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Market wars

PUBLISHED: 16:41 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:18 23 August 2010

TRADERS at the borough s historic market say business is suffering after market stalls have been set up in a shopping centre nearby, writes Ed RIley. Stall holders at the Gravesend Borough Market, High Street, Gravesend, which has been operating on the s

TRADERS at the borough's historic market say business is suffering after market stalls have been set up in a shopping centre nearby, writes Ed RIley.

Stall holders at the Gravesend Borough Market, High Street, Gravesend, which has been operating on the site since 1268, say profits are down by as much as 80 per cent compared to last year.

They blame the Thamesgate Shopping Centre, New Road, Gravesend, which now has 14 markets stalls set up in the centre walkway, selling goods similar to those sold in the Borough Market, and claim their presence will have a devastating effect on Christmas sales.

Ron Petch, 55, of Barr Road, Gravesend, has been working on the market for more than six years, and runs Sparkles, an ornament and gift stall.

He said: "It's not just me, we are all suffering in here. There are more stalls in the Thamesgate then they have ever had before, we have never complained before.

"My takings are down 60 per cent compared to earlier in the year, and 80 per cent compared to last year. Some of that is down to the recession, but it is not helped by the number of stalls that are in the Thamesgate centre.

"That steady flow of people has disappeared altogether. They are selling goods in direct competition with what we are selling here. If those stalls stop 10 people coming down here to the market, that will have an affect on everybody's business. And with Christmas round the corner traders here are really worried."

Borough Market traders claim rules are being broken which state that no rival market can be set up within 6 2/3 miles away from a charter market.

A council spokesperson said they are investigating the issue after they have received complaints from the owners of the Borough Market, Urban Space Management, and are currently taking legal advice.

Mr Petch added: "The council keeps telling us they are investigating it, but nothing seems to be happening.

"This is our livelihoods."

Another trader Kate Birch who has worked on the market for three years, said: "Since those stalls have gone up things have changed a lot, you don't get the flow of people through here anymore.

"This market has been here for hundreds of years, the Thamesgate hasn't."

Barbara Galloway, who runs a card stall added: "I have walked down through the Thamesgate, and it can sometimes be so busy, it is difficult to get through.

"I have seen stalls selling exactly what I sell. It has been different this year."

The manager of the Thamesgate Centre, Keith Evans, defended the stalls, saying: "We are a shopping centre. People go there to shop. We are just providing what our customers want. Why haven't they complained about Bluewater? I think that is within the 6 2/3 mile range.

"We will listen to everything the council have got to say on the matter."

Charles Presland, has run a calendar and book stall in the Thamesgate since July. He said: "I don't think a bit of open competition ever hurt anyone, and at the end of the day, it's the customer that gets the better deal.

"We have all got to earn a living.

"We run markets all over the country, but at this time of year it's nice to be inside. We are market traders and whether we are here or not is down to the Thamesgate manager.

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