Page 7 - MarketTimesDecember2019
P. 7

    Patrick Burns who runs the market’s burger van has been selling on the market for 40 years from the age of 14. He started selling flowers and moved on to sweets before taking over a catering van business 20 years ago
market out to tender the business forum submitted a successful bid.
Phillip, who had retired from business by this time, took on the role of market manager, and in the two years the forum has been running the market it has grown from around 10 traders to 25 on a good day.
Footfall is up, traders and shoppers have a spring in their step and the market is making a good profit, the bulk of which goes to the council but with the surplus ploughed back into the town.
“It helps pay for the Christmas lights and we have invested in opening up the public toilets,” Phil said.
They may sound like small things, but improvements and investment can make a big difference to towns like Ebbw Vale that are struggling back up after a major jobs hit.
So how has the turnaround been achieved? The answer is that Phillip isn’t really sure, except that he has an honest “fair but firm” approach, and has listened to the traders.
“I didn’t know a thing about running a market but the traders know what works and why,” he said.
Phillip admits that as a shopkeeper he was on the other side of the argument.
He says shopkeepers often see the market as a bit of an inconvenience, but they wouldn’t be without it and Fridays are by far their busiest weekdays.
“To be honest, the traders have more or less built the market back up themselves, and I am as flexible as I can be which includes giving them a discount on rent on
Craig Roberts runs a popular stall on the market selling household goods and eggs. He has been on the market for the past
33 years
bad weather days.”
New traders have been drawn to Ebbw
Vale as the market has improved. They include an excellent family-run fruit and veg business run by Phillip Roberts, no relation to Craig and Dominic.
His wife, teacher Martine, who helps out on the stall on her day off, said: “We have been here about a year now. It is a good market and the people are lovely.”
And Christopher Frost who sells cosmetics and hair accessories is giving the market a second try because it is faring better than many others in the area.
The anchor butcher who travels from Coventry to auction meet in Ebbw Vale is a big pull and has queues every Friday.
“It’s a great market for us which is why we are happy to come all this way,” said the manager Karl Wool.
Phillip says in its heyday the market was once of the best in South Wales and he aims to build it up further.
“We have space for about 14 more stalls and I would love to hear from any traders interested, but I do have to refuse some traders with the same lines as existing traders. I have to look after the traders we already have here and they will look after the market,” he said.
A new trader specialising in baked potatoes is doing well on what is a “belt and braces” market where traditional lines and good value go down well.
Traders wanting to test the water on a market that is steady all year and flourishing on a sunny day could do worse than knock on Phillip’s door.
Craig’s brother, Dominic, and his wife, Catherine say they do well on the cakes and biscuits stall they have run for 37 years
Retired carpet retailer Phillip Edwards has managed the market since the town’s business forum, which he chairs, took over its running 18 months ago. In that time the market has grown and has been turned from loss-making to profit, with the cash generated ploughed back into the town
l Market Day: Friday
l Market Rent: From £15
l Ebbw Vale’s claim to fame: Located at the head of the valleys close to the Brecon Beacons, Ebbw Vale was a centre for steelmaking from 1778, and in its heyday the town’s steelworks was the largest in Europe employing many thousands. The works finally closed down in 2002 and the town is still recovering from a spell of high unemployment.

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