Swadlincote Market – Special Recognition for Swadlincote Market
Swadlingcote Market was among fourteen worthy winners of a LYLM Special Recognition Award. (See feature on page 59) Kirsty Flatt met up with Market Manager, Simon Wardle and the TIC’s Visitor Manager, Gail Archer, to find out more.
The Derbyshire town of Swadlincote, or Swad as it is affectionately known as by locals, is situated in the East Midlands, close to the borders of Staffordshire and Leicestershire. It is just five miles away from Burton upon Trent, the same distance from Ashby-de-la-Zouch and twelve miles south of its county capital, Derby. It is also one of the furthest points from the sea.
As a region, markets in the Midlands seem to be having a harder time than lots of other areas, but Swad seems to be bucking that trend. There is ample free parking in the town and the bus station is only a few minutes from the market. The market operates on three days; Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. I visited on a Friday.
It is immediately apparent that the local council is very proud of the market and fully support it. On the day I visited, Mike Roylance, Economic Development Manager for South Derbyshire District Council, was touring the market and discussing the International Food and Drink Festival, which is in its third year and will take place in the town from 13-15 October. It promises three days of international food, crafts, a licensed bar, entertainment and cookery demonstrations from local chefs.
Last year, the town was awarded £1m by supermarket giants Sainsbury’s, as the test-bed town in its ‘Waste less, save more’ initiative. 89 towns applied and Swadlincote was rightly proud to have been chosen. The money is essentially a ‘sponsorship value’ and the company has supported several initiatives, including the LYLM campaign.
Gail, who is based in the Tourist Information Centre in the town’s Sharpes Pottery Museum, explained about the numerous events, both local and national, that take place within the town that specifically tie-in with market days. This includes, ‘Ay up me duck’ Day, that celebrated all things local. Depending which part of the East Midlands you are from, both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire claim the term of endearment: “Ay up, me duck” as their own. The national ‘Orchard Day’ is also celebrated, showcasing the best of the orchard’s fruits, both as fresh produce and in chutneys and preserves, with competitions and demonstrations taking place.
The Council offers free business advice to traders and free stalls to help start-ups. One of the market’s success stories is Ami James who now owns a sewing business in the town, have first began trading on the market on the start-up scheme in 2013.
Originally there was an indoor market at The Delph in Swadlincote, which closed following refurbishment of the area and the market was moved outdoors to the High Street. Despite trader’s initial reluctance to move, once the area was completed, they had the opportunity to move back, but decided to stay in the High Street because of the footfall from the neighbouring shops, that also appreciated the extra business that the market had brought to them.
There are two fruit and vegetable stalls on the market, at either end of the run, both operated by Pollards. Owner, Ben Pollard, told me that they have been on the market since 1996, taking on the second stall two and a half years ago, as it was better for the older people who found it more difficult to walk to the top end of the market. His parents started the business and Pollards trade all three days. He commented: “They are die-hards here. We serve three generations of customers and they are the salt of the earth. They are a fiercely loyal bunch.”
Rav Sohal has been selling men’s casual wear for thirty years, seven of which at Swad. He too has a good, loyal customer base and relies on repeat business. He told MTN: “There is good community support here and all the traders get on. It works because we offer a personal service.”
The market’s newest trader is Becky from All That Sparkles. She came on board having first tried market trading at Burton, before settling for Swad. Prior to that, she had been selling her hand-made jewellery to friends. She approached Simon about trading and told me: “He was really good and very supportive. He gave me loads of advice.” The other traders were also very helpful, assisting her in making the most of her pitch and showing her how to dress it to maximise sales. Becky knows that she has to be persistent, but customers are already coming back. In fact, one customer has now become a friend and was chatting to her on the stall, wearing several of her designs! Becky is already making Christmas items and is hoping for a busy few months ahead.
