Bury Market’s card man gets a shop for Christmas

Jacqueline Old in Jacks Christmas shop.
Picture Mark Westley ANL-160911-134133009
Jacqueline Old in Jacks Christmas shop. Picture Mark Westley ANL-160911-134133009
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Darren Old’s family have been on Bury St Edmunds market since the 1950s but he is the first to open a shop.

That does not mean the end to his popular greetings card stall outside W H Smith, but he admits it could be a stepping stone to finding premises for a business with his wife Jacqueline.

Darren Old on his card stall  ENGANL00120121024172637

Darren Old on his card stall ENGANL00120121024172637

It is the second year running they have opened Jack’s Christmas Shop in Cornhill Walk, though both admit they are much more confident this time round.

Jacqueline said: “We were ‘rabbits in the headlights’ last year but this year we knew what we needed. Last year we bought bits and pieces as we needed it, but this year we bought a majority in one hit.”

Last year they learned stocking fillers and baskets for hampers were popular, so they bought more this year and are stocking different sizes of baskets.

Jacqueline asked: “Have you ever heard of Christmas Eve boxes? No, neither had we – they’re boxes you put bits and pieces in to give people on Christmas Eve and people kept asking for them, so we’re stocking more boxes.”

Another difference Darren has noticed this year is more customers using swipe cards.

“It wasn’t a big thing for us last year, but now everybody is familiar with it,” he said. “But they don’t even check the amount, they just ‘buzz’.”

That is not the only way a shop is different from the stall.

“Your overheads are different and the customer base is different,” he said. “Using social media to promote an independent store has been an eye opener, too.”

He argues people come to Bury looking for the market, knowing what they expect to see there and wandering round to find what they want.

“When someone comes to a town for the first time, they’re not looking for your store,” he said. “You’ve got to make them aware you are there.”

He points out that while Our Bury St Edmunds and the town’s tourism officer promote Bury as a shopping destination, it is up to the individual to promote their shop to the people who come.

Their shop could only be let until December 28, but if he found permanent premises would it be the end of the stall?

“No,” he says emphatically. “Wednesdays and Saturdays are still the biggest footfall days and everybody knows my stall for greetings cards.

“With a stall there is always a camaraderie with your customers, with a store the old Arkwright places where everybody knew everybody else have disappeared.”