Spring Statement: Darlington Market traders fear for the future

Market stall holders in Darlington have warned that the current cost of living crisis is “just the start” of the issue and that things could take even more of a hit moving into the future.

Like many, stall holders in the town’s market hall have seen a rise in prices of their produce, energy bills, fuel costs and supply chain problems – which is all affecting the business of those that trade in Darlington.

Despite chancellor Rishi Sunak bringing in a raft of measures during his Spring statement, including cutting fuel duty by 5pm per litre, as well as unveiling a £6bn plan to increase the national insurance contribution threshold in July, business owners that The Northern Echo spoke to today seem “unmoved” by the government announcement.

Robin Blair, who has run a fruit and veg stall in Darlington Market for 70 years, has seen significant changes during his time in the market – but believes that “the worst is yet to come” for both businesses and residents, as fuel costs, energy rates and other costs continue to peak. Mr Blair has had to put a small price increase on his product to be able to run a viable business but worries that he’ll have to put in further increases in the future.

He said: “I believe we’re still to see the full extent of the cost-of-living crisis. As well as fuel and energy costs, my business relies on weather and imports.

Robin Blair has traded in Darlington Market for 70 years. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

“Produce like peppers and cucumbers are hard to come by, so the prices will have to grow as well, and these have shot up in the last six months.

“The fuel measure brought in today by the government will help – any little change helps – but it needs to be backed up with other factors too.”

Another trader who is a long-term tenant in the market hall is Katherine Jackson, who, along with her family business, David Jackson Butchers LTD, have been trading for 45 years in Darlington. As part of the rising costs, the butcher has had to scrap free delivery on orders, as well as altering their prices across the board to reflect the supply chain costs, due to having to pay their own energy bills in the market hall on top of rent rates.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mrs Jackson said: “In a business sense and on a personal note, we’ve seen a big rise in fuel and energy prices.

“It’s impacting the amount of customers, the prices that we charge and little things like the fact we can no longer give free delivery because of the cost of fuelling delivery vehicles.

“From powering fridges, keeping our stock, the lighting, it’s a knock-on effect. We don’t want to charge more for items but that’s the reality we’re in.”

From the long-term traders in Darlington to the ones that have only just opened up, the picture at Darlington market today was one of “everyone is in the same boat”.

Source: Northern Echo