A trader at Winchester Market has accused the council of unfair treatment after being ordered to stop selling produce following a shop complaint.
Millie Lawlor started her natural pet treats business, Dudley & Sage, after discovering that her puppy Dudley was allergic to many manufactured treats sold in stores.
The 23-year-old intends to make affordable natural treats more accessible to pet owners and hopes to run the business full-time in the future.
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Dudley & Sage has an online store and sells products in Winchester Market. In December, the booth expanded to include pet accessories.
However, just a year into her business, Millie told HampshireLive she was forced to stop selling some products due to a complaint from another high street business.
From March 31, the trader must stop selling accessories when he has already bought thousands of pounds of stock.
She said: “We’re the only pet supply company on the market stand, so market officials said we should make the most of it by expanding the line. We don’t have a lot of space but the opportunity was there.
“The council made the decision to tell us that we were no longer able to sell anything other than pet treats because that was what we put on our application form.”
This is the second complaint the market stall has received, Millie added.
In December 2021, Millie’s stand was moved from the top of town, described as a ‘preferred position’, to go further up the high street with less footfall due to the complaint.
On both occasions, the marketer says she was denied a call and the council did not contact her directly – the marketing manager gave her the information by letter.
Millie continued: “I just feel like there was already a conflict in the products I was initially selling, but it was never a concern of the board when our application was initially approved.
“We have such a small range, we only trade one day a week and it’s hard to see how we’re impacting their business.”
As a new business, the 23-year-old says the move is really disappointing and will stunt the growth of her business.
She said: “I’m trying to improve my life and having a board that doesn’t really recognize me as a person and as a company is a little disheartening.
“They clearly recognize the other business and not mine, that confuses me a bit because I think every business should have the opportunity to grow.”
The ban on Millie’s business has raised concerns from other shopkeepers who fear the council has the power to stop them selling items if High Street shops complain.
Millie continued: “Other market traders think it’s crazy, it’s quite worrying that the council can ignore market traders – these people work so hard all year round in crazy weather with early starts .
“It’s worrying that the council can just say you can’t trade here because a shop said they didn’t like it.
“There is a general consensus among market traders that if every store had a problem with what everyone else is selling, because there is product overlap, there would be no market.”
Millie has since submitted an electronic petition to council demanding that traders also be considered for unrestricted placement anywhere in the market and that her business be allowed to sell related products with the same freedoms given to stores in the main Street.
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A spokesperson for Winchester City Council said “conflicts” are not unusual and are dealt with “on a case-by-case basis”.
They continued: “Those manning stalls are subject to pre-agreed conditions regarding the types of goods which all traders are required to read and sign before joining the market. As before, traders will be approached and questions relating to goods for sale will be discussed one-on-one.
“In this case, concerns have been raised about both the position of a particular stall and the nature of the goods being sold.
“The Market Manager regularly reviews the sites of individual stalls against our High Street businesses and will occasionally ask stall owners to relocate to maintain the right balance so traders and retailers can thrive.
“We can also confirm that we have reviewed the terms of the conditions under which we rented the stand in question, and the stand owners have agreed to stop selling items that were not in their original agreement. The stand continues to trade in the market.”
The spokesman added: “Winchester City Council has always endeavored to maintain a careful balance on the town’s high street in terms of mixing the supply of established retailers in rented premises with that of a range of market stalls which serve to diversify the offer to the local population.
“Market stalls provide a significant opportunity for new businesses to set up shop and in this time of recovery we continue to welcome new traders.
“As the dynamics of UK high streets continue to change, we will continue to monitor the overall supply on the high street and work with merchants and retailers to ensure the wide range of businesses can all benefit from our growing attendance.”
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