Markets matter - whatever the weather

HARD GRAFT Travis Beaumont at his stall in Commercial Road. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (13814-2)
HARD GRAFT Travis Beaumont at his stall in Commercial Road. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (13814-2)
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It’s a traditional profession which is getting harder every year because of the convenience of supermarkets and 24-hour opening.

Even corner shops now sell fruit, veg and salads.

But, knowing how tough the game is, young people are still carrying on family traditions, eschewing comfortable working lives for being outside in all weathers.

Travis Beaumont, 31, took over the fruit and salad pitch his father Michael Warwick ran in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, for 50 years. Mr Warwick, now 69, helps out part time but Travis bought the stall four years ago.

He said: ‘When I was younger I decided to be an actor so I went to college and did all the courses. When I left I didn’t get straight into drama school so I went travelling, came back, and realised the market was the only job I really ever loved.

‘Obviously it’s best in the summer but, as hard as it is, I love it.’

Travis’ day begins at 2am when he gets up and goes down to the market stall, in Commercial Road, opposite Subway, to pull up the trucks while his father collects the fruit and salad from the wholesalers in Southampton.

By 8am the blue canopies are on and people on their way to work pick up tasty treats for their families in the evening.

It’s been a tough couple of months, having just shivered through the coldest Easter on record. And it does affect business.

Travis said: ‘My dad has always said, “the weather is the governor of the game”, and it’s true.

‘If it’s raining or cold, you can’t expect people to come down when it’s like that. I probably wouldn’t either. But back in the old days they didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t the luxury of being able to get everything under one roof, 24/7.

‘The best days for us are the summer days. I love the clothes we can wear, the atmosphere, the different fruits. There’s nothing like it.’

Nowadays, while the majority of people shop at supermarkets, Travis reckons it is people who have moved to the UK who have kept market stalls alive.

He said: ‘It’s the only reason the business is still going. It’s people from abroad who are now living in our country who make up 75 per cent of our business.

‘It is part of the culture of people from places like Senegal, Cameroon and Jamaica, to shop at markets. They appreciate the freshness. British people have become accustomed to having everything under one roof.

‘And for some reason they think it’s cheaper. But some places sell mangos for up to £3 while I do them three for a £1 or 50 pence each.’

Travis’ father makes no bones about the fact he would rather his son had gone into a different profession, but Travis has no regrets.

He said: ‘Even though my dad probably didn’t want me to get into it, it’s what I always wanted to do. It’s hard graft and some days it turns out okay and some days it doesn’t, but I love it.’

ARE MARKETS STILL RELEVANT?

Barry Walker, from Portsmouth City Council, who manages the city’s markets, said markets are just as important now as they have always been.

He said: ‘Markets are one of the things that bring vitality and vibrancy to a centre.

‘As well as traditional markets we have Hampshire Farmers Markets, Love Southsea markets and the Southsea Food Festival. Markets are essential in terms of creating energy in streets.’

Louise Whitmore, from Love Southsea, said people are using markets as an alternative platform to opening shops.

She said: ‘A large number are traders who are beginning life with their companies and businesses and want to start slowly, interact with customers and grow their trade.

‘In contrast we also have plenty of sellers who trade with us who used to lease shops.

‘Due to the economic downturn, higher rents and business charges, they now find it more profitable and sustainable to trade at the markets.’

MICHAEL WARWICK

Michael, 69, has been working on market stalls since he was eight years old and bought his own, in Charlotte Street, when he was 21.

He said: ‘I started working for the Valvona family, it was just the thing to do.

‘Everybody was related in one way or another. It was my pocket money because I didn’t get any off my father. I earned half a crown a day.

‘I enjoyed the buying and selling and the camaraderie was brilliant.

‘It was absolutely packed with stalls in Charlotte Street and people would come from all over – Portchester, Leigh Park – because that’s where they bought their food. There weren’t the supermarkets we’ve got now.

‘I’ve advised Travis to get the money up for another house, and that can be his pension. And when he’s about 40 or 45 he should get out of it.’

DANIEL BARRETT

Daniel Barrett has been working on his dad’s fruit and veg stall since he left school. The 27-year-old travels to markets across Hampshire – including Havant and Waterlooville – with his brother Billy, 17.

He said: ‘I love working here. The customers make the job. I always knew I would take over from my dad, who started Barrett and Son.

‘He’s retired now.

‘We get regular customers and they are always out for a bargain. They probably couldn’t afford to buy all their fresh fruit in a supermarket.

‘We try and buy the best quality we can.’

Joy Hollies, from Leigh Park, said chatting with the market traders is part of the experience.

The 75-year-old said: ‘I come here as often as I can and I’ve seen these boys grow up. They’re always cheeky but they’re lovely.’