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.”
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.”