It’s business as usual on a hot Saturday afternoon at Avondale Flea Market, situated behind Avondale shops in a converted double story parking lot. Customers, mostly families, can be seen milling around the stalls as they browse the various items on display.
The market hosts up to 200 vendors, and has an array of goods on offer from clothes to cell phone accessories, craft work, jewellery, cd’s and curtains. Colourful swathes of African printed fabric blow in the breeze, and towers of second hand books lean perilously. There are bags, toys, shoes, watches and more. The market’s colourful display of goods is available seven days a week.
What sets Avondale flea market apart from most flea markets in Harare is its generally calm atmosphere. Unlike other markets where the shouting for customers by stallholders can make for a distracting experience, vendors here sit at their stalls and politely try to draw in passing traffic.
The market attracts people from many different races and income levels. Residents of surrounding areas frequent this market as it saves them the time and money of travelling to town.
“I prefer shopping at the flea market with my children so I can avoid the parking hassles in town as most things are available here. I normally come here for the beautiful crafts on display,” says Deon Sheldon a resident of neighbouring Belgravia.
However, some vendors at the flea market have complained about low customer traffic, especially during weekends, saying people are being affected by the economic situation. The craft vendors emphasize that products like cell phone accessories and clothes attract more customers than the craft work and textiles stalls.
The manager of Avondale Flea Market, Charles Chinanga, confirmed that most stalls were taken up during weekdays , whereas weekends – when daily rates rise – were less full. He said they recorded 120 to 180 vendors on most days. Stalls cost $10 per week day, and $25 on weekends.
The market is covered with sometimes makeshift canvas awnings to protect the vendors and their products from rain and heat. Vendors store their wares on the ground floor of the car park which is monitored by security guards and CCTV. The car park also has ablution facilities which include showers and toilets. “We provide showers for our tenants who include cross-border traders who sometimes travel from Zambia straight to the market. They can freshen up and go straight to work,” said Chinanga.
The flea market has a restaurant at the back which has a basic menu for customers, though most complain that their prices are too high.
All said, the Avondale flea market brings a pleasant, convenient shopping experience to residents as well as providing a decent, if fluctuating, livelihood for its stallholders.