Town seeks new stall holders to help save a historic market
- Credit: Archant
A town is looking to rejuvenate its markets after stall holder numbers fell by half.
Wymondham is historically a market town, but recently it has not been living up to its reputation, prompting concerns from various people such as stall-holders, town residents, and town councillors.
All of these groups, alongside South Norfolk Council visitor economy coordinator Lisa Cosh and MP Mr George Freeman, assembled for a meeting to turn Wymondham market's fortunes around at the start of May.
Stall-holders are worried that a combination of dwindling numbers of both stalls and customers, town council rents and a lack of publicity might mean the end of the market.
The situation was brought to a crisis point when several stall holders left within a matter of months, mostly due to reaching retirement age or personal circumstances.
Wymondham is home to two markets, one of which is held every Friday, and has been running since the 13th century, the other of which is the Farmer's Market held every third Saturday of the month since 2000.
Peter Keeling, from Mendlesham Green, took over his father's long-running fruit and vegetable stall last Christmas with his wife Jane, which he has worked at for around 20 years.
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The 32-year-old said: 'Advertising would help more than anything else.
'Obviously you get more people coming in, more stalls would come and the market would be thriving, and that's where the problem is, I think.
'When they opened Morrisons - that was when it started going downhill. Seven years ago we had eight staff, now there's just the two of us.'
At the first meeting it was decided that the markets should be treated as a major attraction to the town and that new stall-holders should if possible sell products that cannot be bought in local shops and supermarkets.
A second meeting was then held to decide on a course of action. All those present supported the reduction of rental charges and the suggestion that the current offer of two free sessions for new stall-holders be increased to four free sessions.
To book a pitch at either the Friday or farmers market, contact the town council on 01953 603302 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The six-point plan of action to rejuvenate the market:
Tony Holden, mayor of Wymondham, has given six recommendations to save the market on behalf of the Wymondham Town Council.
1. Further promote the markets
2. Help to increase footfall and attract new stall-holders
3. Support increasing our 'free come and have a go' sessions from two to four
4. Support the reduction of rental costs
5. Investigate ways to make better use of the Market Place
6. Carry out a review of these new arrangements in six months time.
The number of free taster sessions available to stall holders will be increased to four, conditional upon the stall-holders paying a deposit and attending on four consecutive occasions, after which their deposit will be refunded.
New charges for stall-holders are £10 for a maximum frontage of 20ft without electricity, and for electricity a charge of £13, which doubles if the length is exceeded.
What do Wymondham market's stall-holders think?
Ryan Winter, from Watton, is owner of a stall selling onsite printing and phone accessories, among other products.
The 48-year-old said: 'We had possibly three that retired and the problem is with markets there's no youngsters taking over, and with the current rent it's too expensive for people to come on the market and really give it a go, which is why they were going elsewhere, unfortunately.
'It's not about the market it's about the town. Even some of the shops will agree that having a better market is good for business because you've got to have the best draw you can for people to be here, especially when you're on the doorstep of Norwich.'
Charlie Gould, of Cheese and Pie Man, from Long Stratton, said: 'I'm the newest one on the market, I do believe numbers have reduced drastically. We could do with some new, different stalls.
'It's a nice little market area, very welcoming, we just need people to use it more.'
A Wymondham resident's view on the markets
Brenda Crow, a 64-year-old Wymondham resident, said: 'I've been visiting this market for 10 years. Every town I've lived in I've always visited their markets. I think it's an important part of life. 'Now we've only got a few stalls here it's really weird.
'Little towns like this can turn quite rapidly when you haven't got things like this. This used to be tons and tons of people before, you can see it's changing.
'I think something for the elderly would be good because there's an awful lot of people who can't drive or make it to Morrisons or Waitrose, and it gives them an opportunity to wander.
'By accident you can just start chatting and it means a lot to people to be able to do that because you can get so isolated when you haven't got this kind of community.
'Stalls should be in keeping with the town itself, and not expensive. I don't think it should get too organic or antique because that sort of thing can put people off. They should go for the masses.'