Friday, September 10, 2010

West Brom Postcards

I heard from Monika today that the postcards I designed as a result of the BCCA residency came through today, and she has been around the market distributing them, she said people were really pleased with them - and there was quite a bit of laughter from the butchers as a result of the chicken and egg gag. I am really glad that people liked the cards, and I am looking forward to seeing them myself.
Here are the images from the outside of the card, and the collated interviews with the stall holders:

Interview with Ashok Kumar, of T. Kumar, Stall 63, New Market Hall, West Bromwich.

Stall Location: N52˚31.005 W001˚59.569

Anna: So Mr Kumar, how long have you been open?

Mr Kumar: With this stall for 3 years, we used to run a children’s babywear stall for 12 years, then when I became redundant my wife decided to buy this stall. This had been a very established stall, so we took it over.

Anna: What do you sell?

Mr Kumar: Mostly we sell ladies fashion and jeans – yes, jeans are our main attraction, as well as tops.

Anna: Is your stuff mainly casual or more dressy?

Mr Kumar: Both, people of West Bromwich like things which are flexible, they can be dressed up or down – you can wear them in the daytime and then dress them up for an evening out. People like flexibility, casual and outgoing in one item. We mix and match to the needs of the people which works really well – that is our main concern rather than our own profit, it’s important to understand the customer’s needs.

Flexibility in style is important.

Anna: What’s it like, running a business in West Bromwich?

Mr Kumar: The town used to be really busy – now there are no facilities for young people. Things have really gone down – people don’t seem enthusiastic, especially those who should be running things.

Anna: What is your top tip for running a business?

Mr Kumar: Make it affordable! Here we create a relationship with the customer – all of our regular customers are very good – we always know what our customers like and want. The customers will tell us what they want, and we will cater for that – this keeps them happy, and keeps us in business.

Anna: So the service is almost bespoke?

Mr Kumar: Exactly.

Anna: How do you find running a market stall?

Mr Kumar: The area is congested – there is not really any easy way to enter; there are no clear entry points to get to the market by road. It would be good to have an escalator tunnel to allow people to enter. This town is not for pedestrians – so people don’t feel safe walking around – cars are in charge – it’s like a law of the jungle. It’s hard to get to the Market from the back – there are just too many cars, and this makes it really dangerous, it is difficult to see where you should walk, you would not want to bring an elderly relative across here – it is just too difficult to cross, and add to that the bad smell at the back of the market – it really is not a nice place to be.

Anna: Who are your main customers?

Mr Kumar: We used to have a lot of younger customers, but because the town has a declining population of young people they are going to other towns. This town has no sitting and eating areas for young people. There are only cheap takeaways, no recreational space to attract the youngsters. Also since the recession there is a lack of parking. There is a blackmailing attitude to parking here, people are forced to pay high prices to park, and this puts them off coming to the market. The Metro is there, but it’s hard for the elderly as there are no escalators.

Anna: Do you have any ideas about how to improve things here?

Mr Kumar: We need to modernise the high street to attract the young back into the town, otherwise they get bored, and it becomes like a ghost town. There are too many financial buildings and banks – and not enough sitting down areas.

In order to bring back young people and elderly people we need good, clear entry points, and recreational activities for young people. Also navigation around the town is very confusing for pedestrians, something needs to be done about this.

Anna: Any final thoughts on West Bromwich?

Mr Kumar: Before, you could breathe West Bromwich, you could smell West Bromwich, but now…West Bromwich will not be West Bromwich until people call it that, until people believe in that!

Interview with Sonia, Genius, Stall Number 50. New Market Hall, West Bromwich.

Stall Location: N52˚31.010 W001˚59.575

Anna: How long have you been open?

Sonia: Well, actually this is my second day working here, the stall is new, but we have a shop just by the entrance and it has been open for 5 or 6 years. The shop belongs to my Auntie and is called Jeune Diable.

Anna: What do you sell?

Sonia: Well, at this stall it is clothes for mature ladies – English Clothes.

Anna: What’s it like running a business in West Bromwich?

Sonia: It’s nice, people are really nice here. Really lovely. They talk to you nicely, all of the people in the market are so helpful and friendly.

Anna: Is that the customers or the other traders?

Sonia: Both, but the traders have been so welcoming and helpful.

Anna: What is your top tip for running a business?

Sonia: Talk sweet – never get irritated, some people just want to have a look, and that is free!

Anna: What’s it like here in the market?

Sonia: People think things in the market are just cheap things, but it’s not like that actually. We have good stuff, quality stuff here! Like in other shops in town. Some people don’t realise that there are really nice things in the market – this makes it hard to get new customers to come in, if they knew the quality that we were selling here, they would come.

Interview with Tina, Mastertackle Ltd. New Market Hall, West Bromwich.

Stall Location: N52˚30.999 W001˚59.594

Anna: How long have you been open?

Tina: I think it’s about 7 years now.

Anna: What do you sell?

Tina: We sell fishing tackle, bait, anything to do with fishing really.

