It’s all down to market forces

market - queue for the seafood stall

market - queue for the seafood stall

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This borough ain’t big enough for both of us ... at least not on a Wednesday.

Poulton’s new midweek market is to go ahead all day tomorrow – with neighbouring market traders hoping it’s a one-off until a different trading day is agreed by organiser, Wyre Council.

The privately-run weekly Wednesday market at Great Eccleston is just under six miles and 10 minutes away from Poulton, and that’s just too close for comfort say market traders, who claim trading distances are enshrined within market charter rights.

Poulton’s decision to host a market every week – over and above its usual monthly market – has upset some traders, who fear it will hit their takings.

Is Wyre big enough for three markets in one week – let alone two tomorrow?

There’s already a weekly market every Thursday at Garstang, too. And that’s not counting monthly farmers markets at Thornton’s Marsh Mill (the second Saturday of every month), Great Eccleston (third Wednesday of every month) and Poulton (the fourth Saturday of every month) at St Chad’s Church hall.

It’s easier to bag a pay and display spot in Poulton (or Garstang) but if you’re lucky you can park for free in Great Eccleston – but only if you can find a space on the High Street.

“At one time there used to be parking restrictions on a market day, which helped us,” says trader Jim Pawson who, with Janet Hayman-Start, runs the County Market stall, selling cakes, pies, preserves and sweet treats. “I’ve traded here 10 years. We have regulars from Fleetwood, Lytham, Poulton too, but it’s getting tougher. Not so many locals use it either. On days such as this – when it’s raining and blowing a gale – people from outside the area think twice about coming here. Especially if they can’t park close by.

“We tend to do better now at St Annes Farmers Market, the first Thursday of every month. I’m seriously wondering whether the time has come to pack it all in. But I like the banter with customers and other traders.”

Great Eccleston’s weekly market has fallen on harder times in recent years. Some days, according to regulars, you can turn up and find as few as three stalls trading.

Our visit coincides with the monthly farmers market, which adds more stalls to the mix, and although the weather’s dismal there’s a fairly good turnout of traders – and more shoppers emerge as the morning wears on.

There’s a queue for the mobile fishmongers, and trade ticks over nicely for Horwich couple Sue and Ken Denton’s pet food and pet supplies stall, the fruit and veg stall, and other specialists, although the farmers market element seems out on a limb.

Relative newcomer Philippa Goodwin, who runs Artisan Pies, has been there since May. “I used to work for the NHS but this was a chance to do something I really enjoy and make money. The pies are fresh, and everything locally-sourced, and I try to offer a different range.” She also does private catering and bespoke pies for business functions.

Shoppers include Karen and Carl Bentley, and friends Nancy and Larry Eineman, of Preston, who make a point of seeking out markets for weekly days out together. Karen explains: “It’s a good way of having a nice day out, buying what you want when you need it, rather than over stock at a big supermarket.” Nancy adds: “You can’t beat the produce, it’s fresh, it’s tasty, it cuts down on food miles, the whole ethos is far more sustainable.”

Wyre Council leader Coun Peter Gibson hopes tomorrow’s return to weekly market trading will attract more visitors and boost trade. If feedback from shoppers and traders is good, the council will press on with plans to organise a weekly market – but heed Great Eccleston’s concern and opt for a different day “to complement those already established elsewhere in Wyre”.

“It’s likely to be Monday,” says Coun Gibson. “We are delighted to be introducing a market to Poulton. The location lends itself very nicely, and this could be the kick-start Poulton needs to attract fresh visitors, and, eventually, new businesses.”

Not that you can please everybody. Mrs Kate Dawson of Cleveleys says: “Wednesday’s a better day for a market. People aren’t in a mood to spend on a Monday. Places are too busy on Fridays and weekends.”

If you’re still in the market for a market others are held at Kirkham (every Thursday), there’s a monthly farmers market at Lytham Piazza the third Thursday of every month, and Fylde farmers’ market is held the first Thursday of every month at St Annes.

St John’s Square, Blackpool, is also seen as an attractive base for international or specialist markets, particularly in the run –up to Christmas – so watch that space too!