Video: Stalls well as markets bounce back in recession

FOR centuries they have been at the very heart of Yorkshire life.

Although in recent years, as the shouts of traders and bustling crowds were slowly drowned out by the squeak of supermarket trolley wheels along air-conditioned aisles, it was feared public markets across the region were in an irreversible decline.

But since the recession, a growing army of shoppers looking to buy local and bag a bargain is breathing new life back into Yorkshire's markets despite the likes of Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's now jostling for attention in even the smallest of towns.

Harrogate Council says two of the success stories are in Ripon and Knaresborough, markets, which date back to the 11th century but have suffered in recent years.

Officers say that since the recession started, the crowds and traders have started to pour back in.

"I have definitely noticed more of them coming here," said Pat Watson who has run a fruit and veg stall at Knaresborough market for the past 40 years and counts four generation of traders in the town among her family.

"We now have a lot of regular customers that come every week from all over to get their vegetables.

"Shopping in the market there is a lot of reasonable things to find, and I think as times have got harder people are looking for bargains more. Also the quality and freshness of what we sell, you don't get in the supermarkets.

"It is brilliant news for the traders and for the town."

Husband and wife team Peter and Kathleen Kitching, who sell eggs from their farm in Shipley in markets across Yorkshire, have also noticed an upturn.

"I think it is down to two things really", said Peter. "People are taking more of an interest in food and wanting to buy things fresh direct from the producers. But also our eggs are cheaper than the supermarkets so if you're looking to save money then it's ideal.

"We love it – you get to meet all kinds of people and have a bit of a laugh with the customers. It's a great job."

With unemployment now at two-and-a-half million, the difficulty for young people coming out of school and university and getting a job, means a new breed of trader is also starting to set up stall.

Friends Natasha Alsamurai and Emma Whitehead, both 21, opened a stall selling handmade arts and crafts in the market shortly before Christmas after finishing an art and design course at Harrogate College.

"It was very hard getting a job when I left college", said Natasha, who lives in nearby Starbeck, "Anything I got was just not secure and any job I did get I ended up losing.

"Having a stall is great because you are doing something for yourself and you are in control.

"We sell things that we make ourselves and you notice a lot of people walking past and having a look. It is going slowly but we are both enjoying it."

Traders pay 22.92 to rent out a stall every Wednesday and arrive at 7am and work until about 3.30pm.

Even on a freezing January day with the market square's cobbles so cold they stick to the bottom of your shoes, there is still a steady stream of crowds and most of the stalls are overflowing with everything from vintage records to wedding-wear to gourmet sausages.

But traders say the news is not all good.

While food sales are doing well, the availability of budget garments from supermarkets and department stores means for clothes' sellers business is getting worse all the time.

Raghbir Bhambra, 61, of Wetherby Road, Leeds, has run a clothes stall at Ripon and Knaresborough markets since the 1960s, after arriving in Yorkshire from India as a well-qualified maths teacher.

He said: "I love working on the markets, you are out in the fresh air and ever since I have been in England it is what I have done.

"But over the last few years it has started getting worse for me.

"At the moment I struggle to make enough money just to break even.

"It is very difficult for us because these big stores never used to sell any clothes but now they all do and it is very hard for a small trader like me to compete with them.

"If I can manage to keep making a bit of money then I will keep this going but if it continues like this then I might have to stop – I would be very sad."

GREAT TRADTITION, BUY AND LARGE...

MARKETS and fairs have been a focal point for towns and villages across Yorkshire for centuries.

The medieval market was noisy, smelly and crowded, with people coming to buy their food and drink as well as cloths, pots and pans. Butchers would kill animals at the market and sell the meat immediately as it would not keep.

Traders who cheated their customers by using false weights and measures would be tried at a special court and fined or put in the stocks.

A market would have to be formalised by a "market charter" to exist, which came directly from the ruling monarch.

The Knaresborough charter is still on display in the town square today.