Chapel Market traders struggle in lockdown as 'supermarkets carry on regardless'
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Chapel Market traders say they are worried the downturn in business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic might never pick up again, as people get used to new ways of shopping online.
Stallholders at the historic Angel market were already struggling with tier 4 restrictions since December 19, before the third lockdown was announced this week.
Only those selling "essential" goods like food and household cleaning products have been allowed to stay open since then, meaning the market is reduced to just 10 stalls instead of the usual 60.
David Twydell, chair of the traders' association, who has run a fruit and veg stall for 52 years, is "taking half of what he used to", and some traders are only just covering costs.
Others who are banned from working, can’t apply for any government grants because they are registered as self-employed, and must claim universal credit instead.
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"People are in debt and they’re suffering from depression," said David.
"The girl in the card stall ordered in all her Christmas goods - you’re talking about a thousand of pounds of stock - and now the stock is no good until next year. It’s just a shame.
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"It’s going to get worse rather than better in the next few months, and unfortunately no one knows the answer," he added.
But he feels the supermarkets - like Waitrose and Sainsbury's located nearby on the market street - are able to "carry on regardless".
"All I see is people coming in and out of the supermarkets," he said.
"We are used to seeing queues of people outside them and McDonald's. The footfall is completely different now. It’s affected us big time."
He added: "Christmas was a waste of time on the market for us.
"We keep trying but it’s hard for us to find produce because of Brexit, and a lot of our produce went sky high just before Christmas.
"All the supermarkets were selling for the same price we could buy wholesale.
"A friend of mine has a greengrocers' stall, and he couldn’t buy Brussel sprouts anywhere, but you walked into the supermarket and they were just 15p."
He added: "People are getting used to shopping differently now and once they get the flavour, for sure we will lose customers long term.
"People are creatures of habit. If they can sit indoors and press a few buttons and a fella brings it round.
"I don't blame people for doing it, but it’s not the way I’d like to shop. We try to offer a personal service at the market. It’s a community and it’s been like that for 100 years."
On Tuesday the government announced grants of up to £9,000 for retail businesses based on floor space, but a further £594 million is also being made available for local authorities to support businesses not eligible for the grants.