Anna: What’s it like running a business in West Bromwich?

Tina: It’s not my business – I just work here, but it’s hard now. When we first started things were easier – it has got harder the last few years.

Anna: What is your top tip for running a business?

Tina: Treat people the way you want to be treated, that’s all.

Anna: How do you feel about the developments that are taking place in West Brom?

Tina: Well, I’m not really worried. Opening a Tesco wouldn’t really affect me, unless Tesco open a fish shop! Really, I am a specialist so it won’t affect me. I have very regular customers – some come back weekly, others come daily! Some just stop for a chat whenever they are passing.

Interview with Rahul, One Stop Beauty, New Market Hall, West Bromwich.

Stall Location: N52˚30.997W001˚59.583

Anna: Hallo Rahul, How long have you been open?

Rahul: (confers with Mum) Erm, 9 years. It’s a family business which I will take over one day.

Anna: What do you sell?

Rahul: Make-up, perfumes and creams.

Anna: What’s it like running a business in West Bromwich?

Rahul: It’s good getting the money, and selling stuff. The customers are kind, we have regulars who keep coming back because we provide what they want.

Anna: What is your top tip for running a business?

Rahul: Well, you have to practise, and invest. You need to have competitive prices, and a good service.

Anna: And how do you do that?

Rahul: Well, we can order things in that the customer wants, and it can be here by the next week, or even the next day sometimes!

Anna: Any other comments about West Bromwich town?

Rahul: It’s good, it’s big, people are friendly, but some people steal things from Greggs.

Anna: Oh dear, and have you any ideas on what to do about that?

Rahul: Yes, ask them not to.

Interview with Valerie. J.L Thomas and Sons. New Market Hall, West Bromwich.

Stall Location: N52˚30.994 W001˚59.586

Anna: How long have you been open?

Valerie: Well, actually I just work here, and it’s my birthday today!

Anna: Oh, happy birthday Valerie, and how long have you worked here?

Valerie: I’ve been here twice, but this time it’s four years, but J.L Tmonas has been here since the market opened, but before that we were in the old market on Paradise Street – so J.L Thomas has been running for at least 60 years!

Anna: Wow! What’s it like running a business in West Bromwich?

Valerie: It’s be alright if it was busy in West Bromwich

Anna: What is your top tip for running a business?

Valerie: Be obliging to customers – try to please them – remember that the customer is the priority, and be friendly.

At this point the owner takes over.

Anna: So what’s it like here in the market?

Owner: Well, it could all do with regenerating, it’s be a lot better if we got some help from the council.

Anna: What sort of help?

Owner: Well, the cleanliness of the building for one thing – keep it cleaner! Also, why not advertise this place in the town? Show people where we are…at the moment there are no signs telling people how to get here, and what is actually here.

We worry that this could end up being a dead end. There are some real issues, for example there is no parking anymore – what was our parking is now being turned into the college, this has really affected footfall, and it doesn’t help that there are traffic wardens everywhere!

Interview with David, Stall 38 (Dave’s For Pets), New Market Hall, West Bromwich.

Stall Location: N52˚31.013 W001˚59.583

Anna: Hallo David, How long have you been open?

David: I’ve been trading for 17 years altogether. I have been at stall 38 for 7 years, but I was at the smaller one next door for 10 years before that.

Anna: What do you sell?

David: Pet food and accessories.

Anna: What’s it like running a business in West Bromwich?

David: It’s O.K. It can be hard, there’s not the volume of people there used to be, really it all needs money spending on it. We have very regular customers; some have been coming here for 15 years. People bring in photos of their pets, you feel like you know their pets even though you’ve not met them. When my dog died one of my customers actually cried.

Anna: What is your top tip for running a business?

David: Get the stuff as cheap as you can, and sell it as cheap as you can. That’s the secret in West Bromwich!

Anna: Do you have any ideas about how to improve things here?

David: It all needs cleaning up really, in terms of the way it looks here, it needs updating and modernising. We could do with new signage as well, to lead people here.

Anna: What do you think about the developments that are happening here?

David: There isn’t much information coming through to us; there’s a lot of rumours. The thing is, information would be good, but it would have to be in a flyer or something; when you run a business you can’t always go for a meeting. Sandwell Council are not communicating well with us – rent goes up year on year, and there’s no consultation – a lot of people are really struggling. The last 2 years in particular there has been a real fast turnover of stalls here. People’s shopping habits have changed over the last few years. It is a worry.

How much power do companies like Tesco have over the Town? The council won’t listen to me, but they will listen to the big companies.

Anna: Are you worried about the Tesco Development?

David: It’s prices really, I can compete on certain things, but branded stuff, it is difficult. One positive is that people can choose to have just a couple of dog chews for example, and don’t have to have a whole pack. One positive about England is that we have fantastic markets. I buy all my veg from the veg guy over there, not just because it’s here, but because it’s better quality. You have some people have been here since the war, you’ve got generations of families running a business here, a real history.

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