As town’s food market returns, how are customers and traders feeling?
- Credit: Archant
Customers flocked to a town market which controversially reopened 11 days before lockdown measures were eased.
Swaffham Market returned for the first time in almost two months on May 2 - more than 10 days prior to the official loosening of restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision by Swaffham Town Council to revive the 800-year-old market initially attracted criticism, with some labelling the move “totally irresponsible”.
But council staff argued the market provided an alternative shopping destination to supermarkets, while organisers and traders pledged to ensure social distancing was enforced.
And on Saturday (May 16) there was a sense of optimism as customers returned to the market square, desperate for a taste of normality on the first weekend since the government issued its new advice.
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“It’s been brilliant,” said Susi Hanock, a regular customer. “This place keeps local people employed and provides much more variety, so I was so pleased when this came back.
“What’s really nice is to see people chatting from a distance and people seem much happier. It gives life a sense of normality, which means so much to people who have been stuck inside self-isolating.”
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Glen Wheeler, who lives in the town, added: “Everything seems to be going well, nobody’s getting to close to one another - there’s nothing to complain about.
“To start with, as we reached the peak, it was right for it to be closed, but I think it was the right time for the market to come back.”
Traders said sales had been steady since the market’s return, but warned of a long road as customers gradually readjust to one aspect of normal life.
“Right now it’s not the market it was two months ago, but people are pleased to see us and the response has been good,” said Dan Finnis, owner of fishmonger Rout’s of Wisbech.
“The council’s doing it all it can to make this a safe environment and people are slowly getting used to the fact they can come here and shop.”
Richard Wright, market manager for Fountain Fresh Foods, added: “There’s been a good feel and a nice buzz around the market again.
“I think things will be like for this for a long time. It’s going to change the way people shop and they will be far more aware of others.”