Mixed bag for Mercury area markets

Markets have long been at the centre of East Anglian life. But how are they faring against competition from supermarkets and the rise of internet shopping? AURA SABADUS investigates.

Markets have long been at the centre of East Anglian life. But how are they faring against competition from supermarkets and the rise of internet shopping? AURA SABADUS investigates.

It's market day and business is brisk - with chit-chat and gossip traded as quickly as fruit and veg.

Markets have been the beating heart of East Anglian towns for centuries.

But today they face competition from out-of-town supermarkets, the trend of shoppers paying by card not cash and, most recently of all, the advent of the internet and online retailers.


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Facing challenges on all sides, you would be forgiven for thinking the days of the traditional market stall were coming to an end.

But a Mercury investigation has revealed that the markets in this patch are generally in rude health.

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We asked authorities and stallholders across Norfolk whether or not their markets had grown or shrunk in the last five years.

Traders in Wymondham, Downham Market, Hunstanton and Watton insisted business was “thriving” and “better than ever before.”

In Fakenham, traders said they were holding their own against competition from rival stores.

But the investigation found that times have been tougher for markets in Norfolk's bigger towns of late.

Markets in the likes of Thetford, King's Lynn, Yarmouth, Dereham or Swaffham have seen a sharp drop in their number of stalls over the last five years.

The hardest-hit were Cromer and Stalham, where competition from supermarkets has been fierce.

Their number of stalls has more than halved since 2003.

The investigation did not look at the monthly farmers' markets.

Although Watton and Wymondham could not provide figures for 2003, town clerks insisted that their markets are “thriving,” as there are at least 10 traders on their waiting lists every week.

There are up to 30 traders on Wymondham's waiting list, hoping to snap up one of the 12 stalls available on Fridays - the town's traditional market day.

But King's Lynn, Dereham or Yarmouth have lost up to a third of their capacity over the last five years.

Swaffham's Saturday market has dropped from 75 to 60 stalls over the last five years.

In Diss, the number of stalls on the Friday market has fallen from 25 to 20.

But the hardest-hit is Stalham market, where the number of stalls on Tuesdays dropped from 40 to six since 2003.

Keith Johnson, markets manager at Norfolk County Services said fierce competition from supermarkets and internet sales have taken a heavy toll on places such as Stalham, Sheringham and Cromer.

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