UK outdoor markets: Addictions or bargains?
Seventy-five-year-old Steve Bright of Britain clutched his walking stick, shut his house’s door and limped to the nearby outdoor market in the morning although it was overcast and the weather was freezing. On his way, he met a friend and walked together to the bazaar.
The market in the North Welsh town of Prestatyn. (Pics: Nadim Kawach)
It was Sunday and the tiny market has just started to open its doors as residents began to trickle into the place that comprises less than 30 small wooden stands.
“I like to go to the market. You can find real bargains here and also old things that you do not find in modern shops. I also come to see friends and sit for a coffee here. I really love it,” said Bright, a resident of the North Welsh town of Prestatyn.
The market in Prestatyn opens four days a week and is operated by scrap, junk and second-hand items' dealers who pay rent of an average eight pounds (Dh48) a day.
Located just near the bus and train station and less than 100 metres from the town centre, the market is one of more than 1,800 open-air markets and bazaars operating during specific days of the week in the United Kingdom.
Most Britons defy rain and freezing temperatures to go to those markets to snatch a bargain or to shop for antiques and other junk that they will not find in other shops. Others simply go to see friends and sip a cup of tea of coffee or a typical English breakfast sold by a van parking inside the market.
The markets comprise a large variety of items, mostly second hand. They include clothes and footwear, electronics and electrical appliances, furniture, books, toys, mobile phones, jewelry and other products. They also sell foodstuffs and cheap brand new products imported mainly from China.
While some of the items are spread nearly on wooden boards inside the stands, others are randomly stuffed in boxes scattered all over the ground just outside the bazaar.
One box could include scores of junk items such as old rusting hammers, broken toys and electronic games, peeling small wooden furniture, and torn but readable books.
“The items here are a real bargain and of great value,” Bright said, as he stood near a stall. “The other day I bought a shoe for just three pounds. I have seen it in the shops for 45 pounds. I also bought four books for just one pound.”
During summer, the outdoor markets thrive as most nearby residents throng the stalls in the early hours of the morning, when the dealers begin moving in with their vans to offload used items they had bought from homes, individuals and companies.
Market work hours during summer are much longer, averaging around eight hours a day. In winter they do not exceed five hours and during bad weather conditions, most markets remain shut as both customers and dealers would not venture out.
“Everyone loves a bargain and markets have become rather hip in the UK over the last few years,” said a spokesman from Town and Country Markets -- the company which manages most of the outdoor and indoor bazaars and markets.
“In many cases, the markets and the traders that operate from them offer the same quality of service that shoppers have come to expect from high street shops. Individuals can find baked goods, top quality fruits and vegetables, as well as clothing and a list of other products. There are also markets that offer incredible finds for individuals interested in collectables and antiques.”
The spokesman said that shopping at a market is an “excellent way” for a family to spend the day since there are unique and eclectic items around every corner.
“No matter what a person is looking for, they are sure to find it and have fun in the process. Many markets are located near some of their region’s best parks and are within walking distance fantastic cafés and bistros.
"It is a good idea for any person visiting indoor or outdoor markets for the first time to allow themselves a little extra time to look around and explore,” the official said.
“There is a lot to see and it is no wonder that many shoppers keep coming back time and again. The variety of products and friendly service makes these markets a great way to spend the day whether a person needs to pick up a few necessities or is looking for that perfect hidden gem.”
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