Despite being open throughout the lockdown, Leicester’s iconic marketplace is seeing some of the quietest days traders have ever experienced.
Many have worked in the market trade for several decades, and as an essential trade, have continued to sell fresh food on daily basis in the city centre.
But the Covid-19 crisis has hit hard what is ordinarily, a bustling marketplace.
In March, following the first national lockdown announcement, traders saw an ‘expected’ drop in footfall which gradually built back up to a “reasonable level”.
They hoped this time it would be the same.
“It was still not the same but it was better than this time around,” fruit and vegetable trader, Paul Abbott, told LeicestershireLive.
He added: “I don’t think that the message has got around that we’re open.”
Sam Burr, 33, has been in the trade for most of his life as part of a family business.
Under normal circumstances, he has two members of staff with him but with no footfall and less income, he said he would be losing more money than he’s making.
“This is the quietest I’ve seen it. But who would want to come into town just to come to the market when everything is closed?
“It’s not completely terrible but it’s not what it should be. All it’s doing is paying the wage.”
Odel Pittard works at a stall started by her now 70-year-old aunt. Odel’s aunt travels to Birmingham on a daily basis to buy stock for the market stall which specialises in vegetables used in South Asian cooking.
“Business is awful – we’re losing money,” the 30-year-old said.
Several traders attributed the drop in footfall to the location of the market. Despite the city centre location not being a problem in the past, some traders thought that the journey to town could be putting some people off.
Tom Portas, who works for a family business, said: “The thing is, the market is in the city and on a bus route, but people don’t want to get a bus right now.”
In support of traders, market stall rent was significantly reduced and is currently 50 per cent of the usual rent.
Market director, Paul Edwards said that with things constantly changing it’s “difficult to give a snapshot of what’s happening” but the market is significantly quieter this lockdown.
“Quite frankly, a lot the traders probably aren’t making any profit. We’re losing a substantial amount of money.
“We don’t know how December will work if we come out lockdown but it’s about supporting our traders.
“We will be as flexible and equitable as we can be. At the moment we’re trying to keep our traders’ heads above water,” he said.
With supermarkets among one of the only other essential businesses that remain open at the moment, Paul said the market needs more people to “escape the queues and come to the market”.
He said: “We’ve got Savers around the corner for other essentials and at the market, you’ve got a myriad of choice and a fantastic food hall. I don’t know a better one.”
Throughout the pandemic, the market has maintained strict social distancing rules which limit the number of people in the food hall and have spread out traders to keep them and customers safe.
There are also a number of sanitising stations throughout the market.
Orders for delivery can also be made from the indoor food hall which can include a number of fresh produce and goods from the various stalls.