‘It’s bonkers’: Traders and shoppers divided over plan to revive imperial measurements

·3-min read
Shoppers and traders reacted to the government plans to return to imperial measurements (supplied)
Shoppers and traders reacted to the government plans to return to imperial measurements (supplied)

Shoppers and traders are divided following the government’s proposals to allow the return of imperial measurements.

The plan is part of the UK’s drive to ditch EU rules that no longer suit the UK following its departure from the bloc last year.

The Independent found that traders and shoppers at Portobello Market in west London were split on the possible return to imperial measurements, with some welcoming the change but others seeing it as unnecessary.

“It’s bonkers: where has that idea come from?” Kensington local Mary Harris said.

“A lot of these stalls didn’t actually change, so you can do both,” Ms Harris, who’s lived in the area since the 1960s, said.

Mary Harris doesn’t welcome a change back to imperial measurements (supplied)
Mary Harris doesn’t welcome a change back to imperial measurements (supplied)

“As far as my coming to the market and buying my veg it doesn’t really make any difference I don’t think,” she added.

However, Cheryl Devlin, who runs one of the market’s oldest stalls – Devlin’s Fruit and Veg – said imperial measurements are “part of British heritage”.

“It’s old school, it’s our heritage,” said the stall owner. “We do kilos if you ask for it – we do both – but mainly pounds. It’s a good thing: we like to keep things as traditional as possible.”

Devlin’s Fruit and Veg stall hasn’t stopped using imperial measurements (supplied)
Devlin’s Fruit and Veg stall hasn’t stopped using imperial measurements (supplied)

In their efforts to maintain tradition, Ms Devlin, who runs the stall alongside her daughter Bella Devlin, has faced issues with the market’s regulators who favour the metric system.

Teenage shopper Maria Snow also welcomed a switch to imperial measurements despite growing up using the metric system.

She said a return to imperial measurements would be attractive to tourists.

“Personally, I think the switch is good because it gives a bit more identity to British shopping,” Ms Snow said.

The student said imperial measurements would need to be taught in schools, to help young people understand the system.

“It’s something that’s been used for hundreds of years in Britain. It does give a bit of distinction. It makes me proud of my heritage in a way – overall it’s a good thing,” Ms Snow added.

Maria Snow said imperial measurements made her feel proud of her British heritage (supplied)
Maria Snow said imperial measurements made her feel proud of her British heritage (supplied)

Other market stall owners and shoppers weren’t as enthusiastic about the government plans.

Alan Wakeling, who has run his fruit and veg stall for more than 50 years, said the potential change was good but eventually imperial measurements would not be used.

“Pounds and ounces were our heritage here but it will phase out eventually,” Mr Wakeling said.

“The older shoppers get pounds and ounces but the younger people get kilos – we need both,” Mr Wakeling said.

The stall owner, who admitted changing to a metric system was a “nightmare”, said his stall would operate with both systems to accommodate both older Brits and tourists.

Alan Wakeling, who has been a stallholder for 50 years, believes the imperial measurement will ‘phase out’ (supplied)
Alan Wakeling, who has been a stallholder for 50 years, believes the imperial measurement will ‘phase out’ (supplied)

For Lu Lu Watts, who does the majority of her grocery shopping in supermarkets, the return to imperial measurements makes “little difference”, she said.

“I don’t think it’s that relevant or important. I don’t understand why they would change it; there are more important things,” Ms Watts told The Independent.

The government intends to review the content of retained EU law – which was preserved in UK law for continuity after the transition period ended in December 2020.

Boris Johnson said that he would bring imperial units back to shops as part of his pitch to voters in the 2019 general election, promising “an era of generosity and tolerance towards traditional measurements”.

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