Page 6 - MarketTimesApril2020
P. 6

      Carl Gilbert, a former market trader, manages Faversham market for the traders co-operative
Scott Cowden looks after the stall selling Kent Cider on the Best of Faversham market
Kent’s oldest market is arguably its most vibrant — thanks to the traders who now run it themselves.
The picturesque town of Faversham is located in the heart of the county best known as “the garden of England” because of the abundance of fruit orchards and hop gardens.
The produce offer on the 900-year-old market has always been impressive, as is the setting.
Traders set up stall between the pillars beneath the Guildhall, and the market winds through Market Place against a backdrop of listed Tudor and Georgian buildings.
Market days are picture postcard perfect and since the traders took over the running of the market in 2010 it has flourished and diversified.
Carl Gilbert, a young former trader who used to sell fabric on markets in the south east, took over as manager 18 months ago and is following the advice of the former manager, Grahame Kane. Grahame used to have a business in Faversham, then sold olives on the market before taking the helm as manager and laying the foundations for a brighter, busier Faversham Market.
It has always been the beating heart of Faversham and used to be run by a private operator before Swale Borough Council decided to localise things and put it out to tender.
They approached David Simmons, a local soft fruit farmer, who got Grahame on board and a co-operative was formed.
When they won the tender Grahame was keen to put his all into making a success of the traders’ venture.
“Having been a market trader himself, Grahame knew how markets work and he was also open to new ideas to boost the
market,” Carl said.
One of those was Best of Faversham, an
additional market launched about six years ago that runs along Preston Street on the first and third Saturday of each month, except January.
It showcases the creative businesses and foodie favourites based within a 15-mile radius of the town.
Another initiative was the Sunday antiques and collectibles market introduced around three years ago.
Both new markets have flown — creating more of a buzz in the town at weekends and building Faversham’s credentials as a destination market town.
Best of Faversham in particular has provided a launch pad for some exceptional new businesses. The Kent Cider company was started on Faversham market by Serena and Marcus Henderson who began making cider because they saw that so many apples on a local farm were going to waste.
Scott Cowden, who now manages the stall on the Best of Faversham, said: “The business is doing really well and we are now selling to shops, pubs and at festivals and events.”
Jeannette Fitzjohn has also found Best of Faversham a great place to start a new business.
“I work for a psychologist but when things changed a bit I needed a second income. My grandmother taught me to bake and I love making cakes for family occasions, then people encouraged me to create a business from something I love doing.”
That was three years ago and Jeannette is now a must-visit stall at Best of Faversham.
Another business, Mighty Fine Things (MFT), whose founder, Kate Cox, was
instrumental in setting up Best of Faversham, has also succeeded with her fruit and honey liqueurs, vinegars and chilli sauces.
In addition to the two new markets, the myriad festivals and fairs that take place in the town all add to the vibrancy. They include everything from food and transport to the annual hop festival which throngs the streets.
Whilst the enterprising initiatives are putting Faversham on the map as a destination town, not every trader is happy with all aspects of the new initiatives. The name “Best in Faversham” grates on many of the traditional market traders — and they have a point, Carl concedes, as the traditional market offer is high quality too.
But the branding is done and dusted and the new markets are bringing more and more shoppers into Faversham.
Carl said: “Generally the traditional market and the new ones are doing really well. The Tuesday market is quieter with about eight to 12 stalls. On Fridays we have about 12 to 16 and on Saturdays in the summer when the Best of Faversham is on we can have between 50 to 60.”
The mid-week lull reflects changes in the demographic. A high-speed rail link has encouraged an influx of people who commute to London. So Tuesdays are quiet but the weekend markets are just what these city slickers are looking for.
Carl said the co-operative worked well, with quarterly meetings of shareholders, low rents a priority and profits reinvested in the market.
“I say to the traders that they are my boss so they need to flag up things that they think need addressing or ways we could improve the market,”
When Carl took over 18 months ago Grahame gave him lots of advice which he

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