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.

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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.

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

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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.

The Northern Echo: Katherine Jackson, from David Jackson LTD, who has traded for 45 years in the market hall. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.Katherine Jackson, from David Jackson LTD, who has traded for 45 years in the market hall. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

“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”.

Kirsty Wilbor, who only opened Hexy’s Clothing last October, fears that if more isn’t done to help residents and business, she won’t be able to continue trading in Darlington beyond next month.

Read more: Darlington families struggling amid cost of living crisis

The stallholder, who has to travel from Northallerton each morning, currently receives reduced rates, but will have to pay full price next month. This has led to an uncertain future for Kirsty and Hexy’s, as well as having to balance costs at home with four children.

She said: “Having the business and juggling costs has been difficult. Fuel from Northallerton six days a week, having four children to feed and my house to heat, it’s been tough.

“I’ve already had to stop free delivery and I feel that more cuts will have to be made. Some of my wholesalers have put up their prices as well, which has led to less stock and an impact to my customers.”

The Northern Echo: Kirst Wilbor, who opened Hexy's Clothing in the market in October 2021. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.Kirst Wilbor, who opened Hexy's Clothing in the market in October 2021. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

Jonathan Liddle, whose family fishmonger business, P.A Liddle & Sons, has been in the market hall since 1969, worries about the future both economically and personally.

From the struggle of importing some fish, due to the Ukraine crisis, or the worries for his two children, Mr Liddle has seen an energy cost rise of two-thirds between 2021 and the start of 2022.

He said: “Customers are having to take the brunt of this rise. We’ve had to put up the prices, which has been forced on us.

The Northern Echo: Jonathan Liddle, from P.A Liddle & Sons. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.Jonathan Liddle, from P.A Liddle & Sons. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

“Some traders might not be able to get through this – and it’s almost forgotten that there’s a human side to it.

“I worry that young people won’t be able to afford houses, heat their homes and something must be done.

“It also has to do with the changing attitudes of high streets and the lack of people wanting fresh produce and footfall. It’s all connected and now, it’s affecting our businesses.”  

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