The Norwich market stall offering a bag for every season

Norwich market stall, Mr Bags. Owner Ramon Swinger.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich market stall, Mr Bags. Owner Ramon Swinger.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Mr Bags has seen decades of trading on the front row of Norwich market.

Rucksacks are always in demand at Mr Bags. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Rucksacks are always in demand at Mr Bags. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It's long enough to see trends for handbags turn into a demand for shopping trolleys, an unlikely product to have seen a surge in sales over the past few years.

For stall owner Ramon Swinger, the trend for trolleys came as a surprise.

He said: 'They used to be old-fashioned but they're so modern and trendy now.'

The stall came from interesting beginnings. Mr Swinger is not the first member of his family to have run a stall on the market. When he was growing up his parents had one, although not the one he now owns.

Offerings at Mr Bags market stall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Offerings at Mr Bags market stall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

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He said: 'My parents used to sell ornaments, kitchenware and toys but when I had a chance of taking on a stall my parents were still trading so I couldn't sell the same stuff they were selling.'

It was this which led him to sell bags.

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He said: 'When they did retire I was happy selling bags and luggage.

'There's so many seasons for bags.'

The demand for shopping trolleys is a new trend. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The demand for shopping trolleys is a new trend. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

He took a stall on the front row of the market and has since expanded from two plots to eight. So how has business changed over the years?

Mr Swinger feels the climate has become more competitive.

He said: 'It's become a lot harder with all the discount shops, so we have a lot more competition now.'

He also said the increasing costs of running a small business had inflamed the problem.

He said: 'I just think for small businesses you have a lot of expenses like rates which we never used to.

'We used to pay just a rent and that was it but now we still have to pay rent, rates, service charges and VAT on our rent and at one point we didn't have any of that at all. It doesn't help.'

Despite the increasing difficulties facing the stall it hasn't stopped Mr Swinger drawing in customers from Australia and Spain.

He said: 'We've the same person come over from Australia every 2-3 years and one in Spain, when she comes over she buys these holdalls.'

As with many stall holders, for Mr Swinger the appeal of the market is the variety of products it offers.

He said: 'I think of the market as being like a massive supermarket, there's lots of things.'

Why the market matters

For Mr Swinger the market is about heritage and community. He said: 'I'm 56 years old and I've been on it all my life. I was born on it. I took it over because I was brought upon it, I've just kept it up and built it.'

He sees the market as a place where people become regulars and after years on the stall he can see how important it is as a meeting place for people. He said: 'It's a community hub, I think you get the same regulars on tea stalls drinking; they're all on certain tea stalls at certain times.'

But he said for traders the fact the business was weather dependent meant January and February could be difficult times for them, when the high street is busy with the January sales.

A bag for every season

We might not think of bags as seasonal but Mr Swinger says it is, in fact, the case.

In summer the stall sees a rush on white and navy bags, particularly smart bags such as clutch bags and handbags, for weddings.

From April through to September the tourist season brings in demands for a range of bag styles. During this time the focus is on travel bags, holdalls and suitcases as people jet off on holiday.

Now, as we approach Christmas handbags and purses are in demand, as well as wallets. There is of course the occasional new trend which, most recently, Mr Swing says has been for giant laundry bags.

Bargain buy

Despite trends coming and going the one staple that the stall have always had success with is rucksacks. Mr Swinger said: 'Rucksacks sell all through the year, workmen take them on their bikes to work, school children use them.'

Thanks to his suppliers, many of whom he has been working with for years, Mr Swinger can offer the bags at a huge discount.

He said: 'We can be cheaper than the internet, I know that for a fact. We're a good 30pc cheaper than the shops, even when they have the sales on.'

He puts the discount down to the fact that he travels to London himself to collect the bags and speaks to the suppliers directly.

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