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Decades-old market stalls told they have to use ‘click and collect’

'Many of our customers can’t text or use smart phones'

13 November, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

The household goods stall in Queen’s Crescent

MARKET traders selling their wares on Camden’s streets have been told to ditch their traditional pavement patter to sell their goods – and instead rely solely on online orders.

Stallholders in street markets who do not sell food were told this week that they would have to operate a “click and collect” system during the current coronavirus lockdown. Eddy Willis, who has run a household goods stall in Queen’s Crescent for 40 years, said: “I understand shoes and clothes stall might have to shut down temporarily, but I sell things everyone has to have.”

He is among traders now questioning how government Covid-19 rules are being interpreted. In theory, somebody could place an order on a phone on one side of the street and collect it by then crossing the road and picking up their items.

But Mr Willis said the issue was more to do with the fact so many shoppers, particularly elderly customers, did not use smart phones to buy things.

“We have been told if we do get a licence, we won’t be able to serve any passing trade at all and we have to set up a click and collect system. But many of our customers can’t text or use smart phones. We have never taken orders before like this,” he said.

“We have regular customers who come and it is an important form of contact for them. Many live alone and they are our friends. We can help them, and keep an eye on them.”

Eddie Willis

Mr Willis said with more planning, the market could be made as Covid safe as possible.

He said: “The market could be improved by having stewards ensuring things like social distancing. We are out in the open, so with proper queuing and the two-metre rule, it is safer than older people travelling further to go to a supermarket indoors.”

Former Mayor of Camden Jill Fraser, who works at the Blue Sea Fish and Chip shop in Queen’s Crescent, is supporting Mr Willis.

She said: “Eddy sells vital supplies on older people’s doorsteps. It is a lifeline for all of us. Market traders are independent businesses and it has been economically hard for them. They are at the heart of our community and we must support them.”

Camden say they have been following guidance and helped the borough’s market traders by waiving rents. They have introduced a four-metre rule between pitches, and inspectors have visited on market days to encourage people who are working on stalls that are permitted to trade to wear a mask.

The Town Hall’s community safety chief, Labour councillor Nadia Shah, said: “During the national lockdown only essential shops are allowed to fully open. However, working within the government’s guidelines, we are allowing traders selling non-essential goods to set up on the market as a click-and-collect service, with no passing trade. All of Camden’s markets follow strict Covid-secure measures with social distancing in place.”

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