MARKET traders are being offered free help to promote themselves to counter threats posed to their future by discount and online retailers.

Hambleton District councillors were told that while some markets in its five market towns were clearly thriving, attracting customers from a wide area, others were struggling to attract sufficient shoppers to make them viable.

The authority’s scrutiny committee heard while the proximity of discount retailers, the siting of markets and the quality and type of goods on offer were key to their viability, having a web presence was becoming increasingly important.

Officers told members the authority was supporting businesses on how to best present themselves online, alongside providing social media advice to traders.

Helen Kemp, the authority’s director of economy and planning, said: “The internet is a big issue. To get people back on the high street they must have this presence on the web. People tend to look and compare things before they go shopping.”

She said the authority had commissioned independent health checks of the markets and, consequently, action plans on layouts and attracting customers were being developed for each market.

Cllr David Hugill said: “When a market is in a square rather than on the side of a street as it is in Northallerton or Thirsk the market is better because people in a square are there to spend money rather than a route to walk through.”