Market traders in Ipswich say they are struggling to survive, with some taking as little as £10 a day.
Stallholders say they have been dealt a double blow – firstly they were moved off the Cornhill to make way for the regeneration of the town square then Covid hit and footfall in the town has failed to recover.
A report by Ipswich Borough Council shows occupancy of market stalls has fallen dramatically since April 2019 when it was at 77% capacity to April 2021 when just 32% of pitches were occupied – however the most recent data does cover the end of the third lockdown when non essential stalls were unable to trade.
Michael Ransom, at the tobacco stand, said the move to Princes and Queen’s Streets from the Cornhill back in 2018 “killed” trade.
He said: “Since we moved from there to here, we’re taking half of what we used to take.
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“We’re struggling to take money when its nice and hot, and not taking any when its cold and rainy.
“Some people come down and they only take a £10 [a day]. They have high hopes and are gone in a month.
“The market is always quiet now. Football days are slightly busier but we need to be back in the town centre where we should be.”
Mr Ranson said when Covid hit he was left with no choice but to let his staff go, and had to draw on his pension to meet his mortgage. His wife got another job instead of helping him on the stall and they are considering downsizing their home.
“I’ve had bad times and good times and this has been the worst time ever in 23 years,” he added.
“I’ve never seen the like, it’s hard.”
Jewellery trader Robert Harper said town is often dead and added: “At the top is much better than being down the strip.”
Sean from the household goods stall, who has been there for 15 years, agreed “everything is about location”.
“Its in the pipeline [the move back] that’s what [the borough council is] talking about,” he said.
Fishmongers Lucy Young hopes they can move back soon and said: “I think we look forward to having a more prominent position. The day of the traditional market has changed. I think there will always be a place for finest foods and products.”
Ken Goddard from Ken’s Crafts has only been trading for a few months and said: “It’s tough going, but it’s been pleasant weather and enjoyable.”
He said trade was hit and miss and added: “There’s no rhyme reason or patterns to what’s going on.”
Ipswich Borough Council’s portfolio holder for the town centre Sarah Barber said they are continuing to consult on the changes after the move out of the Cornhill was made due to the redevelopment of the square.
She acknowledged that both the Vegan and Farmer’s Market were using the Cornhill but said these were held less often.
Ms Barber said: “There is an ongoing consultation around the move of the market but we are still deciding with market traders and other parties.
“We’re always encouraging the growth of Ipswich and I want to ensure the best for market stalls.”
She added that the council is flexible and is looking at working with Ipswich Central on finding pop-up shops coming to market.
“We have done our best to support the market,” she said. “It’s really been hard. Talk to us if you have issues.”
Ipswich Market is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9am till 4pm.