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Slow trade and continued frustration for traders at Downham Market

Market traders and a local businessman have said the town council's handling of the market is having an adverse impact as an ongoing row continues this summer.

Downham Town Council's decision to set up barriers around the market has been unpopular amongst stall holders with one saying footfall is suffering as a result.

An extraordinary town council meeting was held on Tuesday night in which mayor Becky Hayes said the authority has been looking at replacing the barriers with planters as part of "softer measures" for the market.

The market in Downham earlier today (Friday, August 28) (41433607)
The market in Downham earlier today (Friday, August 28) (41433607)

The council also agreed to revoke existing byelaws and licenses which were deemed "unfair, outdated and not fit for purpose".

But traders continued to voice disapproval over the running of the market this morning.

Phillip Seaman of Simply Just Coffee said: "From my point of view I just think the council got things completely wrong and are not encouraging traders to come back because of the barriers, which have been putting people off.

Phillip Seaman of Simply Just Coffee with two customers(41433666)
Phillip Seaman of Simply Just Coffee with two customers(41433666)

"From a business perspective, I am reasonably happy although the longer I stay here, the less trade there has been. I have been coming here six-weeks and there now seems to be less and less people."

Another trader, who did not wish to be named, said: "It has been pretty desolate. Basically a lot of the public are refusing to come inside the barriers and do not want to feel like an idiot.

"Everywhere in the rest of the town there are no barriers so there is no sense to them. Everyone knows how to keep two metres apart, there are signs up and they can use sanitiser.

"If we are not careful, we will lose this market and it will all be gone."

Deralynn Ross on the Knicat Bakery stall (41433630)
Deralynn Ross on the Knicat Bakery stall (41433630)

Deralynn Ross of the Knicat Bakery said: "It has been very slow today, perhaps because people do not want to come out when it is windy and rainy.

"Barriers are putting people off and you do not get the extra trade from walk-throughs who pick something up if it catches their eye when they are passing through."

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss has been speaking to stall holders to hear their concerns and raised the issue of the barriers during the meeting on Tuesday.

But it is not just the market traders who feel let down.

The market in Downham earlier today (Friday, August 28) (41433620)
The market in Downham earlier today (Friday, August 28) (41433620)

Graham Baker, sales director of the Reeds Homestore on Bridge Street said: "The situation for us is that the market is so important to the town and the place is much busier on Fridays and Saturdays because the market brings people into the town and creates a vibrancy.

"It is understandable that people do not want to go in there [the market] because people think it is worse than it really is. It is difficult enough for the traders and it also has an effect on the businesses and major retailers. It is not good for the town.

"It has an impact on the brick and mortar retailers which are here 365 days of the year.

"I can go into Morrisons, do my queuing in an enclosed space but I can't walk around an open air facility without feeling uncomfortable.

"It got to the point where it became overkill. Perhaps it was fair enough six-weeks-ago but even then it felt a bit too much. I don't know if that's due to internal politics or what."

Mr Baker and Jim Carlisle, managing director of Reeds, met Liz Truss earlier this week to get their views across to the MP.

Downham's deputy clerk Richard Davidson said: "Today’s Friday market is doing well and pleasingly appears quite busy. Unfortunately there are a couple of regular traders missing today but there is a total of 10 stalls spread over the two sites.

"The town council looks forward to being able to relax some of the measures as soon it is able to and is excited at the soft screening planter proposals currently being explored with the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk."

Adam Harding, director of Phoenix Events who steward the market, said: "We are here to advise on a one-way system in place and offer sanitiser and free face masks that the council have made.

"It's great to see more and more new stalls on the market each week."

Friday was the first day on the market for Lucy Ellen who runs a ladies' clothing and footwear business.

Lucy Ellen on her boutique clothing stall (41433643)
Lucy Ellen on her boutique clothing stall (41433643)

She said trade was very slow and she would have liked her stall to be in the main market area rather than being in a separate area along with two other traders.

The businesswoman said: "It's just strange times. People are not comfortable to come out of their house just yet. I should not give up after my first go so I will see how it pans out over the next few weeks.

"I have a website but I miss speaking to people face-to-face and being a part of a community."

The mother-of-four added: "I just do not think the barriers make much of a difference. Everyone needs to be working together and can't be at loggerheads. We have got to be working together."

Another new trader at the market, who is also separate from the main area with barriers, is Catherine Ferris who runs the Magic and Wonders gift shop and collectables business.

She said: "It seems to be less busy this week but last week was quite good.I much prefer to see people by coming to the market rather than doing it online and being stuck at home all day going stir-crazy.

Catherine Ferris of Magic and Wonders(41433655)
Catherine Ferris of Magic and Wonders(41433655)

"I have probably not been here long enough to comment on the council's handling of the market but what more can they do? The public want to come to a place where they can feel safe so what more can the council do? It's a different world."

Lucy Ellen's business can be found online at www.lucyellenboutique.com, and Magic and Wonders can be visited at https://wonders.fws.store/.

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