Essex is home to a number of fantastic indoor and outdoor markets, but over the last three decades Dagenham Sunday Market has been the front runner.
So when it closed down earlier this summer, it naturally left many people feeling blue.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, it attracted crowds of up to 10,000 people as well as more than 600 stalls each Sunday.
Local celebrities Stacey Solomon and TOWIE star Georgia Kousoulou were even regulars.
But the social distancing measures that would need to be put in place would unfortunately have made it financially unviable.
2020 marks the end of a 34-year era, but it’s been kept alive with the creation of a new mobile app.
I downloaded the Dagenham Market 24-7 app and this is what I thought:
Scrolling on an app in the comfort of your own home is a world away from physically being at the market, but it’s the next best thing.
The first thing I noticed was how visually appealing it was – it’s arranged in bright, block colours making it easy to navigate.
What the announcement said
On Wednesday, June 3 organisers announced the market would be closing for good in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.
A letter posted on their official Facebook page read: “Our strategy to date has been to wait and open the market in September, when the infection rate should be much lower and trade would be better, giving traders at least a three-month window of decent trading up to Christmas.
“We had hoped that by then, social distancing would be over, but it looks like it is here to stay for quite some time.
“It has become clear the Dagenham Sunday Market, in its present form, does not allow social distancing to be maintained.”
The letter continued to address what the market would have to do to ensure social distancing was obeyed.
It said: “To comply with social distancing we would need to create extremely wide pedestrian walkways, removing complete aisles of stalls and containers so reducing the size of the market by about 40%, with many traders loosing their pitches.
“It is simply not viable to open a smaller and less attractive market.”
In essence, organisers could not see a ‘financially workable and safe way forward’.
Navigating the more than 200 stores
Walking around any market can be difficult – dodging the hoards of people while trying not to drop your bags takes real skill.
The beauty of shopping via the app is you don’t have to worry about social distancing or the general struggles of elbowing your way through the crowds to get the best bargain.
The helpful search bar at the top of the screen meant if you knew exactly what store you were looking for you could find it within seconds.
Alternatively, you could click on each category and browse the companies that way.
When you find the company you want you simply tap the box and it takes you through to their website or Facebook page.
The variety of stores on the app
There are just shy of 200 different companies listed on the app – that’s around a quarter of the 600 stalls which have decided to be listed.
The range of the 21 different categories makes navigation quick and easy.
The full list of the 195 companies listed
39 Ladies clothing
4 Flower and memorial
24 ‘For the home’
19 ‘For the children’
9 Mens clothing
9 Women’s Footwear
8 Car and Motorbike Accessories
8 Makeup and Toiletries
6 Pet supply
4 Bags and Luggage
4 Mens Footwear
1 Army supplies
2 Smoking Accessories
1 Fishing Equipment
5 Other services
While there are four times more women’s clothing companies in comparison to mens, the variety is generally great.
Whether you have a wedding coming up and want a firework display or photo booth, or you need a reliable grooming service for your dog, Dagenham Market has you covered.
I loved the whole app experience which I never thought I would say.
It’s not the same without that face-to-face interaction with traders but we are living in a very different world now where close human interaction is under constant government scrutiny.
Even though not all of the traders have listed their companies on the app, as each day goes by more and more are being added.
I love the concept and think it is a fantastic way to keep the traders’ businesses alive as well as promoting independent and local shopping.
Overall rating: 9/10
How can you download the app
To download the app go to either the AppStore or Playstore and type in ‘Dagenham Market 24-7’.
It’s free to download so there really are no excuses.