Ducking, Diving and Sports Merchandising

Drew Goodsell reckons it’s not true that street stallholders are only interested in ripping us off.

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In recent times, mainstream media seem to have taken a dislike to market stall sellers, criticising many of them for selling cheap knock offs and, allegedly, ripping off innocent members of the public as a matter of course.

In some cases, maybe it’s true. But in the majority of instances, it’s far from the truth, with many top quality items being sold on the street – just a lot cheaper than anywhere else.

Some call the market stall sellers criminals, preying on our readiness to think we have found a real bargain, whereas others see them as smart business men and women, tapping into a demand and making money by meeting it.

I have been looking in particular at the sports merchandise market – a market worth millions to clubs and manufacturers year on year. What I have found is that stallholders are not criminals but normal human beings like you and me. Yes, they are out to make money, but that doesn’t mean they are only there to cheat the poor punter. That’s what I’m choosing to think, anyway. Although it did give me pause for thought when the stallholder I interviewed outside West Ham’s Boleyn Ground said he would very much rather remain anonymous.

Could you give a brief overview on how you got involved with selling on a market stall on a match day?

“It was my dad’s stall and I think it has been passed on through a couple of generations at least. That’s what I’ve been told anyway. I’ve been here for five years, since I was a teenager. Obviously, at that age I was learning the way to go about this from my dad, but as soon as I hit 20, he left responsibility to me and I love it. I work full time elsewhere during the week, but growing up in a family of Hammers’ fans, I always wanted to get involved somehow. I love the club, and I love meeting new and old fans, so therefore doing this on weekend match days is perfect for me. I’d want to keep this stall in the family for a lot longer, but that all depends on the stadium move.”

 The media seem to like focusing on the negative side of market stalls, alleging that many of you are selling knock-off items at a steep price. Do you have a response to that?

 “I don’t really know much about that if I’m being honest, because I don’t pay much attention to the media. To work here, you’ve got to be quite thick skinned and be able to take that criticism, because whatever you do you can’t please everyone. All I would say in response to that is that I wouldn’t sell things that I didn’t think were the right quality. I spend money obtaining the merchandise, and therefore I want it to be good quality myself, so I wouldn’t sell poor quality items. That may not be the case for market stalls in general, but here on a match day, I don’t think I’ve ever had a complaint about something I’ve sold to someone.”

 With the items you sell on your stall, do they have to pass any checks before you sell them to members of the public?

 “Not as such. No one comes and checks them. Occasionally we get checked up on whilst working just to meet the trading standards, and if they feel the products aren’t up to standard then we get shut down. But the only quality control I like to follow is my own. Like I said in the previous answer, if I don’t like the quality, it won’t be sold. Simple as that.”

Do you still see a big market for market stalls outside of the ground? Or has the interest died down a little?

“There is no way that interest has gone away whatsoever. I won’t go into exact figures, but the amount we sell here is enough to keep a reasonably sized family going for the month, and be able to produce new items and new ideas to keep the market stall ticking over.

“Personally, I also think that those that come to the stall prefer the personal approach from us as sellers. We are not like those that work at the club stores, where customers are just brushed off as just another customer. Conversation always flows here, and generally a lot of customers are on first name terms with a lot of the sellers here. It makes the atmosphere around the club feel like family.”

In a previous interview I’ve done with a fan, I was told that he felt the club took advantage with prices of merchandise to season ticket holders in particular. Do you agree with that?

“I wouldn’t say I agree, because at the end of the day, the pricing isn’t down to the club, it’s down to those that manufacture the merchandise, but I can see where that comment is coming from. You get people paying hundreds for a season ticket here, and the least you’d expect as a thank you would be money off of merchandise, or even a free version of the latest shirt, but I don’t think that has ever happened, or ever will unfortunately.

“Although saying that, it benefits us working on the stalls.”

Are the club accommodating market stalls in the move to the new ground in Stratford?

“To be honest, I haven’t personally heard very much about it. Initially, when the stadium move was announced, a few of us had a brief chat about it and decided to wait and see if the club had anything to say about it. They didn’t communicate anything, so we decided try and plot the move ourselves, but if you go to the area around the stadium, there is nothing like there is here. The area around the ground is being fully renovated, and the only main road near the stadium wouldn’t accommodate market stalls like Green Street does currently. So as it stands, we are in the dark about a move along with the club.”