Saturday, 04 July 2020

Market gradually returning to normal

HENLEY’S weekly charter market is gradually returning to normal with the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

Nine of the 16 traders who have a regular pitch at the event, which takes place in Falaise Square every Thursday, were back last week.

Although the market didn’t close entirely, there were sometimes as few as two stalls trading after the Prime Minister announced the emergency measures on March 23.

Only food stalls were allowed to remain and many chose to shut anyway, leaving only the Croatian food and the fruit and vegetable stalls.

The latter was still trading at last week’s market as were the bag, flower, jewellery, clothing, Indian food, egg and rugs stalls plus a new one selling face masks.

They were expected to return to yesterday’s market along with possibly the fish, gift and sock stalls. The bread stall should be back next week while the card and oven cleaning stalls may not return until next month.

Nicci Taylor, who manages the event for Henley Town Council, said last week’s market was largely successful apart from one “pinch point” where shoppers struggled to keep 2m apart.

The market will be rearranged to prevent a recurrence and all traders will have hand sanitiser, which they will encourage customers to use, and face masks. Some will also have screens and most will only accept contactless payment.

Traders will sanitise their stalls and produce before opening and will ask customers not to touch anything which they do not intend to purchase.

The layout will change from week to week as more traders return and some stalls could be arranged back-to-back with a protective sheet separating them to maximise space.

If there still isn’t enough room for social distancing, the council could consult on closing the road between the town hall and the crossroads at the top of Hart Street to create more. Alternatively, some traders could be asked to work alternate weeks on a rota.

Ms Taylor said: “Unfortunately, a few traders still aren’t ready to come back, either due to age or health issues, but it’s going well and we had a lot more last week than in recent months.

“We’re doing everything we can to gradually return to normal as our stallholders desperately need to be trading again. For some, this is the only market they visit.

“Having a market is also a big part of Henley’s identity so it’s important to provide that.

“However, we also want to keep traders and shoppers safe so we’ll be constantly monitoring the situation and making changes and improvements as needed.

“We’re unlikely to have a full charter market for some time because the site is so narrow at the bottom but we’ll have to see how things pan out.

“The traders say last week went well for them. It wasn’t as busy as in the past but it’s building up again and they feel it was worthwhile coming. A lot of customers were happy to see them again as they’d really missed them.”

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