I’ll be the first to admit I know very little about markets, but maybe that is part of the problem. I wouldn’t consider myself to be alone either; fewer and fewer young people are taking an interest, leading to a decrease in the overall population that actually visits their local markets.
But what actually is a market? What does the word ‘market’ mean to young people, and why is the popularity of markets declining?
Admittedly when I think of markets I think more of the past, or of towns in the countryside, which are more removed from society. This is probably because there is more of a need for them in secluded areas; should someone want a loaf of bread, if they live out in the country and the nearest Tesco or Sainsbury’s is miles away, they are more likely to get fresh bread from a local market as it is closer. If that were me, however, I would opt for a supermarket because they are all around, easily accessible and usually cheaper.
In big cities dominated by supermarkets, ‘ordinary markets’ are no longer a necessity. They are a commodity, a quaint feature of interest that don’t get the funding they need simply because they are not a priority.
But does that make it right?
My name is Sean Griffiths and I’ve thought a lot about this, about what makes a market so unique. I’m not an expert; I work close to a market and have visited Bilston too, but I’m not a trader or someone necessarily interested in being one. But as a 20 year old who is part of the younger generation, I would consider myself part of the population that markets will need to appeal to if they’re going to continue. But I also wonder if it’s markets themselves that are the problem, or is it another factor: how they are marketed, how well they are funded etc. So when I think of my local market, in Wednesfield, I try to think of everything that makes it special. And it doesn’t take me long to realise:
It is the heart of Wednesfield.
Or, at least, it has the potential to be so.
Shops, banks and pubs line either side of the road, but it is the market which is at the epicentre of Wednesfield, and it truly could be the heartbeat of what is known by locals as ‘The Village’. I have been in the high street first thing in a morning, seeing women hauling stock and produce twice the size of them ready for trading day. You can always guarantee fresh produce, whether it be the standard ‘Fruit And Veg’, or other items such as fish. In spite of a Fruit and Veg shop situated not far from the market stall selling the same items, and the fish counter at the local Sainsbury’s, these market stalls still remain competitive. The concept of ‘fresh’ seems more at home on a market stall, possessing a quality that can never be replicated in a supermarket.
Besides that, Wednesfield market is a multicultural hotbed that brings together a variety of different lifestyles, cultures and most importantly people. We have a man who pulls up most days near where I work and serves fresh Indian cuisine to passers-by, able to compete right on the doorstep of Greggs. Again, it’s the concept of freshness that probably sells it, as well as the variety and idea of ‘something different’.
People are pivotal to the success of any venture, and there are plenty of characters on Wednesfield market too. From the man who sells ‘Hotel Ramada pillows, two for a fiver’ (he says it often enough, you’d never forget it) to the lovely woman who sells branded clothes, to the man who sells carpets, to another woman who sells, well…. everything!
These people are willing to talk, willing to have banter, willing to haggle because they want you to enjoy the experience as much as they do, to understand the passion that drives them to return day after day and sell their wares whatever the weather.
And then I realised.
It is people that make markets what they are. It is the sense of community, the personal touch you get from that sale and the bartering that comes with it. And I also think that it is down to us as people to keep the markets going. No, they may not be selling the latest in fashion, technology, music and games. They may not be something you’d go out of your way to visit. But if, like me, you work near a market, or get an opportunity to visit one, then take the chance. Take the time to look around, to talk to people, to have a good day and interact with people and maybe even grab yourself a bargain. What do you stand to lose? Embrace the community because, regardless of your age, there is always something special about being part of something and being able to take advantage of something unique to where you live.
As I said at the start, I don’t know a lot about markets. But what I think is that markets are about people, and that is something that connects us all. People may see markets as outdated, but the reality is very different and I know that I for one will definitely be paying more attention to my local markets more over the next few weeks to see what is on offer, and hopefully learn more along the way.