Wakefield Council’s head of markets, Ben Cook, said that stall holders needed to adhere to opening times, which are 8.30am to 4pm every day except Wednesdays and Sundays.
Mr Cook said that those who left an hour before closing time could feed a “cycle of decline” for the market because customers would stop going to the market altogether.
The issue was raised at a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, where South Elmsall resident Eric Burkes suggested traders needed more support with both car parking and rates.
Mr Cook responded by saying South Elmsall was a “good community market” with low rents compared to neighbouring places. He told the committee: “One of the issues we’re having with South Elmsall, and other markets too, is that traders will close early if it’s quiet.
“What you get with that is a cycle of decline, where if the market closes at 4pm, the traders will close at 3pm if it’s quiet.
“So then it becomes even more quiet at 3pm because if somebody comes by and sees a stall closing at 2.55pm, they’ll think, ‘I’m not coming at that time again’”.
Speaking to Mr Burkes, he added: “If you’re in contact with the traders, it would be really helpful if you fed this back to them. We need them to adhere to the opening times.
“Ultimately if you start closing early it creates a negative perception, whereas, if you go into a shop you can walk in during its opening hours and everything’s there for you.”
The local authority is starting a review of the six markets it runs across the district to improve their future prospects. South Elmsall, Pontefract, Castleford, Normanton, Ossett and Wakefield will all be under the microscope.
Mr Cook said that the council’s general plan was for markets to produce a “greater range of quality produce”, without losing their character.
He also said that feedback from young shoppers, who generally don’t use markets, suggested the “look and feel” to halls and outdoor stalls needed to modernise.
On rent, he added: “We don’t want to reduce rents to the point where we can’t continue to run a facility.
“Generally, if a trader knows they’re going to a place where there’s footfall, they will be quite happy to pay the rents.
“It’s finding the balance between offering a low enough rent for people to pay it, but making sure we’re getting enough income to actually develop the market.”