FURIOUS traders are fearing for their livelihoods after market stalls selling discount goods started operating.
Shopkeepers in Poulton town centre said their shops have been left almost deserted by the arrival of the town’s weekly market.
The Monday market was started by Wyre Council as a way of bringing more shoppers into Poulton – but established traders now fear it could drive them out.
One of the weekly market stalls sells pet supplies, and Brian Woodward, who runs Food 4 Pets Limited in the Teanlowe centre, has seen his takings fall by as much as 25 per cent.
The shop has been open for three years, but Mr Woodward said: “We have 18 months left on our lease and then we will have to take a look at the situation – it’s devastated us.
“We had a future in Poulton and that future has been taken away at a stroke.”
Another shop struggling is the Card Emporium, also in the Teanlowe, with a discount market card stall under-cutting their prices.
Manager Ellen Whiteside said: “We were told there would be some losers and some winners but it seems to me the local traders are the losers. It’s going to affect all of us – if shops end up closing.”
Dozens of angry traders packed a forum in the town on Monday night to voice their concerns.
They would rather see specialist market stalls trading, rather than stall-holders under-cutting existing businesses.
George McCaffer, manager of Poulton’s Market Hall, said: “I think it was badly organised from the beginning.
“There are people being hurt on that Monday very badly financially.”
Wyre Council said it will evaluate the success of the market over the coming months, but council leader Coun Peter Gibson said: “The main objective is to increase footfall and stimulate trade in a town centre that has been losing visitors for some time. I think we have already proved that a market is a big draw, with more people than ever milling around.
“What traders need to do now is make sure they give visitors a reason to come back.”
He added there had been a lack of engagement from traders with regard to setting up a trade association.