Bulwell Market – Makeover to Bulwell Market Square
Bulwell is a Nottinghamshire market town, situated just under five miles north of Nottingham and four miles east of Arnold. A former centre for coalmining and textiles, the town isn’t far from the Peak District (approximately 30 minutes from Matlock) but doesn’t attract any of the tourist trade associated with this area.
It is very well served by public transport, having its own railway, tram and bus stations and plentiful, free parking, behind major retailers situated in the heart of the town.
The market takes place in Market Square on a Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and is operated by Nottingham City Council. It is a vital part of the community and has a number of long-serving traders.
Recently, the trading area received a £300,000 makeover and the works are almost completed. The scheme, jointly funded by the council and a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Fund, has seen the area repaved, new seating installed, a ‘stage’ area built for music and entertainment, improved power for the market traders and provided new covers for the stalls. The idea behind this being that it will provide a more social space that can be integrated with the market as well as being used independently for special events. It is hoped that specialist markets, including youth markets, will help to create a bigger footfall in the area.
It was a sunny Tuesday when I visited and the start of the school holidays, I thought the market was well attended for a mid-week, but the traders told me that it wasn’t a particularly busy day. Wandering around, I met numerous locals but also learned that there was a problem with the trams, which may well have affected customer numbers that day.
The market is fairly typical of it’s type, having a good offering of fresh produce, such as bread, three fruit and vegetable retailers, eggs, fresh fish and shellfish and a butcher. Then you have your mobile phone accessories, clothing, haberdashery, footwear, sweets, smoking accessories, watch repairs and pet stall, alongside more unusual mobility scooters, jeweller and school uniform providers.
Meet the Traders
The ‘bread man’ was on holiday the week that I visited, but I am told that he is a big pull to the market, taking six stalls on a Saturday and selling rolls wholesale to many local businesses.
The butcher’s van was supplied by Cleaver Meats of Alvaston, Derby and the company has been trading at the market for over thirty years. There was a constant supply of customers and the meat seemed generally to be bought in bulk. I noted quite a high Afro-Caribbean customer base and on closer inspection, I saw both oxtail and goat being sold. (As a curry goat lover, there is now a bag of the meat in my freezer!) There was a good relationship between the butcher and his customers and that banter could be found throughout the market.
Of the three fruit and veg retailers, the larger two were owned by the same company until recently and had almost 40 years’ service at Bulwell. Vinny, of Vinny’s Fruit and Veg, worked for them previously for 22 years, before deciding to set up on his own about three years ago. He also sells at neighbouring markets but said of Bulwell: “This is a more traditional market here and is well used. It’s busy on all three days and it helps that people have to walk through the market to get to the shops”.
Diane Cooper runs the fish van on all three days and has been in residence for seven years. It was apparent that she has a good, regular client base and sells a range of cooked shellfish and fresh fish as well as providing a Caribbean offering, which is popular with customers, who also seem to like a natter as they drop by! One customer told me: “This is a good market and it’s really friendly”. Diane confirmed that it was a thriving town and the market was well-used.
Another lady attracting people who drop by for a chat is Louise who runs LJB jewellery. She has been on the market for 18 years and told me that some of her customers have become friends and they even get invited to barbecues and parties. She trades all three days and has a number of incentives to keep customers coming back. The stock is a mixture of pre-owned and new and prices range from £5 for a small silver piece, to £2k for a diamond ring, thereby catering for most age groups. Louise takes card payments and also offers a weekly payment club. LJB also provides a repairs service and the business is a mix of retail and repairs.
Conveniently located next to Louise is Chris Brown, the watch man. His family have been trading at Bulwell for thirty years. He gets the award for the busiest stall, having counted six people at one time, queuing for his services. His offering has changed over the years and although he continues to sell some watches, the majority of the business is batteries and as he explained, you have to put a lot of batteries in to pay the rent.
Another example of traders that have had to adapt their lines over the years are the Fitzpatricks on the lingerie/hosiery stall. Kevin and Christine have been on the market for 40 years and specialise in items for the older generation, as they noted that nowhere else sells them now locally. They used to manufacture items and Kevin told me how he once designed a 60” chest T shirt. Larger clothing is now what they specialise in and go up to a 6x. They, without doubt, have the biggest knickers I have ever seen! Some of their lines have died out with their customers and they have stopped selling bras now as they were having to stock too many sizes. They don’t trade elsewhere and are just at Bulwell on a Tuesday. They told me that they were always busy and that they have a lot of regular customers – that was apparent.
There are several ladies clothing retailers on the market, but only one specialising in menswear. Bob trades all three days and only at Bulwell. He stocks a few designer pieces and although he classes his range as casual wear, it appears good quality merchandise. He also sells light jackets, but the big pull was his 3 for £5 T shirts which were enticing customers in.
John, one of the ladieswear traders also has a knack to getting customers back by changing his Italian lines each week, so that people have to keep coming back to see what he’s got. He trades elsewhere and is at Bulwell just on a Tuesday. He told me that it is normally non-stop busy and that he has lots of regular customers.
Arshad Malik, another of the ladies’ clothing retailers agrees, saying: This is our better market, we have plenty of people because of the shops around us and most of our customers are regulars.” He trades two days at Bulwell and elsewhere locally, selling clothing for the older generation.
With a large ethnic community in Bulwell, Vincent Bingham’s haberdashery stall does well because culturally, they are more inclined to make their own clothes. He’s been in the business for twenty years, trading at Bulwell for four and told me: “This is the best market; I‘ve got plenty of customers.”
Martin Camm, who runs the footwear stall has been selling footwear to the ladies of Bulwell for around 25 years. He trades two of the three days, opting for one of the council’s other markets on the third day.
Jordan has been selling at Bulwell market for seven years, since he left school, he told me: “This is one of the best local markets, we have loads of regular customers.” The owners of Pets Pad have been trading on the market for over twenty years.
Alan Walker is a busy man. He set up his vacuum cleaner sales and repairs stall at the market thirty years ago. Four years ago, he took over the egg stall from a previous trader and in November, he extended his range to include grocery items, such as biscuits, cakes and crisps. If that’s not enough, he also runs the Wednesday Flea Market, something else he inherited and despite all that, still has a smile on his face.
Branded school uniforms aren’t something that you would expect to see on a market stall, but Kevin took the initiative and has logoed uniforms for 29 schools in the Bulwell area. He trades all three days and has done for twenty years. He expectedly has peaks and troughs and in the next few weeks will have four people serving customers. He made a very valid point though that times are hard and that people resent spending money on school uniform as its not a pleasure purchase, saying that if they had a fiver in their purse, they’d rather spend it on themselves.
Smoking accessories have been keeping Amanda Crist at the market, three days a week, for 16 years. That’s a lot of cigarette papers to sell. She hasn’t ventured into vapes as she explained that there are already too many people selling them, but she does carry a few vape related lines.
Hot food is provided to traders and customers via Lozi’s Catering trailer. Loz has been at Bulwell for about eight years and has plenty of regulars. One customer told me that her cheese burgers were beautiful.
‘Uncle’ the owner of Kwik Fix Mobiles has expanded into a shop in town. He has been at Bulwell, three days a week, for ten years. He also trades elsewhere and says: “This is my good market.”
Bulwell is a really friendly market that is needed and supported by its residents. It’s great to see the council investing in it, with an aim to ‘really embed the market into the wider community by including provision for flexible space for music or events.’ It will be interesting to visit during an event to see how the improvements stand up. With a large numbesr of long-serving traders, hovering towards retirement, I hope that they can encourage the next generation of traders to join them so that this small, traditional town market can continue to serve it’s community.