Diversity is the key to Honiton's street market

AS consumers batten down the hatches to weather out the recession, Honiton Town Council is doing its bit to keep the local economy going.

AS consumers batten down the hatches to weather out the recession, Honiton Town Council is doing its bit to keep the local economy going.

Now that it has regained control of Honiton's twice weekly street market, it hopes that subtle changes and investment will increase the vibrancy of the town centre - and stave off widespread shop closures that have turned shopping centres in other parts of the country into virtual ghost towns.

To find out what Honiton Town Council is doing to help the local economy, the Herald met with town clerk Lyn Hargood and former mayor Councillor Sally Casson before asking market traders why they support Honiton...

A BIGGER, more diverse street market is emerging in Honiton - thanks to the commitment of the town council, which has regained control of the twice-a-week institution from East Devon District Council.

For 752 years, Honiton has relied on the market to bring shoppers into town.

Last year, shopkeepers complained the market was looking tired and in need of a lift.

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In the few months since the town council took charge, the market is already improving.

"It is fuller and more diverse," says town clerk Lyn Hargood.

"The Tuesday and Saturday markets are now nearly full.

"New traders are coming in."

The town council plans to invest in the market by buying its own stalls - so anybody can be a market trader. The council aims to rent out the stalls and can even arrange for them to be erected and taken down.

A survey is being undertaken by the council to gauge existing market traders' views on a range of topics - to ensure an open line of communication is forged at an early stage in the relationship.

Former mayor Councillor Sally Casson said: "The town council is aware of the problems in the High Street and we are doing everything we can to keep the town vibrant in these difficult times."

Although Honiton's monthly farmers' market recently folded, just short of its 10th anniversary, producers have been offered pitches at the weekly street markets.

Some have opted to join the WI market, held on Fridays in the Mackarness Hall - meaning Honiton will not lose all of them.

Tom Lenton is the new market manager. He replaces long-serving Terry Farebrother, who has retired.

CARL Wilson has been a market trader for just four weeks.

The 38-year-old from Axminster launched Thai-Me-Up on a stall to avoid the overheads of a shop.

When the Herald spoke to him last Tuesday, he was making his second appearance at Honiton market.

"I'm selling food products from Thailand and the signs are all positive. Trade has been pretty good," he said.

"I love Thai food and was struggling to find it locally, so decided to start my own business. Having a stall was the cheapest way to do it without getting a shop and staff."

Grant Davenport has been trading at the market for 28 years, selling ladies' and men's clothing outside Lloyds TSB.

"I must like something about Honiton market, because I've been here the longest," he said.

"It's a steady market, without being too busy and the town council is trying to help."

Christine Cook has been selling bed linen, cleaning materials and toilet rolls from her pitch near The Bed Expert for 18 years.

"I love Honiton market," she said. "It's a good market; I know the people and they know me.

"I live in Honiton, so it's on my doorstep."

Christine has noticed recent changes. "We've seen quite a few new traders," she said. "It's what we need to keep seeing - so long as they are selling different stuff to what's already being sold at the market."

Pete Allen has been trading at Honiton Market for 12 years. He has one of the biggest pitches, near the entrance to Alan Rowe Barbering and sells a range of goods, including sweets, cards and books.

"I generally do quite well," he told the Herald. "It is a two-day market for us. We have been able to do two days a week here all the way through.

"People do support the market."

Mr Allen is convinced that the town centre location is a big positive for Honiton market.

"The High Street is a prime location and a 100 per cent advantage," he said.

ALTHOUGH pleased to see Honiton market growing, traders are concerned not enough is being done to promote the twice weekly spectacle. They want temporary signs erected on the A35 and A30 on market days to alert tourists. Traders say Honiton is losing an immeasurable amount of business because potential passing trade isn't being encouraged into the town.