On two days a week Spalding’s town centre comes alive with the hustle and bustle of shoppers wanting to buy fresh produce and grab a bargain at the local market.
It’s the place you’ll find fish, bread, meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, clothing, furniture, greeting cards, gifts and street food – to name but a few.
But in spite of still being able to attract people into town, stall holders have been hit by competition from supermarkets and online suppliers just like high street stores.
South Holland District Council is currently undertaking a survey and review of the market. This is in addition to the Love Your Market campaign, which was held by the National Market Traders’ Federation in May and supported by SHDC.
The council’s economic development team was tasked with undertaking a review of markets and car parks by Couns Howard Johnson and Roger Gambba-Jones following the decision by Cabinet in November last year to transfer strategic responsibility for markets and car parks to economic development.
A spokesman for SHDC said: “Retailers in the market towns of Spalding, Holbeach, Long Sutton and Crowland were asked for their opinions as part of a review of markets and car parking across South Holland. This review will help South Holland District Council to plan for the future.
“Quarterbridge Project Management carried out the work for the council and they conducted an online retailer survey in June. The draft report was due for presentation on Tuesday, but Quarterbridge asked for it to be re-scheduled for September due to staff holidays.”
In the meantime, The Spalding Guardian visited Tuesday’s market as part of its Campaign For Change to talk to stall holders and shoppers about how the market could be improved.
Stall holders are calling for more investment to help re-energise Spalding’s town centre and improve footfall in Market Place.
The ancient market used to house over 100 stalls at its peak and drew people in from all over the country.
But in recent years its size and popularity has waned, with some suggesting the lack of advertisement and promotion to be the cause.
Market trader Rob Whellams of Belvoir Bakery said: “Could they promote it a bit more? I think so, I’ve never seen an advert for the market, or heard one on the radio.
“As a trader I would be willing to put some money in to a fund for some sort
of advertising if it was going to increase footfall, anything to get more people down here.”
Many market traders believe the arrival of Springfields Shopping Centre has had an adverse effect on the prosperity of the town centre and took business away from the market.
Sid Shipley, who has a pitch on the market and has lived in Spalding for over 50 years, said: “Since we opened that shopping centre it has killed a lot of the trade at Market Place, it is all they are interested in now.
“The younger generation don’t want a market and as people are dying off there is no one to replace them.”
However card and slipper stall owner Gerry Thompson believes the market’s problems go far deeper and a total rethink of how the town centre is run is needed.
He said: “Spalding town centre needs developing, instead of developing the football ground and silly things like that they should be building up the centre.
“There are certainly no plans for the future, the market is left idle along and no one’s interested.”
Local residents aren’t too impressed either.
Spalding’s Laura-kay Wright said: “I think the market is an important part of the town but there is so much competition now, it is tough, I think it has lost the spark it once had.”
Emma Fisher was brought up visiting the market stalls on a Saturday morning and feels serious work needs to be done to restore the centre to its former glory.
She concluded: “There is just no one there anymore and not a whole lot there to go and look at.
“With the supermarkets and Springfields now here, it feels like there’s no point in it being here.”
• Spalding is an ancient market, one of only a few mentioned in the Domesday book.
There are intermittent records of what was on sale at Spalding Market that show a gradual evolution from simple resources to modern goods.
The earliest record in 1281 shows the marketplace selling wool, coal, firewood and other essential fuels.
The latest study in 2009 documents a plethora of food stalls, small clothing stores, jewellery and more.