Another new trader to the market is Ashby de la Books. Trader Kate got the name from the nearby town and was originally going to trade at its indoor market, but decided to settle with Swad as: “They have a great start-up scheme and Simon and all the traders have been very supportive, offering lots of tips and advice.” Kate started selling the new books three months ago, trading on all three days and is starting to get repeat customers. As it was the school holidays, the children’s books were selling very well. The children’s range includes stories, activity books and educational titles. She also sells novels, mostly of a crime genre and puzzle books.
Lesley, who runs the smoking accessories, watches and household stall, has been at Swad for six years. She trades all three days as well as at other markets in the region and says that Swadlincote is the best. She also said: “We all get on really well. I have lots of regular customers and the locals help me out if I get stuck.” She added that she would encourage someone to join the market, but they have to realise that they need to be seen week in week out, but once the residents get to know you, they will support you.
This local loyalty was echoed throughout the market and no more so than from two regular customers chatting to Billy who sells ladies fashions for the 40+ woman. “He’s lovely”, they told me. “We come every week to have a look at what he’s got, he’s really friendly and has some lovely stuff. I nearly always buy something. I get complemented on my clothes all the time and am always telling people to come and see Billy.” Billy’s Dad owns the stall and Billy trades two-days out of the three as well as some other local markets. He commented that it was a friendly market, but could do with a few more stalls.
Rob of Rob’s Rugs has been trading for eight years, three at Swadlincote. He said that everyone is friendly and agrees the market could be a bit bigger as the locals would support it. Trade is steady and he has had to compete with high street stores such as B&M and Pound Stretcher selling rugs. He struggles to match them on the children’s rugs but has come up with a good initiative of buying carpet off-cuts and binding them into rugs, which are proving popular.
Alan started Adorable Sweets four years ago. He trades all three days and just sells what is most popular. These include ‘penny mix’, pre-bagged sweets and some by weight. He said: “This is a really friendly market and we all help each other out.”
Chris has been cutting keys at the market for twelve years. There is just one shop in the town doing what he does but he said: “People know I’m here.” He can offer chipped car keys at a fraction of the price of the main dealers and to supplement this income, he offers a pet tag engraving service and also prints designs on to mugs.
Bodnetts Farm in Tamworth rear and butcher their own lamb and beef. Peter Bradbury and his son Jay sell their meat at the market on all three days. They tend to promote value packs but realise the importance of being flexible, saying: “If someone just wants two chops, we will do it for them.” They have built up a loyal trade over the last 27 years.
At the top end of the town was the Melton Mowbray Deli trailer, selling mostly pork pies and Long Clawson Dairy cheeses, including blue Stilton, but with an adjoining gazebo selling locally made cakes and eggs. They have been trading since 1994, covering steam rallies and festivals and this is husband and wife, Ian and Rita’s ‘second stint’ at Swadlincote. Their most unusual item (it had sold out unfortunately, so I was unable to review it) is the Charcoal Ploughman’s Pie, a gold award winner at the 2017 British Pie Awards. Made by a long-established business, owned by a friend of Ian’s, it contains ham, pork, pickle and charcoal cheese. The Melton Mowbray Deli have lots of regular customers and are proud of their five-star food rating.
Last, but by no means least, is Simon, the Market Manager who runs the pet stall. He has been a trader for 27 years and is still making a good living from his pet foods, beds and wild bird food. Everyone seems to know him and there was always someone dropping in for a chat, whether a customer or trader and his stall was constantly busy. He seemed to know what his customers wanted, without having to be asked. He commented that it’s the bird food that keeps people coming back, but the dog treats and pet beds are also good sellers. He said that he had no regrets at all being a market trader and he enjoys the social interaction that comes with being not only a market trader, but the market’s manager too.
Swadlincote is a fine example of ‘little and good’, although there is room for expansion. The operators are looking for a range of commodities, including fresh fish, plants and flowers, toys, shoes a baker and general household goods. It is fortunate to not only have the support of the local community, but the council as well and has an excellent start-up programme for new traders. If you would like to join this loyal community contact Simon on 07879 276 243 or email email@example.com