Challenges to be overcome with bravery, ingenuity and hard work

Torbay Weekly

I didn’t expect this day to come – writing a column for a publication called the Mid Devon Weekly!

I have fond memories of working for several years for the Mid Devon Gazette and the now-defunct Mid Devon Star, among others. I was fortunate to cover all sorts of weird and wonderful news and sport stories on our doorstep, and promote all that is good about Tiverton and Mid Devon.

With both papers facing increasing difficulties at the time, largely due to the migration online of readers and advertisers, I chose to move away from cost-cutting moves in journalism to sample life in sectors like sport, health, education, politics and events.

Here I am with a job title I never expected to hold – manager of Tiverton Pannier Market – writing in a newspaper I never expected to come into being.

But these are interesting and exciting times and, for me, the market and the Mid Devon Weekly share similar challenges and opportunities.

The sectors we operate in have faced significant, longstanding difficulties and we’re trying to adapt and come out the other side better and stronger.

These challenges will only be overcome with bravery, ingenuity and hard work.

Markets need to think differently to counteract the shift of consumers to shopping online and in larger supermarkets, and the subsequent toll this has taken on high streets.

This has been exacerbated by the pandemic, knocking the confidence of some traders and customers, and making it more challenging to entice them.

But we’ve been encouraged by several significant successes, massively increasing the number of first-time traders and those who come here occasionally, rather than every week.

This is best highlighted by the launch of the all-new Tiverton Farmers Market, which takes place on the first Saturday of every month and regularly attracts 50 or more stalls and visitor numbers to match.

The trick will be in transferring this level of interest and intrigue to our general markets, which take place every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

To get more traders, we need more visitors. To get more visitors, we need more traders. They go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. We’ve got some existing plans to address this in 2022 and I’ll reveal more details in a future column.

Many markets have successfully moved from being solely or predominantly a place to go shopping to becoming more of a leisure destination – offering an experience and somewhere for people to eat, drink, relax and socialise with friends and meet others.

Expect Tiverton Pannier Market to move more in this direction over the coming months and years. The upcoming opening of an exciting new market café will play a key role in this and aligns with our efforts to put an emphasis on quality, local, interesting or different products.

We will also be exploring other ways to add to the visitor experience and complement the town centre offering, while working with excellent local attractions like the canal, the museum, the castle and Knightshayes to enhance Tiverton’s standing as a go-to destination.

The Mid Devon Weekly and its staff, with their experience, will be all too aware of the issues faced by local papers.

The good news is they have enjoyed success with the set-up of the Torbay Weekly and the relaunch of the North Devon Gazette, both challenging more established papers in those areas.

With many papers closed or downgraded across the country, it’s great to see a new one launch. It seems this paper will be doing it with a focus on local people and the community, promoting positivity and having a bit of fun on the way – a bit like we plan to!

There is so much talent, innovation and potential across Mid Devon, ready to be unleashed and promoted. And there is a sense that many people are keener than ever to support local businesses and cherish the things closest to them, which we can take advantage of.

It’s the dawn of a new era for the market and the Mid Devon Weekly. Let’s put Tiverton and Mid Devon on the map!

Jim Bray
Manager of Tiverton Pannier Market