Why Downham Market has it all for shoppers

Often regarded as the gateway to the Fens, Downham Market's town centre is immediately identifiable by its black and white clock tower.

And the town certainly lives up to its name with two outdoor markets a week.

But its not just its markets which attract shoppers to the Saxon town. It also boasts a variety of shops, free parking and, most of all, friendliness.

In the EDP's survey, Downham Market, one of Norfolk's oldest market towns, was found to be made up of more than 95pc independent shops.

Its main shopping streets, leading uphill from the river to the clock tower, are packed with independent traders from a butcher to a key cutter, and a craft store to a baker.

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The twice-weekly markets also prove popular with residents and visitors alike, packed with stalls selling local produce including jams, juices, cheese and bread.

Philip Plant, from the Downham Market and District Chamber of Trade, said: 'Downham Market does so well because it has a variety of independent shops. Most things you want, you can get here.

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'We have got two major supermarkets, Tesco and Morrisons, but they live happily side by side with the shops in the town.

'Because they are in the town, they draw people in rather than away from the town.

'There is also free council-owned car parking. I think when you put all those things together it works well and it's a friendly sort of place.'

Jo Starr, who works at the Sew Inn in Lynn Road, said: 'It's a friendly little town and we keep going because people use us. There are free car parks and that helps quite a bit. You can get everything you want here.

'We get a mix of locals and visitors, when people are holidaying they come to Downham and shop.

'All the traders recommend each other, one store to the next, which is nice as well.'

The chamber of trade itself has more than 100 members and helps promote the town and its traders.

There is also a lot of goodwill and a sense of unity between the traders with them looking out for each other.

A deli, a butcher, a baker, a wholefood store and a farm shop recently teamed up to launch the website Downham Fayre.

As well as offering delivery within a five mile radius of the town, the site means those who work out of town can still support their local shops.

Businesswoman Jane Harper, who set up the site with Downham-based IT firm Anglia Computer Systems, said: 'There's a real close-knit community in Downham Market, people talk to each other more, there's more of a community spirit.

'It's certainly a bit different to other towns that I've lived in.

'We do have some interesting shops, particularly on the food side.

'In terms of the website, we set it up so there's an alternative to the 'big four' and if someone wants to do shopping online because they can't get to the shops, they can still shop local.'

At the beginning of the week-long series, shoppers called for more variety in shops, free parking and cleaner streets while shopkeepers also called for free parking.

It would seem that Downham Market provides just what they are looking for.

To see previous stories from our week long special log on to www.edp24.co.uk Also go online to read results from each individual high street surveyed.

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