Cost of living - 'Rising energy bills mean we've had to shut'

The Nook Dereham. Local traders come togther to showcase their work. Kay Willmott, shop owner Pictu

Kay Willmott has been forced to shut The Nook in Dereham - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The rising cost of electricity has forced a businesswoman to close her shop space which gave smaller firms a presence on the high street.

The Nook, in Dereham, was opened back in November by Kay and Tom Willmott.

The Nook Dereham. Local traders come togther to showcase their work. Lynsey Martin, Charlotte O Call

Kay Willmott with small business owners at The Nook in Dereham - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Their idea was to give up-and-coming businesses an opportunity to establish themselves in the town centre - when they would not otherwise have the resources to do.

Traders took it in turns to staff the shop, with each paying a small amount to rent a shelf.

But Mrs Willmott revealed she and her husband had opted to bring the venture to a premature end after receiving a £500 quote from their energy provider. 

Speaking generally on the struggle to run multiple businesses during a cost-of-living crisis, she said: "It has been very challenging and, in fact, we have had to close The Nook. 

Shop owner Kay Willmott at The Nook in Dereham

Kay Willmott at The Nook in Dereham - Credit: Brittany Woodman

"We got a £500 quote for our energy and we simply could not sustain it with bills like that. 

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"That came as a real disappointment to me and all the small business owners."

Mrs Willmott, whose primary pursuit is running Elle Belle's beauty salon, added: "With my other businesses, the cost of living has been having a huge impact.

"We are having to really adjust our prices. You are looking at an average increase of around 30pc for most treatments. 

"Our customers have actually been alright about it. We were bearing in mind the increasing bills they are dealing with, but I'm pleased to say we've not lost clients which is great.

Kay Willmott (pictured), who owns Elle Belle's Beauty Studio in Dereham, has launched the Facebook g

Kay Willmott at her salon, Elle Belle's, in Dereham - Credit: Archant

"There are a lot of other little things we're doing. When a client leaves the toilet, we go and make sure they have turned the light off behind them."

It's not just in mid Norfolk where rising costs are being felt by businesses. 

Up on the coast, Wells firm Glitter and Mud - based at The Quay - is among those having to adapt. 

The shop, owned and run by Dale Skipper, sells custom-printed items and has seen almost all its own suppliers increase their prices. 

Dale Skipper owns Glitter and Mud by The Quay in Wells.

Dale Skipper at her shop, Glitter and Mud, in Wells - Credit: Aaron McMillan

"I think about 90pc of our suppliers have upped prices on everything, so we're passing on some of that. They held back doing it during Covid, so that is partly why we are seeing this sharp rise now. 

"We've probably put the prices up on around a third of our products. Where we feel the cost has gone up too much, we won't stock it anymore. It's a bit of a balancing act to please everyone. 

"We are never going to compete with the likes of Primark on price, but we hope we are the that is a happy medium - where we have cheaper little bits, as well as items at the other end."

With Wells being one of Norfolk's most popular holiday destinations, Mrs Skipper said the summer months would provide a better measure of her shop's fortunes. 

The picturesque harbour at Wells-next-the-Sea, with boats basking in beautiful sunshine. Picture: DE

Wells is a popular tourist destination during the summer months - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

"At the end of the day, we still want customers to come in," she added. "I don't think there has been any downfall in sales, but the summer will be really telling.

"I think there will still be lots of people holidaying here, but after the summer holidays is when it is likely to hit us along the coast."

Venetia Strangeways-Booth, who runs a store in Fakenham, feels she is in a difficult position when it comes to offsetting rising costs. 

She only opened Venetia’s Yarn Shop in November, and is keen to avoid hitting customers with price increases after just a few months. 

Owner of Venetia‚ÄövÑv¥s Yarn Shop on Norwich Street in Fakenham, Venetia Strangwayes-Booth.

Venetia Strangeways-Booth, who runs a store in Fakenham - Credit: Aaron McMillan

"Some of my yarn costs have increased, but I have not upped my own prices at the moment," said Mrs Strangeways-Booth.

"I don't feel it is appropriate to be open for five months and then go and increase my prices. It's difficult because my product is quite expensive anyway so, if I don't need to do it [raise prices], then I won't. 

"My biggest concern is electricity, and fuel as well as I've got deliveries coming from across Europe. I'm ever the optimist, so I'm hoping it plateaus soon.

"I'm going to give it some time and hope it all calms down. Because I am such a new business, I just want to hold on and see what happens."

To address what could be the most difficult year in living memory for so many families, the Times is running a campaign entitled 'Your Money Matters'.

Anyone willing to share their experiences can get in touch by emailing thomas.chapman@archant.co.uk or aaron.mcmillan@archant.co.uk.