Some traders fear for Barnstaple pannier market future, despite others reporting a decent year so far
TRADE in Barnstaple’s historic pannier market is ‘dying every year’ according to some local traders.
The Gazette spoke to around a dozen stallholders, many of whom said trade had dropped off in recent times, despite claims by the market manager that a recent advertising drive had actually increased footfall.
Bruce Wyborn, who has been running a fruit and veg business at the market for 30 years, said the general trend was that business is not as good as it used to be.
“Things have dipped a little more again on last year – when you add up you realise how much it’s gone down on years gone by.
“I think it all comes down to supermarkets. People’s patterns of shopping have changed.
“The days of farm people coming have been lost and that’s what made the market unique.
“I really don’t want to see the market go. I think it’s very important to the town and we need to turn it around.”
Dave Griffiths, who has run a gift stall for seven years, admitted that 2014 had been ‘a hard year’.
“Over the last few weeks the road problems have not helped and people aren’t coming into the town,” he said.
“I think the traffic problem should have been sorted a long time ago as it definitely puts people off.
“Hopefully, people coming down on their holidays can make things more positive again.”
DVD seller Ian Elliott, a market trader for eight years, is also hoping for a surge in tourism after a ‘slow’ start to the year, while Ian Richardson, who runs a sweet stall, agreed that shopping trends, particularly among the younger generation, had moved away from the market.
And Nigel and Mary Smith of FB Tools, who said they had also endured a difficult year so far, believed the internet has had a negative effect on their business.
“There’s been a decline for a number of years and the internet has certainly had a knock on effect on us and others,” said Nigel.
“But there are still a strong number of people using the market; we’re in a prime position in the town centre and the market also helps the town.”
But others said they had enjoyed a decent year so far.
Among them, Walter White, who has been going to the market for 64 years, said his flower stall was having a ‘reasonable year’.
“The pannier market’s unique and Barnstaple would be at a great loss without it,” he said.
“I think all town centres have tended to be in decline and hopefully the day will come when that reverses.”
Chris Green, who has sold greeting cards at the market for seven years, said 2014 was ‘a lot better than the last two years’.
“People definitely seem happier to spend at the moment so maybe there has been an upturn in the economy,” he said.
And Celia Fiennes, who has run a Mediterranean food stall for a number of years, said business had ‘ticked over nicely’ this year.
Simon Curry, pannier market manager, also defended the market, saying it fared ‘very well’ in comparison to some other similar markets.
“Many of our traders enjoy a good regular trade with repeat customers and we consistently receive complimentary comments in our visitors’ book,” he said.
“We have not noticed any significant reduction in footfall recently. In fact, efforts to increase the number of coach parties visiting the market would appear to have increased visitor numbers.
“Nevertheless, we are not complacent and continue to look at how we can support the market. We have a full advertising programme in place, hold regular campaigns and we have opened the market up to social media.
“However, we welcome any innovation from shoppers, as well as existing or potential traders, to help attract more people to the market.”