sustainable clothing for children; Y.O.U Underwear, a social enterprise making a difference selling sustainable, organic underwear with a focus on ethical supply chains; The Woolhound, an independent yarn and craft store; and Headington Fair Trade, a shop selling ethical and fairly-traded food, homewares, stationery and more.

Ducky Zebra was set up by East Oxford resident Sally Dear in October.

The brand sells sustainable, unisex children’s clothes that aim to be free from gender stereotypes.

Ms Dear said earlier: “When my daughter was four years old she mentioned she could not be a taxi driver – because she was a girl.

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“At the time my job was really busy, I was commuting from Oxford to London, and it just made me stop and see the world through her eyes and I became much more aware of the books she was reading, the TV she was watching, the language she was hearing and the clothes she was wearing. At that point, I decided I wanted to do something about it and I wanted to do something about the clothes that she and other little girls were wearing.”

Just before the first lockdown in March 2020 Ms Dear quit her London marketing job, to start her new children’s clothing line - initially focusing on girl’s clothing only.

Like other high street retailers, traders at the Covered Market have suffered reduced footfall over recent years due to coronavirus restrictions and lockdown in 2020.

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But footfall did start to pick up again before the Omicron variant struck.

The ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme was developed by the city council, with funding secured by OxLEP from the central government’s Getting Building Fund. Makespace Oxford operates from its original space on Aristotle Lane, and at The Community Works on Frideswide Square.