Market trading is certainly in the blood for Darren Old, yet it was not something he thought he would end up doing.
Darren’s grandfather opened a fruit and veg stall on Bury St Edmunds market in the 1950s after movi ng from Bethnal Green and Darren’s father has a watch stall.
But Darren, who was brought up in Rougham, was something of a latecomer to outdoor trading.
“I was area manager for a group of convenience stores until one day I had had enough of working for a corporate group,” he said. “I decided to try something for myself but I didn’t think it would be market trading.”
But 11 years ago he took over the card stall outside W H Smith, which has been on the market for 48 years.
“I enjoy everything about it,” he said. “It’s much better than working indoors and you meet all sorts of people.”
If you want to buy cards from Darren Old you can now do it the traditional way or the high tech way. Darren’a card stall has ben a regular feature of Bury St Edmunds market for more than 12 years but he has now launched a website. “Shopping habits have changed,” he said. “People say ‘I wish I known you did that, I’ve bought it on the internet’ and it’s not just the younger generation. “I’m surprised at how many 50-pluses have said they by this or that on the internet. This is reaching out to the people who don’t use the market” He has called it www.boofycards.com because his daughter Isobel, now four, could not say ‘beautiful’ so when she saw a card she liked she said it was a ‘boofy card’. Darren added: “At the moment we’re starting with cards, baloons, banners and social stationery. “We’re aiming to be able to sell and deliver for the same prices that we sell at in the market. If you buy three cards, you’ll get free second class delivery. You can pay more for faster delivery.” He said the site has been designed to be easy to use and has been set up so partially sighted users using software that reads web pages aloud will also read out what it says on the fronts and insides of cards. The site also allows you to search for cards by age, event, sex or relationship.
Many more shops sell cards now than when he started, but Darren is confident he can meet the competition.
“I give a good range of cards at reasonable prices,” he said. “People learn to trust a market trader and I see the same faces time and again.
“I see the generations — I start off serving grandmother, then the mother and then the daughter. You see that a lot in Bury.”
He also has regulars from further off, like a couple who come from Billericay each February to buy cards for the year.
Darren has learned what his customers want and when, so he had Christmas cards by October. “I tend to start the Christmas lines when I feel too many people have asked for it,” he explained. “A lot of pensioners like to spread the cost of Christmas so some come and buy a box of cards a week.”
As we talked an elderley woman illustrated the point by buying a dog calendar and saying she would be back next week for a cat calendar.
“The other one is pregnant ladies,” Darren said. “If they’re due in November or December they like to have everything done in advance, which I would never have thought of.”
He is chairman of the National Market Traders’ Federation’s Bury branch.
“We act as a voice for the market traders,” he said. “If traders have issues or want something from the council, we act for them.”
The branch also runs the ‘Love your market’ campaign and promotes Bury, which is why it is part of the town’s tourism group. The branch also created a market map showing where all the stall are on a Tuesday and Saturday. It can be downloaded at www.visit-burystedmunds.co.uk/markets.html or obtained from the Tourist Information office.
This year the federation has arranged almost a full provisions market on the Friday of the annual Bury Christmas Fayre.
Darren strongly feels the market contributes to the torn’s attractions. It draws many tourist shoppers, coming for the variety it brings.
Darren boasts: “People talk about clone towns, but we have 75 independent traders selling items you don’t get in other towns.”
This article is courtesy of the Bury Free Press