Preston's outdoor market returns after 10-week lockdown
Ten weeks after coronavirus shut them down, the traders of Preston outdoor market were back on their stalls yesterday . . . just in time for the rain.
Yet the hardy souls who brave the elements all year round to sell their wares were not complaining. Far from it. A bit of business is better than no business, whatever the weather.
And despite the recent sunny spell turning to drizzle to welcome them back, many of the stallholders admitted to being “pleasantly surprised” by the number of customers who paid them a socially-distanced visit under the 145-year-old Victorian canopy in the city centre.
“To be fair it’s not been so bad,” said Frank Cowell, whose Preston Market Beds stall has been part of the furniture on the outdoor market for years.
“We haven’t had the same footfall that we were getting before coronavirus. But it’s the first day and hopefully it will pick up now people know we’re back.”
For traders like Frank, the last two-and-a-half months have been tough. While many of their next-door-neighbours in the indoor market have remained open throughout the lockdown, the outdoor non-food businesses have been unable to trade because they were not deemed to be essential.
“I’ve been OK because I’m also online,” said Frank. “I’ve been doing a few bits to keep me going. But for some of the others, the market is their only income. So they haven’t earned a penny.
"But we’re back now and, even though there are fewer stalls because of social distancing, I hope people will come out now and support their market.”
Only nine businesses, including flowers, gifts, cards and books, were allowed back on the market yesterday due to space issues.
John Alty, whose Band of Brothers Military Surplus stall was one of those open, said: “It’s been better than I thought it would be. It started off a bit slow, but once people saw we were here they started coming over and having a good look round.
“It’s not been easy - in fact it’s been very hard when we’ve not been able to go to work these past weeks. But we’re up and running again and happy to be back.”
In a joint statement, Preston Council leader Coun Matthew Brown and cabinet member Coun Robert Boswell said: “When everything returns to normal, I hope the people of Preston recognise the value of Preston Markets and continue to support these independent businesses by shopping local.”