Sweet stall forced to leave the market.

More than 1500 locals have signed a petition to reverse a decision to force a market trader to cease trading. Pick n Mix sweet stall holder Kevin Hilliard had traded at Saxmundham’s Wednesday market for over twenty years, but due to a rebranding by the local council.

The town council said the market’s rebranding towards “fresh, healthy food” was crucial to its survival.

Customers said they would be sorry to see the stall go, and Mr Hilliard, 68, thanked them for their loyal support over two decades.

One customer said, ‘I’m absolutely gutted. I’ve lived here all my life, and my parents used to bring me to the market to choose sweets. I always bring my children here to get some sweets.’

‘You come to the market, and you expect the sweets to be here, and to think it’s been taken away is horrible. My little girl gets very excited to see the sweets, so it’s not nice for it to go at all.’

Michael Light, a regular at the stall, hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘I think it’s quite sad really because I don’t believe that a council or any governing body can dictate to the public what they can and can’t buy.’

‘If you want to spend your money on sweets, do so.’

A spokesperson for the town council said as regards the petition, ‘Saxmundham Wednesday Market has been in decline for several years… truthfully, it is on the brink of closure.’

He added, ‘The social media response has been genuinely unexpected, and we are taking into account the comments we are receiving.’

Now, you may be wondering why I am writing an article about this, not the Baltimore Bridge disaster, Hamza’s hate crime laws, or the allegations against Puff Daddy or P Diddy or whatever his name is. Still, this story resonates with me because I am an ex-market trader of thirty-plus years standing.

I know all too well how the open-air outdoor markets have, by and large, gone extinct in the last decade or so; I traded at Ingliston, Bathgate, and East Fortune markets on their last days. Through experience, I can tell you what set the demise for these once-institutional retail establishments, dying with a whimper and even less fanfare.

Firstly, the council does not give a monkey about regular old-fashioned Del Boy-type markets and traders. The market decline will be in no small measure due to the rise of supermarkets, especially the cheaper ones like Lidl and Aldi, which usually always find themselves right next to market sites or, in Bathgate’s case, bought the site from the owner/operator.

Speaking of owner/operators, the next problem lies there. I will be willing to bet the operator, in this case, the council, in their deliberation of what to do with Saxmundham Market, they, like the operators I dealt with, probably spent their time looking at what was wrong with the market but never bothered to ask Mr Hilliard what he was doing right! I can say through experience that this is what happens, the operators don’t bother to talk to the successful traders (usually because they are busy trading) but hang off every word of “Wee Billy”, who is dismayed at his lack of trade even though he trades 12 weeks a year and whos flash consists of random crap on two pasting tables, those are the guys who get listened to.

Secondly, councils want a wee farmers market, with stalls selling goat’s cheese and organic leeks at £6 each. They think that is the way to attract punters, but in my experience, most of these farmer-type markets are no more than subsidised vanity efforts that won’t appeal to local working-class folk.

Thirdly and most importantly, it is you, the punter. The East Fortune market was awful for this, but I heard time and time again one punter or another proclaim on one hand how terrible the market was and how much it had fallen away. However, the answer was always months, if not multiple years, when asked how long it had been since they last shopped there.

Kevin Hilliard’s sweetie stall is being sacrificed because customers have abandoned the market in general.

1500 people signed his petition, but as the council stated, “We sincerely wish that everyone who has engaged with this debate online would come out and regularly support their local market.”

If you want these things to be there, you need to be involved, be it a market, pub, social club, local theatre, or church.
If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.

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