Preston’s new Market Hall was a hive of activity as spirited shoppers returned to make the most of their Christmas shopping experience within the confines of tier three restrictions.
Outdoor toy trader Amanda Knott, who only opened her stall at Preston Market before the first lockdown, said: “It’s been really good, such a lovely day and stock has sold really well.
“I’m only selling at cost price, people need help just as much as we do. I’m lucky to have another job as well and fortunate to be able to have this as a second income but it’s being back with the other traders, I’ve really enjoyed and seeing everyone have a good day of sales too.”
Lynne Eastham, from Preston, who ran her stall The Gift Stop in the former indoor market before opening outdoors three years ago said: “We’re set up with lots of gifts ready for Christmas.
“It’s been wonderful, really nice and we’ve all had a good day. Customers are delighted we are back open, everyone has been in a really nice mood and glad to have done so well.
“It was a pleasant surprise today, especially with the tier three restrictions, but it’s felt safe, it’s always felt safe here especially outdoors. People all being sensible wearing their masks but at the same time enjoying their Christmas shopping.
“I hope it will continue like, I’ve loved being back working - it’s been perfect.”
Not all traders are pleased with the impact the tier three restrictions have imposed on their business. Pete Burns, owner of The Book Stops Here books stall for the last 30 years, said it had been a frustrating time for small business owners.
He said the current limitations mean he has been unable to return to full trading.
“To be perfectly honest I still can’t see why we were closed down in the last lockdown having been able to continue shopping in supermarkets.
“It’s a completely safe environment we have here, people can socially distance, it’s nice and open.
“We still haven’t opened on Fridays, we haven’t opened on Fridays since March and I can’t understand why after all these years. It means we’re still only 75 per cent operational.
“But the sense of optimism amongst traders is good. It has been vibrant, people are coming down to see us, fed up of nothing to do and nowhere to go and this is an outdoor shopping experience - it’s one of the safest there is.”
Preston Flower Store owner Rahat Samad said she was ‘hopeful’ of a busy trading period in the run-up to Christmas and said she had been uplifted by a positive response from customers returning to the indoor market hall after another month closed, due to the lockdown.
“It’s been so nice and hopefully, hopefully we’ll get busier and busier in the next few weeks,” she added.
Neighbouring stall owner of Sheridan's Bags and Bags David Maudsley, who has had his shop since 1965 said it has been his toughest year in trading,
“No one ever saw this coming, it’s just incredible and nothing surprises us anymore, whatever comes next...It’s a very important time for us now for obvious reasons.
“The month we had off is really a shop window for our trading, people looking to buy before Christmas and we’ve now lost that.
“People are really pleased that we’re back in action and back on the stall - they’ve been passing by weekly to check if we were back.
“But it’s so encouraging for the people of Preston to come and see us and say that they’ve missed us.
“It’s imperative that people come out and support us, we’re eager to serve, eager to please. If you turn up and have a look, see what we’ve got then I’m sure you’ll find something.”