Driffield News

COST OF LIVING CRISIS: Driffield businesses and their fears for the future

Business owners in Driffield town centre have told the Wolds Weekly how they are starting to fear the worst if the government does not step in and put a stop to the continued rising energy costs amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

Households across the UK are facing a jump in energy prices from October when the average bill will rise to £3,549 per year after the energy cap was increased by regulator Ofgem.

However, businesses are even more exposed to the alarming price rises, with figures released recently suggesting that a firm who fixed its energy prices from October 2020 will face a five-fold jump in costs in two months’ time.

When the Wolds Weekly ventured into Driffield town centre, rather than offer large sums of money, business owners said the government should go to the bosses of the energy companies and demand that prices are lowered.

Amanda Ludlam, owner of The Olive Tree Spa on Middle Street North, said that the rising energy costs have seen her become much more thrifty about usage at her business premises.

She added that this, as well as fears that clients will start cutting back on non-essentials, is taking ‘the fun out of business’.

“We’ve had to start being very careful and I am now starting to switch everything off in rooms that aren’t being used,” said Amanda.

“Everything is going up, from toilet rolls to energy and it’s a worrying and scary time for everyone.

“You begin to wonder whether you will still be here a few years down the line.

“Putting prices up isn’t the answer because then it comes back onto the client and that’s not fair on them.

“We haven’t seen clients cutting back yet but I can definitely see it happening soon.

“The government are just a waste of space and I can’t see them doing anything.

“But someone needs to step in, go to the suppliers and tell them to put their prices down.

“We’ve just had lots of financial help to get us through COVID, so I don’t think the answer is giving more out.

“The energy suppliers are making huge profits and it’s not right that someone is sat on their yacht, earning billions of pounds, whilst we are all struggling.

“If nothing happens soon, the country will be at a standstill. If I’m being honest, this is knocking all the fun out of business and I’m beginning to become fed up.”

The rising energy and food costs have meant that summer holidays and Christmas breaks are off the menu at Mill Street sandwich shop Delicious.

As consumers start to make cutbacks as the price of almost everything continues to rise at a near unprecedented rate, owners Cheryl and Sadie are urging the government to take action sooner rather than later.

“We’ve not seen a major drop in footfall but we are expecting it as people tighten the purse strings,” said the business partners.

“Our new electricity contract started recently and it’s tripled. Our produce has also increased by 30 per cent but we can’t put the prices up by the same amount.

“And that is only going to get worse. This summer, neither of us have had any holidays and we won’t be closing over the Christmas period, as we normally would do.

“It’s been busy recently, but we are only breaking even.

“The government have got to step in and tell the suppliers to put a cap on the energy prices.”

Over at The Bell Hotel, the owners are still facing an anxious wait to see how much their energy prices will rise when quotes arrive for a new contract.

Currently, it’s the prices at the wholesalers that are causing most concern, with some items doubling every week.

The fear for Rita Riggs and Amy Smith is the profound effect the cost-of-living crisis could have on Driffield’s high street, which, unlike so many others across the country, is flourishing in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The way the prices are going up at the moment is ridiculous,” said Rita and Amy.

“George (Riggs, owner of The Bell Hotel) went and bought our coffee last week and it was twice the price it had been the previous week.

“If this continues week on week at the wholesalers, it’s just inevitable that prices are going to have to go up and we just hope that people understand.

“We’ve yet to have a quote for our energy bills, as the companies haven’t put their prices out. We’re expecting to hear something very soon and it’s very worrying.

“In terms of people staying over at the hotel, we should be OK as at the moment our customers are 50 per cent business and 50 per cent staycations.

“What we really hope is that this cost-of-living crisis doesn’t have a knock-on effect across Driffield.

“It’s become a thriving place after COVID thanks to the efforts of Driffield Town Council and everyone pulling together.

“We don’t want to lose that.

“Maybe the government should spend a few weeks living on our wages. I’m quite sorry to see Boris go as he got us through the pandemic.

“If no interventions are made, this situation is just going to be endless.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the businesses we spoke to.

Whilst acknowledging that it’s not going to an easy 12 months or so, David Cain, owner of home goods store Wonders of the Wolds, said that having secured a good energy contract and cutting costs in other areas, he believes his business is in a good position to overcome any issues.

“We’re actually enjoying a better year than we did during the previous 12 months,” said David.

“We also signed a new contract for our electricity and the price hasn’t changed dramatically, so we should be OK on that front.

“However, that said, we are expecting a hard winter. It’s going to be important to buy our stock at the right time and we already have all our Christmas stock, which we bought in January.

“It’s the end of line stock we would normally buy that is likely to be unavailable.

“If this trend of rising costs continues, retail prices are going to follow and who knows whether that will affect a gift shop like ours.

“The rest of the year is likely to be tough but we feel like we are in a good position.

“We sold our other shop, have slimmed down our staff to just two – Liz Pollard and I (the two owners of Wonders of the Wolds) and don’t need to pay any rent on our premises.”

Similarly, Darren Epworth, of the Little Book Emporium, said that with the technology he has put in place and by keeping the cost of books low, he hopes his business will continue to thrive.

“I don’t envisage a problem with our energy bills,” he said. “All our lights are LED and on timers, so what we are paying shouldn’t change too much.

“In terms of people coming into the shop to buy books, we can suit all types of budgets.

“We have always refused to sell our new books at retail price, so we charge much less than the high street shops.

“Since our move, we’ve seen sales increase month by month and hopefully that will continue.”

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