Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Changing times on the tackle market

Traders were being offered free pitches today, in a bid to boost the number of stalls on King's Lynn's 800-year-old Tuesday Market. Amid the bric-a-brac and local produce, there was a stall selling fishing tackle. It transpires said stall hailed from Yorkshire and was making a flying visit to the Fens.

The tackle shop several of us used to frequent began life as a market stall. Geoff Baker expanded into a tardis-like shop in Tower Street, before he retired a few years ago, as the internet banged the last nails into the coffin of the little street corner tackle shop.

I still miss Geoff in a lot of ways. Once he knew you, he looked after you. Life's moved on and I now buy my bait online instead of weekly from Geoff. I doubt you can make much of a living selling tackle anywhere on a small scale these days, unless you can carve out and own a niche.

I guess that's now true of a lot of things in life. The out of town shopping centres sounded the death knell for the once-bustling markets - just as the internet's killed off half the tackle trade and turned the other into an online superstore, click here to check out, enter your credit card details, do not pass a person who might be able to advise you on your purchase at any point in the process. 

No never mind Chris, drop the money in next week when you grab a week's worth of bait and find you've left your wallet at the office. No are you seeing your mate this weekend,  I know he was after some of these swivels - take a packet for him and tell him he can square it up next time he's in.

Up the other end of town, where they hold the Saturday Market, the once bustling flash is sometimes down to a single fish and seafood stall. It's run by the daughter of the late Chuffy Atkins - who as well as selling fish was a bit of a character on the local pike fishing scene until he died a few winters back.

Pike fishing still supports a few independents. Probably because pike anglers tend to be a conservative bunch who stick to things they trust, rather than the latest big thing.  

Fishing's changed a lot, like everything else has when it comes to how we shop. We might pay less than we ever have for it, in relative terms, since the days when a swing-tip rod cost a week's wages down the mine or in the steelworks.

But we're poorer for it as consumers, caught somewhere in the growing gulf between the soul-less online superstore and the car boot sale when it comes to buying bread and butter tackle.

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