Chorley outdoor market reopens - but did shoppers stick to social distance?

There was no shortage of custom for Chorley’s outdoor market traders as the borough took its first steps on the road back to retailing today.

By Paul Faulkner
Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 5:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 5:36 pm

Stallholders were welcomed to the town centre’s streets for the first time in almost three months, as the first shopping-related lockdown restrictions were lifted nationwide.

But there was a warning that some shoppers need to keep their social distance – particularly as the town prepares for the next phase of reopening its retail economy in less than a fortnight.

David Broughton, who has been selling clothes in Chorley every Tuesday for the past 25 years, said his surprise at the number of customers who made the trip to the market was matched only by their apparent eagerness to hit the high street.

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Susan and Kevin Kinney are amongst the Chorley market traders back in business

“I’ve taken about double what I was expecting – it’s one of the best days I’ve had in Chorley in a while,” David revealed.

“All of the customers just seemed really happy to be able to get out and about rather than being stuck in the house – and I’d say the majority of traders around me turned up as well.

“I’ve cut my stock down, so there is more space to allow people to socially distance. Everybody knows what you’ve got to do, because we’ve been doing it for 10 weeks now.”

But Malcolm Allen, chair of Chorley Traders’ Association, warned that compliance with the new rules of retail was far from universal – and he feared that might have implications for the reopening plans for indoor non-essential retailers, like his music shop, from 15th June.

Business appeared brisk at the first outdoor market in Chorley for almost three months

“It was a mixed bag from what I saw – I’d say a 50/50 split between those observing social distancing and those not.

“I saw quite a few people just walk through the middle of the queue outside one of the stalls to get to the other side.

“If the R-rate [speed at which coronavirus spreads] goes up in a fortnight, that would obviously be a bad thing.

“So while it was heartening to see people out shopping again, they have got to do it responsibly,” Malcolm added.

Any concern about customers not coming back to the market were soon dispelled

Chorley Council, which operates the market, is now assessing whether it needs to do any more to encourage shoppers to stay two metres apart.

“On the whole, the reopening of the Tuesday street market has gone reasonably well and the town centre has been quite busy,” said deputy leader Peter Wilson.

“We’ve seen around 20 traders operating this week who all managed to operate well under the social distancing guidelines.

“Although we’ve put a lot of measures in place already, such as a one-way system in the pedestrian zone and handwashing stations, we’ve been monitoring throughout the day to see if and what changes we need to make for the coming weeks to help keep town centre visitors safe.

Business was brisk on Chorley town centre's streets

“It’s great that visitors want to shop local however it’s vital that everyone adheres to social distancing guidelines and any signage and instructions provided.”

Meanwhile, David Broughton is hoping that the authority is in no rush to reverse one of the changes brought in during the lockdown – free off-street parking.

“Even though there was a three-hour period free previously, this has still made a difference. People used to have to arrive early to get a space and then you could tell they were rushing to get back to their car – whereas we haven’t had that today,” he said.