Markets must be one of the oldest forms of trading in the world with people spreading their wares on a simple table or on the ground yet in this country they are in decline. At least this is what we were told tonight at a meeting of the Stanley Area Action Partnership in a presentation on revitalising markets in the area. We were also told about the relationship between a market and its town centre as well as how they are good as breeding grounds for retail business start ups. When I saw that this subject was on the agenda I thought that it was going to be of little interest to me but having sat through the presentation it has got me thinking about markets in general and my relationship with them.
Now I live in a market town and I often talk about the markets in which my business operates but I have come to realise that going to a market is something that I only do either when I am on holiday or visiting somewhere away from home. When I go to them I really enjoy the experience, for example the market at Inca is a must whenever I am on holiday in Majorca or the markets along the front and in the town at Torrevieja is where we always end up when we are there. It is the same in this country. A few weeks ago we were in York and again the market was a place which we always seemed to make our way to.
And it doesn’t even matter what they are selling they are places which I always gravitate towards, fruit and vegetables, household goods, linens, shoes, cheese and meat, second hand goods they are always really interesting places to wander through and while away some time. Whether they are inside or outside, the proximity of the people, the hubbub of the conversations and the hawking of the traders all create an atmosphere that cannot be replicated in any other retailing environment. They are filled with life and sensations and smells that hark back to times gone by and that we have come not to expect in our modern day sanitised lives such as the sight and smell of blood on the sawdust covered floors or the damp odour of vegetables still spotted with soil or even people serving you, picking your produce and wrapping them in paper and giving you personal service.
Tonight I have realised that for me, going to a market is a leisure activity rather than somewhere that I go to buy my everyday essentials. A visit to a market is a discretionary activity and one that I associate with excitement, interest and enjoyment and different experience to the drudgery of doing my normal shopping at the weekends. I can stroll around a market but need to dash around the supermarket. One is fun and the other is a serious business.
Perhaps I am not alone in that I perceive local markets as places which I can only go to when I have time on my hands and perhaps that is the reason they are in decline. My suggestion, for what it is worth, is that markets should concentrate less on the low prices they offer and focus more upon their vibrancy, their variety and their huge sense of fun. Good luck Stanley market!