A novelty jewellery trader reflects ‘Lockdown has impacted heavily; I can’t trade’

A novelty jewellery trader reflects ‘Lockdown has impacted heavily; I can’t trade’

By Garchi

The national lockdown restrictions hit traditional markets hard, especially those trading non-essential goods. In this report submitted by Markets4People Research Project for the Common Business on the impact of COVID19 on Traditional Retail Markets, 65% of traders have closed their stalls from the first lockdown in the spring of 2020 alone. Some non-essential traders have taken the initiatives of taking their trade online, as can be seen with Facebook groups formed exclusively for local traders. Garchi’s Maharani Hariga (MH) spoke with Holley from Miss Frog Jewellery, Lancaster Charter Market (H) about her attempt on organising a community virtual market, the challenges she faced, impacts of both lockdowns to her business and her suggestions for market operators to better support their traders.

MH: What is ‘Lancaster Trader Market’? Is it still active at the moment?
H: It’s a Facebook group set up by a non-essential Charter Market stall holder so that they could continue to try to trade during the November 2020 Tier 3 restrictions. For the second lockdown I haven’t tried to push it again as none of the other stall holders really participated and it was a lot of work the first time round, for no returns.

MH: Please tell us how you do in the virtual market.
H: The group will set up an event every Wednesday and Saturday to reflect the trading days of the physical Charter Market. Within the event the traders will post what they have for sale and customers can then browse the event and the listings and purchase anything that they would like.

MH: What is your aim for this market?
H: It was for non-essential traders to still be able to try and trade during Covid-19 restrictions. It also allowed us to try and remain visible to the public.

MH: What are the challenges and what can be improved?
H: Challenges - stall holders not getting involved, not posting anything...but posting on other groups, not sharing the group to get people outside of the market traders to join. There’s no point just posting your stuff for the other traders to see we need the public to see it too. It also takes a lot of time to get a group like that up and running, and with no warning that the restrictions are coming there isn’t any time to build up the group reputation and numbers.
Improvement - more engagement from traders. Free training on how to market your business online would also have been good as a lot of the traders were overwhelmed and didn’t know what they were doing - which put them off wanting to post

MH: Who else is involved?
H: I set it up, maintain and manage the events, and communicate with other sellers to get them involved. Lancaster City Council shares the event for us on their Charter Market page.

MH: What device do you use to do the virtual market?
H: PC - the Facebook app on a phone doesn’t allow me to admin the event effectively. For example, it won’t let me approve posts. Even when I turn post approval off (where the admin has to approve all posts before they go into the event), some posts still come through as needing approval for some reason. I can’t do this on the phone as the app shows me notifications that I have a post pending, but when I click it to approve it it says it does not exist. Through a web browser however, on a PC or laptop, it works fine.

MH: What’s your plan in the months ahead?
H: With regards to the group - none at the moment.

Trading or not, nothing comes between Holley and keeping up with her branding in 2021. Photo by Holley from Miss Frog Jewellery

MH: Do you think of going online like this as a temporary or long term solution?
H: Temporary. Not enough uptake makes it impossible to make long term. A long term solution is also only needed if the Covid restrictions stay in place long term, but they keep changing and sometimes we can trade and sometimes we can’t.

MH: It must be confusing as it also impacted your planning for the future as well. Now that we are in our second national lockdown, can you tell us how has it impacted you as a non-essential goods trader?
H: Heavily. I can’t trade.

MH: As part of a chartered market, how do you think the city/town council as the market operator can help support traders like you?
H: They desperately need to provide some form of training on how to manage a business online. They’ve taken away our ability to trade (well...the government has) but then haven’t provided us with any means in which to adapt to the situation. Some traders don’t have the same grasp of technology that others do, while some people just haven’t needed to use social media and online marketing before. It isn’t always as easy as “just watch a YouTube tutorial” or “Google it” as some people will struggle with just doing that. They have spent their lives as a physical market trader and going online is completely new to them.

MH: Any other comments/messages you’d like to say in regards to supporting local businesses?
H: Lancaster City Council, the Charter Market organisers anyway, have been great in providing traders with all the information they need to access support, grants etc. Some people aren’t eligible for these however, and for others it affects their Universal Credit and so is pointless claiming it. UC usually pays for bills and standard outgoings, and then any wages from their business pays for new stock. With no wages coming in no new stock can be bought and so it makes it difficult to trade. We can’t use out UC income for stock as we need that to live.

In the same report by Markets4People, the author found that over 50% of market traders are not eligible for self-employed financial support, including the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and Universal Credit (UC). They are also not eligible for financial support for their business, which includes Small Business Rate Relief Grant; the Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure Grant Fund; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and deferring VAT payments. This corroborates with what Miss Frog Jewellery’s Holley has asserted.

Miss Frog’s Jewellery trades novelty and alternative jewelleries. She usually can be found in Lancaster Charter Market, when non-essential traders are allowed to trade. Otherwise, she can be found online here.

Garchi aims to support traditional market operators and their traders in going digital while keeping the social aspect intact. Find out more here..



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