"People aren't spending as much money with us" - Calderdale businesses feeling the pinch due to cost of living crisis

Business owners in Calderdale say they are feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis.

By Tom Scargill
Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 11:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 11:55 am

Forecasts on what people can expect to pay for gas and electricity are predicting bills will increase further this year, putting further pressure on households along with rising fuel and food prices.

And the borough's businesses are also being affected, with costs on the rise and customers having less disposable income to spend.

Nicola Middleton opened The Boardroom cafe on Rochdale Road in Todmorden with her husband Phil in 2019.

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Lisa Conner at Fuchsia Hair and Beauty, Halifax.

She said: "It's pretty tough to be fair, and the main factor where we're really feeling it is electricity bills.

"Because we're a coffee shop we have an awful lot of electricity going through the shop. Our electric bill is more than we pay for rent on the building.

"That in itself is a real challenge for us at the minute, and it's a real shame because it's a nice business, it does well, but things like this put us under strain.

"I also think people aren't spending as much money with us, we've noticed our footfall drop maybe 10, 15 per cent over a week.

John Murphy and Chrissy Shields at Czerwik Fine Wine & Cheeses, Brighouse.

"If people are coming in they're probably spending less than they would have previously, so maybe not coming in for lunch but maybe having coffee and a cake.

"We have seen over probably the last two or three months it's gradually got worse and small businesses like ours really feel that small difference."

And Nicola says her business is not alone in feeling the pinch.

"I think it's a common theme, especially in towns like Todmorden where it's either hit and miss, you either get really busy days or there's literally no-one about," she said.

"Businesses are questioning their worth. There's been another cafe that closed down around ten months ago, and they didn't re-open.

"There's been a small restaurant in Tod that also re-opened and then shut down, so I think it's fair to say everyone's feeling the pinch.

"Another thing that really hurts Tod is the number of roadworks that go through the valley, it's horrendous.

"Outside our shop, there is constant traffic so people don't come into the town, they just think 'what's the point?' and I don't think the council appreciate how hard it is for small businesses but also the impact this has.

"That's also playing a huge factor. The amount of roadworks we've seen in Todmorden town centre in the last six months has been absolutely ridiculous.

"A lot of our regulars will say 'we won't be in this week because it takes too long to get into town because of the roadworks and there's nowhere to park'.

"So we're losing business that way as well and it just adds to what's going on with the economy."

Nicola believes the cost of living crisis will get worse before it gets better.

"We're looking at different things we can do," she said.

"We can't cut costs but we're looking at maybe doing promotions to make it more attractive for people to come in.

"We're hoping the school holidays will help us as that's normally a really good time for the business.

"We'll just hold on in there and see how it goes but it would be nice for the council to understand how hard it is.

"It's time like this where I think it would be great if they could do something to help us out, otherwise they're going to end up with towns where there's nothing left in my opinion."

Lisa Conner, who owns Fuscia Hair and Beauty in Halifax, says increasing running costs are an issue.

"We were supposed to put our prices up in April but I didn't want to put them up until I knew exactly what was changing," she said.

"Everything has gone up in price but we haven't done anything about it yet.

"But I've really noticed a difference, I'm more aware the bank balance is going down.

"I have been pre-warning people that we will be having a price increase, but they'll say 'oh don't worry about it Lisa, we know things are going up' but I do panic about it because I've always been really fair.

"As long as I can still live, what's the point in charging the world? That's how I see it.

"For some people, having your hair done is something they have to save for and is a present for themselves.

"Everyone's got different lifestyles and bank balances, so I do feel for them and I always try to be fair.

"You're worried whether you'll lose customers, not because they don't want to come to you but if they can."

Lisa says other businesses in the hair and beauty industry are in a similar position.

"I think they are worried about putting prices up and making sure they've still got customers," she said.

"Even after the pandemic, we bounced back quite quickly because nowadays with social media, women feel like they have to look a certain way, so they wouldn't like to not keep on top of themselves if you like, so we're going to be alright.

"But we just want to make sure it's affordable."

John Murphy, from Czerwik cheese and wine shop in Brighouse, has noticed shopping habits changing in their customers.

He said: "The way prices are going up, every day we're getting a letter or two letters from suppliers saying the cost of something is going up.

"There's only so long you can buffer it before you eventually have to pass that cost on.

"We can definitely see customers are thinking twice before putting their hands in their pocket.

"One thing we've noticed is that with our sandwiches, which are £4.50 each, a lot of people seem to be bringing their own lunches into work now.

"I completely understand it if you're spending nearly a fiver every day on your lunch that you'd have to cut on back on these things.

"But the flip side is that when things are tight, people cut down on going out for meals and drinking, so they'll come to us and treat themselves to a nice bottle of wine and a bit of cheese for the weekend.

"So it's swings and roundabouts for us."

John would like Calderdale Council to do more to help businesses in Brighouse town centre.

"We'd like the council to pull their finger out and make our towns busier," he said.

"It's a running argument with the council, they don't listen to businesses and we're not consulted in their decisions.

"We've now got parklets, little seats where they've taken out so much parking from the town centre.

"In Brighouse, people want to come in, pull up, go and nip into the shops for half-an-hour then get back in their car and go.

"But that's proving more and more difficult because of these parklets, so increasing parking would make a massive difference for us.

"But our voices are not heard."

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Towns, Engagement and Public Health, Coun Sarah Courtney, said: “We value our local businesses and understand the challenges many have faced in recent years. Throughout the COVID pandemic we paid out over £100million in grants to local businesses whose trade has been affected. We also know that times are still tough and as we continue our economic recovery from the pandemic, our business team continues to work hard to support local businesses and offer advice to help them grow and flourish.

“As a Council, one of our main priorities is supporting strong and sustainable towns and through an unprecedented level of investment we’re supporting delivery of schemes which will transform our towns and enable economic growth.

“We want our towns to be places where people want to spend time and businesses are able to flourish. Our green and healthy streets policy aims to create environments that encourage active lifestyles and improve our health, tackle climate change and make our streets more pleasant places to spend time. The parklet areas installed in Brighouse using funding from the Towns Fund are an example of this improved environment. They are being well-used and by making these welcoming and attractive places we can increase the amount of time people spend in the town, also increasing potential for spend in local businesses.

“We do understand that as we deliver impressive regeneration schemes, it can cause some short-term disruption. Whilst we do all we can to minimise this, we’re also confident that once complete, these schemes will offer improved facilities and ensure our towns are thriving places where people want to spend time and money.”