Is Bury St Edmunds market ‘vibrant’ or is it ‘declining’?
PUBLISHED: 11:52 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:52 10 August 2017
Touted one of the most popular and thriving markets in the country, traders at the Bury St Edmunds traditional provisions market are starting to feel the pinch, it has been claimed.
The twice weekly market, which dates back to as early as the ninth century, is still considered by many to be the “finest in the region” but some traders and customers fear the magic is eking away.
Traders raised concerns at premium rate rents for a market that now struggles to out do other smaller towns, while the cost and flexibility of town centre parking was also underlined.
Marc West, of domestic appliance stand Vacmarc, has been trading in Bury since his father started the stall 50 years ago.
“Two years ago I would’ve told you the Bury market was by far the best,” he said. “My dad moved from Luton to Bury 40 years ago because the market here was that good.
“These past two years it has got a lot tougher. This is happening up and down the country, everyone is going online – and online you are competing over a few pennies. I can’t compete on price with online stores – most of my customers are old enough not be online. I still hope to be here in a few years time, but a Saturday in Bury can now be no better than a Tuesday in Saffron Walden.”
The market, managed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, takes place on Cornhill and Buttermarket.
Chris Lamming, of Abbey Fruits,which has been trading for decades, said: “The rents are far higher here than any other market, but it does not always seem to be worth it anymore.”
He said the council could bring in cheaper parking, such as a free-for-an-hour type scheme, to help on market days.
“Out of town supermarkets and online shops are taking business away, so we need help to compete,” he added.
“I think we will still be here in a few years, but some stalls are leaving already, and we need a variety to keep it going.”
David Felton, of Floral Fayre, has been on the market for more than 20 years. He said: “We have a role to play in making sure we continue.
“We need to be positive make sure we turn up regularly and have plenty on offer, otherwise on wetter days like this [Wednesday], people will think the market is dead.”
What the council and the BID say
St Edmundsbury Borough Council, who manage the market, along with the Ourburystedmunds Business Improvement District (BID) highlighted that footfall is not declining.
A borough council spokesman said: “Many markets across the UK are struggling as more and more people tend to either shop online or in the supermarkets. We believe that a good market is an attraction in itself and creates a good atmosphere, bring more people into the town.
“Locally, Bury St Edmunds market still has a good reputation and we are getting on average half a dozen new enquires from potential traders each week while we are not aware of any established traders who have simply given up.
“In fact our market is full on a Saturday and while there are some spaces on a Wednesday, we have turned away some potential new traders as we don’t want to duplicate and dilute what is already there.
“What we are instead seeing is the success of more and more street food vendors replacing some of the traditional types of stalls.
“To be a successful market trader takes commitment. Often it means starting work at 5am and often not getting home until 7pm, and we recognise that trade will be impacted by the weather such as Wednesday’s heavy rain.
“But with no Business Rates to pay and an average rent of £2.46 per linear foot per day, a market stall is a cheaper option than a shop and so a brilliant option for anyone starting out a new business.
“If you are interested on trading on any of our markets please contact Sharon Fairweather, markets development officer by emailing Sharon.firstname.lastname@example.org”
New market for Newmarket
Elsewhere in west Suffolk, a struggling Newmarket market is planning to move on to the High Street to reverse its “continuing decline”.
The proposal would see the market move from its current location behind the Guineas Shopping Centre to between the Clock Tower and The Rutland Arms pub.
There will be space for 15 stalls and the aim is to transfer the market, which is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays every week of the year, to the new location by early April 2018.
Forest Heath District councillors hope the move will rejuvenate the market, which has slowed in recent years and led to residents of the horseracing town questioning its survival.
The town’s market is said to be one of the country’s oldest, dating back to the early 13th century.
Fuller details of the plans will be made available on the High Street and on the market later in the year.