Over the past two weeks, we have been taking a closer look at Preston Markets, chatting to local traders and shoppers to find out what they love about their local market. This week we’re taking a trip to Preston’s outdoor market and next week, in the final installment, we’ll be exploring the Box Market.
Underneath the restored market canopy is Preston’s outdoor market. The outdoor market trades on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, with a second-hand market trading on Tuesdays. Traders sell a variety of items from books to clothing, flowers to fabric, and cards to candles. On Saturdays, the market is buzzing. It’s a great place to visit, browse and have a chat with the traders whilst shopping.
Julia McManus has been shopping on Preston Market for years, buying flowers for her garden from the flower stall on the outdoor market and food from the Market Hall.
“I find the flower stall so inspiring, every spring it brings me such happiness,” she said. “I enjoy browsing and buying flowers from the knowledgeable gentleman. I love seeing the flowers in bloom.”
John Alty, better known as Army John, sells military clothing and accessories on the outdoor market. The trader recently made the headlines after donating 15 boxes of military uniforms, helmets, and military accessories to people in Ukraine on the frontline.
Kath Jenkins has run the fabric stall on the outdoor market for 56 years. Her mother, Mary Donnelly, ran a fabric stall on Preston Markets before her. Kath has childhood memories of finishing school and being dropped off at the stall. Preston Market runs through her veins, she says. She has retired once but returned as she enjoys interacting with her customers, many of which have been visiting her stall throughout the decades. Kath has served and got to know generations of families.
“I think Kath’s stall is the best stall,” said Naz Patel. “It’s cheap and the fabric is in perfect condition.”
Naz describes how families need to be careful at the moment, watching how they spend their money. She feels that some of the food stalls in the market hall are too expensive, “families are struggling, not everyone can afford the prices.”
Later, Kath explains that Preston has a rich history, being granted a Guild Merchant Charter in 1179 making it a market town. She feels a bit more could be done to preserve this history and support local traders. She points out that some of the people who used to come to shop at Preston Market no longer do so, citing a variety of reasons; local services that used to attract people to the area, such as the post office that was located on Birley Street, have been relocated, the parking restrictions prevent people from parking and accessing the market easily and the road network in central Preston diverts traffic away from the market. She also feels younger people prefer to shop online. As we talk, a steady flow of customers approach Kath’s stall, to buy fabric and chat with Kath. It’s clear how fond local people are of Kath and her stall.
Lynn Eastham runs the perfume and gift stall on the outdoor market. Lynn previously had a stall upstairs in the indoor market for two decades, prior to that she ran the Real Ale shop and Barrel of Laughs fancy dress shop on Lovat Road, appearing in the fly on the wall documentary of the same name. Lynn really enjoys talking to customers, she has always worked in retail and feels that her customers like the personal touch, such as gift wrapping. Lynn would like to see new traders encouraged to trade on the outdoor market.
“There’s scope for having pop-up stalls along the back wall,” said Lynn. “The back wall is rarely used and I know my customers would love to see arts and crafts stalls along there, under canopies. I have friends who make their own jewellery and crafts who would like to trade and it would offer a bit of variety on the outdoor market.”
“We’re also having to close on Friday, which doesn’t help trade. I’d like to have the option to trade on Preston Market on a Friday.”
This sentiment was echoed by other traders on the outdoor market. Some lost trade and others started trading elsewhere on Fridays when Friday trading didn’t resume on the outdoor market after the pandemic.
Pete Burns has been running the bookstall on Preston’s outdoor market for the past 31 years. Over three decades of trading, he has built up a good, loyal customer base, stocking thousands of books across a range of genres. He is keen for people to come along, chat with him and tell him what they like to read.
“Interact with us, engage,” said Pete, who is keen to help customers find the right book for them. “If you like romantic fiction, there is a whole section, we stock a number of crime books, anything you can think of we may have. We stock anything except educational texts and computer books. We’ve got the classics, if you are studying them at school, college or university do come to see us.”
He thinks there are a number of reasons why trade isn’t as buoyant as it previously has been.
“There’s a number of road works around town, it can’t be helped but it does affect trade. We lost the market car park, people can’t lug a big crate of books over to the bus station car park, which is the closest long stay place to park.”
Pete’s biggest bugbear is negativity on social media.
“Whenever anyone posts a photo of the old market on any of the Facebook nostalgia groups there is a plethora of negativity and it puts people off coming. You’re constantly having to fight it.”
“Since COVID-19, we’ve been unable to trade on a Friday. When the public walk past on a Friday and don’t see traders on the outdoor market it reinforces their viewpoint.”
Pete would like the people of Preston to support the market, “Shop local and keep cash in the community. Use it or lose it and save your money on postage buying books online!”
Preston’s outdoor market is open from 8am – 3pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The second-hand market runs on Tuesdays 8am – 3pm. The closest short-stay car park is situated at the Market Surface Car Park.