OXFORD’S iconic 18th century Covered Market will turn to 21st century social networking sites to drum up trade.

The historic market already has an internet site but retail experts have advised traders they could do more online to pull in customers.

Now traders could turn to social networking sites including Twitter and Facebook to bring in younger shoppers.

Earlier this month, city centre manager Gordon Reid invited consultant Mike Evan to address traders on new ways to promote the market.

Colin Cook, the city council’s executive member for city development, said: “Mr Evans reported on what other markets have done to promote themselves and came up with a number of proposals to boost trade in the Covered Market.

“This included getting an official Facebook page, a presence on Twitter and revamping the website.

“Some students already use the Covered Market but giving it a proper Facebook page would be a way of reaching out to more of them so they make it part of their routine.

“Once they have come in for a coffee, they might start thinking about visiting clothes shops or other businesses. The university could also flag up the offer to freshers at the start of the year.

“The market is a tourist attraction and we do want to promote it to increase footfall, but you can have incredible footfall and not many people buying.

“We need to get the offer right in the Covered Market and promote it in the right way.”

Recommendations on new ways to promote the market will be compiled in a report and presented to a future meeting of the Covered Market Tenants’ Association.

CMTA member John Partington, who runs Chocology confectionery store, said: “Footfall is down at the moment but Facebook alone is not going to save the Covered Market.

“It is all very well for the city council to put the onus on us and suggest we come up with nice new website pages, but the council is our landlord and we have a rent review coming up in March, and traders don’t have a lot of spare money.

“This rent review could go to arbitration and if rents go too high some businesses could be kicked into touch – a lot of traders are quite worried about it.”

CMTA secretary Sandie Griffith, who runs Jemini flower shop, said: “The meeting was quite well attended and I think it was quite worthwhile.

“We do need to be better advertised but one of the problems we have is we have to spend most of our money on fighting rent increases, instead of publicity. We used to have advertising on the buses and I think that worked quite well.”

In 2009, painters and decorators gave the market, which opened in 1774, a much-needed facelift.

The work was funded by the city council and Oxfordshire County Council.