Lockdown lifts on car boot sales – but many feel safer trading online

“People are desperate to shop again and we’re going to be busy,” says Chris, who runs the Thatcham car boot sale and is preparing to reopen next Sunday. “Everyone has had time on their hands to clear things out and there are always people looking for secondhand bargains. We’re going to increase the width of the aisles, operate a one-way system and advise people to wear gloves and a mask.”

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allowed to reopen in England from tomorrow and car boot organisers across the country have found themselves rushing to get ready in time. But many in the sector are questioning how it will work and have already been finding success online during lockdown. 

Under the new government guidelines, people will be expected to obey social distancing and items will need to be quarantined for 72 hours if they have been touched. Even with measures in place such as contactless payments, limited touching of goods, reduced numbers and social distancing between sellers, some are sceptical. 

“It’s absolutely potty. Thousands of people come through the gate each week, and they bring whole areas to a standstill,” says Lizzie, who has organised the Ascot car boot sale for 20 years with her husband, Sam.

She says it is not like going to a market where you often know what you are buying. “Part of going to a boot sale is rummaging and having a look at what’s there, and it’s a social thing. They go for a couple of hours and have a burger and a coffee. If the government guidelines are that you still have to socially distance, it will never work. The police will close them down.”

With lockdown forcing many car boots to shift online, organisers think the virtual versions are a safer option. “We list all items at 10am on Sundays and it’s been really popular,” says Erin Murphy, who runs the Peckham car boot sale. “For now, we’ll stay online.”

Alex Eagle, host of the Virtual Car Boot Sale, which took place earlier this month, agrees. “Normally, we’d be doing it in a car park but faced with lockdown we moved it online. The sale went live on Instagram at 11am. You see the items, there’s a 15-minute bidding slot and you swipe to buy. It was a huge success, and we’ll do it again.”

Others, however, have welcomed the new rules. Alfie Thomlinson, a regular at Knavesmire car boot in North Yorkshire, says you cannot replicate the experience online, and he for one will be rummaging among the goods this weekend. “Of course I’ll be going,” he says. “It’s more than just a place to get a bargain or sell unwanted stuff, it’s a place to make friends and a reason to get up early on a Saturday.”

Some of the people interviewed for this article preferred not to give their full names.

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