Another era ends as our chamber of trade folds

Jennifer Pell with the chains of the Halifax Chamber of Trade which has folded after 108 years. Town Hall, Halifax
Jennifer Pell with the chains of the Halifax Chamber of Trade which has folded after 108 years. Town Hall, Halifax

Halifax Chamber of Trade, which represented the town’s retailers since 1904, has disbanded.

When it celebrated its golden jubilee in February 1954 there were nearly 650 members.

But membership has plummeted to a few dozen and recent meetings attracted only a handful.

The growth of supermarkets, national chains and the decline of independents, along with a general lack of interest in committee work, has been blamed for the demise.

Jennifer Pell, of Fred Wade’s, Rawson Street, was an active member for 50 years.

“I have always been a big believer in supporting the chamber and putting something back into the town,” she said.

“But everybody is struggling for members for most things.

“Today, a lot of shops are run by managers who do not live in Halifax and multiples don’t have the same interests.”

Over the decades the chamber has been a voice for traders on matters such as parking and planning and it has supported community initiatives.

In recent years many traders have become part of Marketing Halifax.

But Mrs Pell said there was a difference in that Marketing Halifax was more about selling the town to visitors rather than tackling issues for traders.

Chamber secretary Louis Kitching said: “It’s a tough time for independent retailers with the competition now.

“Supermarkets sell everything and there is internet buying.

“The chamber brought independent retailers together for a common voice, but when you don’t have the members your voice is not very strong and we haven’t attracted younger people.”

Regalia associated with the chamber has now been given to the council to be kept in the Town Hall.

There were a number of different traders’ organisations in the town before plans were put in place in 1903 by the Drapers’ and Hosiers’ Association to form a united front.